UT Medical Center

Cancer Institute

Stories of Hope is from patients at UT Medical Center's Cancer Institute.Dwight Church was diagnosed with Stage IV oral cancer in the winter of 2012, and his doctor told him, “This will not take a day off of your life, but the next six months are going to be horrific.” A series of referrals and community connections lead him to medical experts outside the region, but those doctors sent him back to The University of Tennessee Medical Center, to Dr. Timothy Panella, for cancer treatment. 

Dwight spent the next few months enduring the toughest possible chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but the result was a dramatic victory.  “After a single session of chemotherapy I thought the lump in my neck had gone down,” he recounts. “I told myself I was just imagining things until after the second treatment I couldn’t feel the tumor at all.” His last course of radiation was administered on July 11, 2012, and by October he and his wife were able to take a vacation to Europe.

When Dwight came back to the Medical Center in December of 2012 for a check-up, a scan showed a spot on one of his kidneys.  It was a completely different form of cancer, not related to his oral tumor at all. Dr. Paul Hatcher removed the tumor surgically, leaving Dwight with 85% of his kidney. Now, just a few months later, he feels almost completely recovered from both cancers. “My taste is still off, but I walk two miles a day with my wife,"  Dwight says. Because of his treatments and a special nutritional formula developed for him by one of the medical center’s nutritionists, Dwight lost 65 pounds. “I’ve had two cancers in a year, and I’m in better shape than I’ve be in 20 years,” he says.

Looking back at the difficulty of his cancer treatment, Dwight says that a few simple words from his doctors got him through it.  “They told me it would be incredibly hard, but I would get through it,” he says. “Dr. Panella took my hands at the lowest point and said that this was the worst it would get. I believed him, and he was right. Less than a year later I’m completely recovered.”     

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