Vickie Borshow Gibson – Squamous Cell Carcinoma Patient Story
In October 2020, Vickie Borshow-Gibson, 69, of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania, was having trouble swallowing and noticed a large lump in her neck. She was referred to an ENT and was soon diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of head and neck cancer. Vickie had faced many medical conditions since she was young but was taken aback by her diagnosis. At the time, Vickie was very active, did not smoke or drink, and had only eaten organic food –some of which she grew or raised herself – since 1990. Although shocked, Vickie faced her battle head on.
“I am a person that once I know what the problem is, I will take action to correct it,” Vickie said. “Cancer was no different.”
Vickie began treatment in November Washington Health System Radiation Oncology, in partnership with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, under the care of Dr. Michael Dougherty. Unfortunately, Vickie experienced many side effects from her treatment, including mouth ulcers, severe skin burns, stomach issues, dehydration, and fatigue.
While trying to manage her side effects, Vickie became a patient at the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Survivorship Clinic, a multidisciplinary program that consists of a head and neck surgeon, speech language pathologist, dentist, audiologist, physical therapist, and nurse who all have specialized training in the needs of head and neck cancer patients.
“Never having had cancer before, I had no idea even what questions to ask. They all met with me personally and made me feel connected, and with the right group of caring doctors that I knew would help me if something needed attention,” she said. “Even though my treatment was not in Pittsburgh, I had their support and never felt that I was left without someone to talk to if I needed help.”
One month after she completed her treatment, Vickie had a follow up appointment with the team to make a plan for how to manage any long-term side effects. Thankfully, she has not had any major issues.
Vickie speaks highly of the staff at the Survivorship Clinic, noting that Dr. Jonas Johnson is “an extremely intelligent and compassionate professional,” and that others with similar diagnoses could benefit from the team’s collective abilities and personal care.
Vickie finds the peace of mind she felt the most beneficial part of the Survivorship Clinic.
“I hope and pray I never get cancer again, but if so, I would definitely want this team to be a part of my care.”
Today, Vickie is on the mend, now able to swallow. She has regained some energy and strength and is enjoying a busy life with her husband, Gary, cooking, gardening, and writing children’s books.