'I did the male thing and ignored it:' Neck cancer survivor's sore throat was stage four cancer
By Frances Weller| April 2, 2018 at 2:39 PM EDT - Updated August 10 at 2:26 PM
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT)
Life has new meaning for Greg Allen these days. A cancer diagnosis will do that. In 2006, he was told he had a potentially deadly form of neck cancer.
"I had a stage four tumor on my tonsil that had spread to about eight places," Greg says.
The prognosis was not good.
"They didn't expect me to survive, but I did."
Greg was showing signs of the disease almost a year before his diagnosis, but he didn't know it.
"I developed a sore throat Father's Day 2005," he recalls. "I ignored it. Then I was headed off for Mississippi for Katrina relief and I said I better get this checked out before I go."
Greg was a newspaper owner in Wake Forest. Other than a nagging sore throat, he felt fine. An ear, nose and throat specialist prescribed an antibiotic.
"I did the male thing and ignored it for a little while longer and actually I was in Wilmington in 2006 when I realized I just couldn't swallow."
He could not get food to go down.
"It was sorta like you swallow something and it won't go down and you keep trying to swallow it down and basically it had swollen so much it was blocking my passage."
His tonsils were twice the size they were supposed to be. After seeing a few doctors, he finally found one who knew he needed a biopsy.
"Before we did it, she said I already know you have cancer and I've already called Duke to get you set up over there," he said.
Greg underwent seven weeks of treatments that included radiation twice a day, chemotherapy and two experimental drugs.
The treatments were grueling. He lost his appetite. He even lost bone in his mouth from the radiation treatments that required reconstructive surgery to his face. He never, however, believed he would die.
"You know I really didn't. Maybe I was just naive. Maybe ignorance is bliss."
Greg still gets regular check ups. In fact, he admits he's a little overdue for one.
For now, his days are spent enjoying the view from his oceanfront home he shares with his girlfriend, Belinda. He knows life suddenly becomes short when faced with the possibility of death.