Daniel Seymour had visited doctor after doctor, dentist after dentist for a debilitating problem with his jaw.
“I had trouble for about a year and a half,” he says. “It felt like my jaw was tightening up. Every doctor and dentist said it was TMJ. It got to the point that I could not open my mouth.”
There was also an uncomfortable feeling at the back of his throat when he swallowed, like a popcorn kernel that had gotten stuck. He knew it was something bad—something more than TMJ.
Frustrated by the lack of urgency in the physicians he saw, his wife Elizabeth contacted Dr. Kirk Smith with Acadiana Urgent Care, who helped them find an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to examine Daniel. The specialist took a biopsy, uncovering advanced squamous cell carcinoma on the left base of his tongue.
Next came the difficult decision of where to seek treatment for his stage-four cancer. Daniel and his wife, Elizabeth, visited the JD Moncus Cancer Center at Our Lady of Lourdes. They also traveled to Houston to tour facilities there, but immediately determined their choices were better close to home.
“There were so many people and so much going on over there [in Houston],” Daniel says. “At Lourdes, I felt like I wasn’t just a patient getting treatment. They really cared about me.”
Working as a Team
Daniel was placed under the care of cancer specialist Elias Moussaly, MD, oncology physician assistant Victoria English and radiation oncologist Jonathan Thompson, MD, all with the JD Moncus Cancer Center, who guided him through a year of grueling chemotherapy and 38 sessions of radiation.
Squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck originate in the squamous cells that line the surfaces of the mouth, throat and voice box. Head and neck cancers account for around 4 percent of all cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
At 58 years old, Daniel had maintained a healthy lifestyle. He works as a quality manager at a manufacturing company in Scott and has kept active in his downtime. He also wasn’t a smoker, usually a risk factor.
Daniel’s team of doctors, radiologists and nurses at the JD Moncus Cancer Center kept him informed every step of the way and followed Daniel’s orders to tell it to him straight.
“Because of the types of doctors they are and the type of cancer and stage they were dealing with, I told them be blunt with me,” Daniel says. “If there’s a possibility it could go bad, I’d rather know that. I need to prepare myself for those things.”
He was told early on that “not one part of this will be pleasant,” but was assured the team had great success before and would help him through it.
That unpleasantness took the form of fatigue, a constant dry mouth, difficulty swallowing and—toward the end of initial treatments—changes to his voice that will likely stay with him.
Treatment managed to clear up the cancer on his tongue and throat, but follow-ups soon discovered it had spread into his lungs. Another couple of months of chemotherapy as well as immunotherapy took a harsher toll on his body. He had lost an alarming amount of weight at this point, feeling like he was dealing with a constant stomach bug, and was rushed to the emergency room in April 2021 for a life-threatening aneurysm.
His recovery in the hospital was so difficult, he could barely celebrate that doctors had discovered the new round of chemo and immunotherapy successfully eradicated the cancer from his lungs.
He’s since been able to properly celebrate the results of a long journey through cancer treatment. And while his voice has been forever altered by the side effects of treatment, Daniel says that’s an easy price to pay for the quality of life he has now.
“Right now, I feel about as close to 100 percent as I have felt in probably four years,” he says. “I can live with that because there are so many blessings anyway. I could not have done it without my wife, my girls Maggie and Ellie, and without the people at Lourdes. It was the absolute best care I could have gotten anywhere. I had such a support structure. People were praying for me, people in the hospital were praying for me. It was just amazing to have their support.”
Daniel says his energy is slowly returning, and he visits Lourdes every couple of weeks for checkups, “living scan-to-scan,” as he says.
The Seymours became so close to the hospital team during his treatment that their daughter Maggie developed an interest in working in healthcare. She has since taken a position as a patient access representative at a pediatric clinic, hoping to grow within the profession.
Daniel says when they initially discovered the cancer had spread from his mouth into his lungs, he and Elizabeth again discussed whether they should go to a Houston facility, this time for a new round of treatment. But he felt confident he was getting the best care from doctors who were like family.
“These people have my back,” he says. “It didn’t matter if I was in the hospital or just going to an appointment. If it had anything to do with Lourdes, I always felt comfortable. They are my ride or die, that’s just how I looked at it. I trust them and I am thankful for each and every one of them. I wouldn’t be here today without them.”