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My Aspirus Story

Hyperbaric therapy delivers physical, emotional healing

Patient Name: Lorn Gordon

In late 2009, Lorn Gordon’s jaw started to periodically lock up to the point where he couldn’t even open his mouth enough to eat a sandwich. His doctor thought he had an infection, so Gordon was given antibiotics.

The antibiotics proved to be ineffective and as it turned out, Gordon’s problems were just beginning. When the issue with his jaw persisted, Gordon underwent a biopsy, but that didn’t shed any light on the situation either because the results came back negative. Knowing something had to be wrong, Gordon was referred to a specialist, who performed another biopsy and gave Gordon the bad news he had been expecting all along.

“I am a person who exercises a lot, so I know my body and I knew there was something wrong and that it was more than an infection,” said the 59-year-old Wausau resident. “I don’t know why – maybe it was intuition – but I already suspected that I had some sort of cancer, and it was very upsetting to have my worst fear confirmed.”

In December 2009, Gordon was told that he had a large cancerous tumor in his throat. While doctors never told him how advanced the cancer was, he could tell by everyone’s reaction that it was bad. Very soon after receiving his diagnosis, Gordon began radiation and chemotherapy treatments at the Aspirus Regional Cancer Center.

Gordon received 20-minute TomoTherapy radiation treatments five days a week for about 10 weeks. In addition to the radiation treatments, he also received chemotherapy for about an hour each Monday during those 10 weeks.

The treatments proved to be very effective in fighting his cancer, but as each week passed, they began to take their toll. The radiation caused his throat to partially close and sores to develop in his mouth, making it difficult for him to swallow and to eat.

“The toughest part of the treatments was the emotional aspect of it all,” he said. “During the last two weeks of radiation I just hit a wall and ended up in the hospital for the remainder of my treatments.”

By the time Gordon completed his treatments in March 2010 his cancer was gone, but his sores remained and his salivary glands had stopped working. Unable to produce saliva, eating food was nearly impossible for Gordon. He was on tube feeding for four months and after that his attempts at eating solid food led to mounting frustration.

The sores and lack of saliva required Gordon to cut any food into very small pieces. This helped some, but it would take him so long to eat that he became frustrated and gave up mid-meal. He was told that the sores would heal on their own after radiation, but Gordon grew tired of waiting for that to happen by May 2011 when his weight had dropped to 147 pounds, down from 210 pounds at the time he first found out he had cancer.

“I was skin and bones. I tried to start working out again, but I couldn’t even bench press 100 pounds,” he said. “The sores just didn’t get better and I ran out of patience because I just wasn’t satisfied with my health, so I started looking around to where I could go for help.”

A visit to an oral surgeon led Gordon down the path he’d been seeking for nearly a year. The specialist referred him to Dr. Matthew Clancy at the Aspirus Wound & Hyperbaric Center for hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Knowing nothing about this treatment, Gordon did some research of his own prior to his first appointment, but it was Dr. Clancy who opened Gordon’s eyes to the treatment that would ultimately give him his life back.

Dr. Clancy explained that the sores in Gordon’s mouth weren’t healing because the radiation had affected his blood circulation in the treatment area. The hyperbaric treatments improve circulation and promote healing.

Gordon received hyperbaric therapy five days a week for eight weeks. Each session lasted two-and-a-half hours. Within three weeks of beginning hyperbaric therapy, Gordon began to notice subtle hints of healing.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would get hangnails and ended up losing a couple fingernails because of infection, and that was caused by my circulation issues,” Gordon said. “By the end of the third week of hyperbaric treatments my mouth sores were still there, but I could see improvements in other areas including my fingers and salivary glands.”

By the time he was six weeks into hyperbaric treatments, Gordon could tell his mouth sores were beginning to get a little better, and when his treatment cycle was completed in July 2011, he could tell they were even better.

“A couple weeks after my treatments were over, I noticed that the soreness was gone and I could eat again,” he said. “I’m a total believer in hyperbarics and based on my experience, it is a tremendous opportunity for healing that many people may not know about.”

Now that all of Gordon’s treatments are behind him, he can eat all types of food again is up to 170 pounds. He’s also back on a regular exercise program and even has his bench press back up to 200 pounds.

“At the end of the day, to beat throat cancer was one thing, but it was as big a challenge to recover from the effects of the cancer treatment,” Gordon said. “Hyperbaric therapy helped me get past the two most frustrating years of my life.”

Created: Jun 8, 2012

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