Patient Stories

Travelling and Confronting Cancer – Steven’s reflections his battle with Tonsil cancer

Cancer Type :

Picture of Steve standin in front of a map of south america

As a young boy growing up in Devon, Steven was always fascinated by London and the rest of the world. He loved the contrasts in the world and enjoyed seeing how different people lived. Subsequently, Steven has visited about 100 countries, including Israel, US, Egypt, Australia, China, India, Thailand, Central America, South America, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Borneo, West and South Africa, Uzbekistan, and Russia on his honeymoon.

In 2004 Steven was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) on his tonsil. Thus, with the help of a specialist, he was treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Prior to the diagnosis, he reported to have experienced an uncomfortable throat and occasional jaw clicking, which he says, “may have been unrelated”. After his treatment, Steven felt “cured and had no further problems”- in 2006, he even travelled to Uzbekistan and Iran.

In 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven embarked on a 3,000-mile journey around Namibia and Botswana. During this trip, he began to have trouble swallowing, a symptom he couldn’t ignore. After seeking medical attention, he received the shocking diagnosis of a second primary cancer in the previously radiated area.

This time, his treatment plan involved a robotic procedure that was able to remove the cancer and reconstruct the affected area using a thigh flap. Fortunately, the procedure was successful. However, due to stenosis in his throat, Steven’s airway became blocked, leading to the need for a tracheotomy and a rig setup for his food, and meaning he had to adapt and get used to a new way of living.

However, Steven’s spirit remains unbroken, he continues to explore the world and has just departed on his latest adventure: The Andes 5000.

In October he will drive south from Santiago down the Chilean side of the Andes through Patagonia to Tierra del Fuego. Then up the Argentinian side back to Santiago covering 5000 miles in a month.

After two bouts with cancer and the challenges it brought, he is understandably more cautious when travelling: “I am more organised than I used to be. I have booked accommodation for most nights. I want that reliability of getting sleep and sorting myself out.” When asked how he manages food and speaking he told us: “I travel with my Fortisips to ensure I can nourish myself throughout the trip and I communicate using an app on my phone, which comes with the added bonus of being multilingual these days.”

Steven loves the freedom of travelling solo with his camera.  Although he, his wife Polly and their daughter Flo have had a lot of great trips together Polly is also very supportive of his adventures. “Travelling is a huge part of who Steve is. He is in his element when he is exploring the world. So although I naturally worry a bit I am thrilled that he feels able to resume his travels now that he has recovered his strength and fitness”.

You can follow Steve on his journey through the Andes on Polarsteps and Instagram.

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