Throat Cancer: A Patient Shares his Experiences at MUSC
Guest: Ed. Bostain – Cancer Survivor
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: I’m Dr. Linda Austin. I’m talking, today, with a very special gentleman, Mr. Ed Bostain. Mr. Bostain, you live, where?
Ed Bostain: I live in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Dr. Linda Austin: I understand that you are a cancer survivor and were treated here at MUSC, at the Hollings Cancer Center.
Ed Bostain: Yes ma’am, almost five years ago, I think, about 54 months.
Dr. Linda Austin: What kind of cancer did you have?
Ed Bostain: Squamous carcinoma. It was throat cancer, what they call smokers cancer.
Dr. Linda Austin: Walk us through that. What was the first sign, or symptom, that you noticed something might be wrong?
Ed Bostain: Well, during Memorial Day weekend, prior to that, I had pain in my throat. I went to my general practitioner. He said he thought it was an impacted salivation duct and suggested that I suck on some lemon drops. I did that until my mouth turned raw, and decided that it was a little bit more than that. I needed to go somewhere, so I went to an ENT, Dr. Christian, in Beaufort. He took one x-ray and scoped my throat, and said, I see something I don’t like. He said he wanted to do an exploratory and, maybe, a biopsy. He had me in the outpatient operating room the following Monday. Before I actually came out, he told my wife that I had cancer.
Dr. Linda Austin: That must have been very shocking for you.
Ed Bostain: I wasn’t completely out of anesthesia. I mean, I was waking up. And she was not very happy. You’re right. It was kind of a shock.
Dr. Linda Austin: Now, you caught that smokers cancer. Had you been a smoker?
Ed Bostain: I was a smoker 21, or 22, years prior, and doctors told me it was relatively unheard of that I’d come down with smokers cancer. But, you kind of have to look at it this way: my parents were smokers, I smoked for awhile, and then I became a firefighter. I inhaled some pretty exotic smoke, 21 years, as a firefighter also.
Dr. Lind Austin: I see.
Ed Bostain: The doctor asked me if I wanted to be treated locally or go to MUSC, his recommendation, and my wife didn’t even slow down. She said she wanted me at the university. I was stage 3-4. What happened, I believe you all have a cancer board in Charleston, and you throw the cases on the table, and everyone, 20 or 30 people, from different specialties, sort of hash out what would be the best treatment for the individual patient. Some patients might not do well with chemo and radiation, whereas others, like me, will.
Dr. Linda Austin: Absolutely. What happened next?
Ed Bostain: Dr. Stewart became my chemo oncologist, and Dr. Sharma became my radiation oncologist. They ran me through the gamut with tests. MUSC is very comprehensive in all aspects of a patient’s health. I was amazed. I’d never thought there would be that many different people concerned with my welfare. I was just flabbergasted. We went to all the appointments, and it was great. I tell people this all the time. It was the worst time of life, and the best time of my life. I learned a lot. I learned to value life a whole lot more than I did before. It was just a really good time in that respect.
Dr. Linda Austin: Tell us about the treatment. How long did the chemotherapy last?
Ed Bostain: I was there for seven weeks. It was a scheduled regimen. I don’t actually remember the frequency of it. I know it was more frequent in the beginning. Toward, the end, I became neutropenic, and was less able to tolerate. I also had radiation pretty regularly the whole time. Probably the hardest part was watching the chemical come down the IV and knowing that it was a poison. That’s what we’re doing. We’re poisoning the body, hoping to kill off the weaker cancer cells and have the healthy cells recover.
Dr. Linda Austin: Exactly.
Dr. Ed Bostain: I knew that was what was happening. I did a lot of praying. I cannot tell you how much praying I’ve done over the last five years; I did a lot of that.
Dr. Linda Austin: It sounds like you must be a man of great inner strength and courage to face your own terror, really, of the thing that was most disturbing to you, being restrained and having to just sit still, or lie still, for those treatments.
Ed Bostain: It was tough. And the whole time, I was praying to God: Please, please, kill the cancer. Kill the cancer. Please, Lord, kill the cancer.
Dr. Linda Austin: Well, it sounds like your prayers were answered. So, Mr. Bostain, the combination, then, of chemotherapy and radiation together took seven weeks, is that correct?
Ed Bostain: It took seven weeks. I went from 238 pounds down to 176 pounds.
Dr. Linda Austin: Wow.
Ed Bostain: My throat, on the inside, was somewhat sunburned. But I got to tell ya, I prefer it to the alternative.
Dr. Linda Austin: Absolutely.
Ed Bostain: It was a very interesting treatment. The doctors were extremely professional; very precise. Dr. Sharma is an extremely meticulous doctor. I enjoyed having him as my physician. I think he’s set me free now. I don’t believe there are any more follow-ups that I go to him for. I do go to Dr. Afrin. He does the follow-ups on me now.
Dr. Linda Austin: And, you have been cancer-free ever since that time, is that correct?
Ed Bostain: They lost sight of my cancer in the first three weeks, and it’s never reappeared.
Dr. Linda Austin: Wow.
Ed Bostain: The last four were just insurance policy.
Dr. Linda Austin: Yeah.
Ed Bostain: I was in a clinical trial, also, in which I was taking Tirapazamine and Cisplatin. I understand Cisplatin in an old cancer drug. It’s been around for a lot of years, and it’s usually pretty rough on the patients. But it was remarkably mild on me. I don’t know why. I guess different people have different reactions to it. I was very mildly nauseous. I might have lost a hair or two, but I sure didn’t lose much.
Dr. Linda Austin: Mm. That’s a remarkable story. So then, obviously, you did not lose your ability to speak. Obviously, you’re back to eating well. You’re a firefighter and, I understand, you’re a diver as well.
Ed Bostain: Yes ma’am. It was a little tough getting back to eating. I took me a little while and, for a long time, it all tasted like metal. It was a long time before my taste came back, but it’s back full strength. Yeah, I’ve been a diver for about 25 years. I do a lot of recreational diving and, occasionally, some commercial diving.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, if you have some words of encouragement for other people with cancer, who might be listening to this, what would you say?
Ed Bostain: I would say to follow your heart. Pray a lot. And, truthfully, trust the doctors at MUSC. Those doctors turned out to be some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever met.
Dr. Linda Austin: Absolutely.
Ed Bostain: That goes for the whole staff. One of the things my wife and I noticed, we’d be walking down the hall, and we’d stop and ask just anybody in general for directions, and they’d not only stop and give us directions, most of the time they would take us to where we were going. And it didn’t matter how busy they were. Everybody there is there for the patient, and they’re there 100 percent.
Dr. Linda Austin: Mm. It’s a wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us, and the best of luck to you.
Ed Bostain: Well, thank you ma’am, anything I can do for MUSC. You all have done a tremendous amount for me.