John Lockcuff – Laryngeal Cancer Patient Story
Helping Build the Future of Cancer Care was Personal for John
As a technician assistant for Port Elevator in Williamsport, John Lockcuff has been up, down, and in-between the patient floors of the UPMC campuses in Williamsport. He worked on Project 2012 in the creation of the patient tower at UPMC Williamsport, various projects at UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, and he helped install the elevators during the recent renovation and expansion of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport — a project he has personal ties to.
“When we were putting in the elevators, I knew that my work would impact a lot of people,” said John. “It was an honor to work on them.”
John is familiar with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport not only because of his work, but also because he was a patient. In October 2017, he was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.
Learning He Had Cancer
“My voice was sounding very raspy, so I went to my family physician to have it checked out,” said John.
Having suffered from heartburn and acid reflux his whole life, John began treatment for those symptoms. After a month, there was still no relief, so his primary care doctor sent him to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
“Joel D’Hue, MD, who passed away earlier this year, did a scope down my throat and spotted a mass on my voice box,” recalled John. “The biopsy showed it was cancerous. He said the good news was that if I had to get cancer anywhere, the voice box is a good place because it typically doesn’t spread.”
A PET/CT scan showed that John’s cancer was isolated to the voice box. Kenneth Glaser, MD, radiation oncologist, and Ajay Kumar, MD, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport, created a personalized treatment plan for John, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
John’s treatment began on January 26, 2018. His chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments were done over a seven-week period. John became very comfortable at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center because he was there almost every day. He had radiation therapy five days a week and chemotherapy every Thursday.
“I was lucky — I never got too sick,” remembers John. “I was able to work almost the entire time during treatment, which my doctors said was rare. I did take the last week of treatment off, as it started to take a toll on me.”
A Connection with His Doctors
Over the seven weeks, John got to know Dr. Glaser. From the very beginning, John felt Dr. Glaser was open, honest, and had a good sense of humor.
“He and I share our sense of humor,” said John. “He made me very comfortable, and I like that he didn’t beat around the bush. When you are diagnosed, you question whether you will live a week, a month, or a year. He put my mind at ease.”
On March 26, 2018, John had his last cancer treatment. He remains cancer-free today and maintains good voice quality.
“We’re happy we were able to help him retain his voice,” said Dr. Glaser. “Through a targeted approach and advanced technology, we were able to preserve his tissue in his larynx during his radiation treatment and chemotherapy. The ability to spare normal tissue and thereby reduce side effects, allows patients to continue normal activities and maintain quality of life to a great degree.”
A Strong Support System
John credits his wife, Dixie, and Port Elevator with providing him the support he needed before, during, and after treatment.
“Dixie was there for me for every appointment and treatment,” said John. “Port Elevator worked with me to let me keep working during treatment, which was important to me.”
When he was installing the new elevators at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, he would explain to his co-workers how the new construction connected to the cancer center where he received his treatment.
John said, “It was pretty cool to think how my work was going to help care for people like me.”