When 49-year-old Rick Frawley went to have a bothersome cyst removed from
above his left ear in 2010, he was shocked to receive a diagnosis of stage
IV melanoma and one year to live. “That is almost as bad as it gets.
I was absolutely blown away.”
The frightening diagnosis was even harder to absorb because Rick had just
begun a new career as a nurse in Jesup, Ga., and was enjoying life as
a newlywed. After the mass was removed and biopsied, Rick was referred
to Joseph H. Bee, D.O., board-certified otolaryngologist and head and
neck surgeon with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Ear, Nose &
Throat, a strategic affiliate of Southeast Georgia Health System, and
underwent a second surgery to excise the tumor widely. But a follow-up
PET scan revealed the cancer had spread throughout his neck, lymph nodes
and parotid gland.
Facing a dire prognosis, Rick chose to undergo an operation called a radical
neck dissection with total parotidectomy. Dr. Bee performed the 12-hour
surgery, which involved removing extensive tissues, muscles and lymph
nodes affected by cancer on the left side of Rick’s neck.
“Head and neck cancer is a horrible disease. We eliminated everything
that was present in the neck,” Dr. Bee says.
Of the care he received, Rick says, “I just can’t say enough
good things about the entire Southeast Georgia Health System team.”
Unfortunately, with malignant melanoma, recurrences are likely to occur
and after almost six cancer-free years, a recent scan revealed cancer
in Rick’s lungs.
“Even though I’ve had a recurrence, I’m still battling
and I’m not giving up,” said Rick, who is currently undergoing
treatment at the Health System. “As far as the future is concerned,
I’m taking one day at a time and I thank the Lord every day when
I wake up and take a breath. Between my cancer care team and family, I
have a great team to help me get through this.”