In September 2015, Chuck Caldwell’s throat began to bother him during a trip in Europe. He blamed his allergies for the discomfort. When he returned to his hometown of Houston, Chuck scheduled an appointment with his doctor. After examining Chuck, the doctor informed him he could possibly have throat cancer, but also believed his condition was treatable. So, the doctor recommended his own brother and oncologist, Randal Weber, M.D. at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In January 2016, Dr. Weber confirmed the throat cancer diagnosis and recommended a treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation. Soon after, Chuck was discussing his treatment plan with Merrill Keyes, M.D. for chemotherapy and Brandon Gunn, M.D. at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center for radiation treatment.
Side effect that worked in Chuck’s favor
Dr. Gunn explained how proton therapy was able to precisely target Chuck’s tumor while sparing nearby healthy tissue. Plus, proton therapy offered reduced side effects for head and neck cancer patients compared to traditional radiation. Side effects that can potentially be reduced with proton therapy include: loss of taste, damage to salivary glands, fatigue and nausea. For Chuck, the worst part of his treatment was losing his sense of taste.
“When I tried eating my favorite foods like steak and fried chicken, it was like eating my couch or pillows,” Chuck recalls.
As a result, Chuck dropped about 70 pounds. However, losing weight turned out to be good for him. “The good thing is that I unintentionally lost weight which helped me breathe much more easily,” Chuck said.
Chuck started his proton therapy in February 2016 at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center. He completed a total of 36 total treatments over the course of about 7 weeks. Chuck was impressed by the positive attitude of everyone working at the Center.
“I don’t understand why anyone with a cancer diagnosis would go anywhere else,” Chuck said. “Everyone was wonderful. They were superb.”
Finding the silver lining
Despite all the health obstacles, Chuck considers himself fortunate. Proton therapy improved his quality of life during and after cancer treatment.
“When I started feeling sorry for myself, I would see kids and others in the same or worse condition. That brings you back to earth,” Chuck recalls.
Chuck hopes that with his participation in clinical trials at the Proton Therapy Center he will help other head and neck patients in the future.
Now, Chuck is back to golfing with his wife of 33 years. They have four sons, seven grandchildren and a white golden retriever named D’artagnan (Dart). He also enjoys serving on the board for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo which annually awards over $25,000,000 in college scholarships and educational grants.