Sometimes a sore throat is not just a sore throat, as John Culbertson of Shippensburg found out in January of 2017. He went to WellSpan Urgent Care - Chambersburg for a sore throat as most people do in the height of cold and flu season. Culbertson noticed he was having trouble swallowing and thought something may not be right.
"I'm the guy who hasn't been to the doctor in 40 years, but I knew I had to get this checked out," said Culbertson.
The provider at urgent care referred John to WellSpan ENT and Hearing Services, which specializes in ear, nose and throat care, for a closer look. That's when Culbertson was first introduced to Dr. Joshua Dunklebarger. It is also when Culbertson was diagnosed with cancer--B-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer that occurs in the lymph nodes.
"I looked down his throat with a scope and was able to do a biopsy right in the office. We see many cases of B-cell lymphoma each year," said Dr. Dunklebarger.
Dr. Dunklebarger thought the best initial treatment would be surgery, operating on Culbertson to get as much of the cancer as he could. Culbertson followed up with Dr. Michael Cashdollar of Summit Cancer & Hematology Services for additional cancer treatment.
Culbertson said the next few months were filled with unknowns. "It was a time of wondering what was going to happen next? The biggest thing was wondering if my insurance was going to cover the next test, the next appointment--every day was a new adventure. Both Dr. Dunklebarger and Dr. Cashdollar were comforting and helpful through the entire process," said Culbertson.
Following his cancer treatments, John decided it was time for another surgery. He says before the sore throat he was always congested and constantly "stuffed up." He had a deal with Dr. Dunklebarger that when the cancer was gone, he would get treatment for his breathing issues.
Dr. Dunklebarger said, "We were able to remove some polyps in his nose and fix his septum. The surgery has turned him around, giving him a better quality of life."
"I feel great now, everything is back to normal. The sinus surgery is a game changer." said Culbertson.
Culbertson has some advice for others who may be experiencing symptoms similar to the ones he had.
"Don't hesitate to get checked if you are experiencing anything out of the ordinary," he said.
Culbertson spent an entire year in the care of Summit Health from diagnosis in January, to sinus surgery in December.
"It helps if you have a support system, I couldn't have done it without the support of my wife, Kay," said Culbertson. "Dr. Dunklebarger helped, too. He made himself available to answer questions and stayed as long as I needed him to give me information; he seems genuinely concerned about his patients."
Wondering if sinus surgery could be the fix for you? Possible signs you may need the surgery include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chronic sinus infections
- Sleep Apnea
- Disrupted sleep due to breathing issues