Dr. Alice Garrett and her daughter, Chaunte
Dr. Alice Garrett of Raleigh and her daughter, Chaunte, say that Drs. Neil Hayes and Mark Weissler "move like angels.” Alice's husband, and Chaunte's father, Bobby, was treated at UNC Lineberger for throat cancer. He died in 2008, and his family organized a gospel sing in December of 2009 to raise funds for throat cancer research.
Dr. Garrett explains, "We wanted to do something good to say ‘thank you' and to support research for throat cancer. Our family strongly believes, 'to whom much is given, much is expected.' So many wonderful people were involved in his care, and we are very grateful to them and to God."
Ms. Garrett said, "We had never heard of this type of cancer until my father was diagnosed. We want to increase awareness of this cancer and to contribute to research."
Mr. Garrett was first diagnosed in 1997 with laryngeal cancer and underwent radiation therapy. His cancer recurred a few years later, and he came to UNC Lineberger. The tumor was fast growing, so Dr. Weissler performed surgery the day after Christmas. Garrett made a complete recovery and was back to his favorite sport, fishing, for several years, when he experienced familiar symptoms. This surgery involved a tracheotomy, but again Garrett overcame this obstacle. At the next recurrence the tumor was deemed inoperable, so Dr. Neil Hayes recommended chemotherapy. A series of infections led to Mr. Garrett being admitted to the hospital where he died on December 1, 2008.
A year later, his family held the Esophageal Cancer Benefit Concert at the St. Matthew AME Church in Raleigh. Proceeds from the concert and sale of pins depicting Bobby's praying hands were given to UNC Lineberger. Their son, Joseph Garris, a singer, performed during the concert with the Pleasant Union Church Men's Choir. Dr. Hayes attended and spoke at the event. Dr. Garrett recalls, "My friends said, ‘We can't believe Mr. Garrett's doctor came,' but Dr. Hayes is just that kind of person.” Dr. Garrett will be selling pins at her family reunion later this year, and plans are already underway to hold the next benefit concert event.
The Garrett family is working to increase public awareness of cancers of the throat. "We want people to know the symptoms, so they can get treatment early."