C. David Tollison, Ph.D. // pictured w/ wife Linda, daughter Courtney Tollison-Hartness, & son-in-law Sean Hartness; also father to David Tollison, Jr. // practicing clinical psychologist // author/editor of 10 medical textbooks on pain diagnosis & treatment // former ‘60s & ‘70s rock radio disc jockey, ‘Dave Tolley’ // fan of Clemson, Furman & baseball // survivor of throat cancer (diagnosed July 13, ’15)

  “An estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2015, & I was one of them. At age 65, a malignant tumor obstructed 90% of my throat, complicating my ability to eat & breathe. The diagnosis was throat cancer, & unfortunately it was growing. My father & his brothers had all died young from heart disease; consequently, I hadn’t given much thought to cancer.

“Most fortunately, treatments exist. Within days of my diagnosis, I arrived in Charleston at MUSC, where additional diagnostic tests were performed & treatment alternatives outlined. One approach involved the surgical removal of my ‘voice box’ (larynx). This broad intervention offered optimal clinical effectiveness, but with the extreme disadvantage of losing my ability to speak without electronic assistance.

“A second & less extensive treatment involved an effort to isolate & surgically remove the offending tumor, while salvaging the ability to verbally converse. Following detailed deliberation & discussion with family, I chose the second, less invasive surgical option. I wanted to maintain the ability to talk to my wife & children & furthermore, as a practicing clinical psychologist for the past 37 years, the ability to verbally communicate has served as the foundation of my professional life.

“I sailed through surgery with minimal difficulty. However, subsequent chemotherapy & radiation treatments were not as easy. Amongst other complications, I developed pneumonia & later, diverticulitis — both requiring additional hospitalizations; & don’t think that you get time off from cancer treatment simply because you develop additional & complicating medical disorders. Radiation treatment & chemotherapy take priority.

“I was diagnosed with cancer only weeks before my wife [Linda] & I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. My wife was recovering from a fractured kneecap. Upon learning of my diagnosis, however, she abandoned her own local treatment, & we relocated for several months to Charleston. For 40 years I have considered myself particularly fortunate to have her as my life partner, but never more than our time in cancer treatment. Despite her own discomfort & difficulty walking, she stayed with me around the clock in the hospital. She tirelessly attended every medical appointment, every lengthy chemotherapy session, & didn’t miss even one of 35 daily radiation treatments. My daughter [Courtney] & son-in-law devotedly visited on weekends, held my hand & kept me laughing. Dozens of family, friends & acquaintances send cards & care packages, & offered untold numbers of prayers. Faith & the steadfast devotion of a remarkably loving & optimistic family afforded me an enormous advantage. My wish is that every cancer patient may be so fortunate.

“For me, a diagnosis of cancer was a game changer, & triggered examination of priorities that sometimes become imbalanced due to our pace of life. I had shortness of breath & difficulty swallowing long before my family finally insisted I seek medical attention. For several months I largely ignored those symptoms, because I was too busy with life in motion — & dealing with multiple but routine responsibilities to take the time to investigate. Cancer erased such foolish perceptions, & replaced distorted distractions with a calm, focused clarity.

“I am amazingly fortunate! I have a raspy voice, & some minor difficulty swallowing solid foods. However, overall I feel good, & enjoy encouraging medical evaluations to date. Faith & family — coupled with expert medical care & the prayerful support of friends — have enabled me to gratefully count myself among a growing number of cancer survivors.”