LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A Little Rock man said he is feeling near normal months after being told he may never be able to swallow again.
Spence Churchill said he has had difficulty swallowing food and liquids for as long as he can remember.
“It started after I had Polio at 8,” the 82-year-old said. “I could manage it well, so I never thought too much about it until about 3 years ago.”
Churchill said his wife and daughter pushed him to see a doctor about his ongoing problem, but what they ended up finding was unimaginable.
“They say it was a little smaller than a baseball,” Churchill said.
Doctors found a cancerous mass on Churchill’s left thyroid and scheduled surgery to remove it.
“When I finished, I still couldn’t swallow well,” he said.
“Doctors evaluated him and said he had a paralyzed vocal cord, which I think he had all along,” oncologist and surgeon Dr. James Suen said.
Churchill was placed on a feeding tube, changing the course of what once seemed normal.
“I won’t say that I got used to it, I won’t say that I liked it, but I knew it was necessary,” he said.
Churchill said he used the tube for six months.
He was told he may never swallow again, and then he got a glimmer of hope.
“I said, ‘Well I think I can reevaluate you and may be able to help you,’” Suen said.
Suen led the second surgery on Churchill, injecting Botox into his throat to help calm the muscle and regain his ability to swallow. The surgery was successful.
“For him to be able to get that back, I think changed his whole life,” Suen said.
Churchill still has to eat slower than normal these days but said it’s a small price to pay to get his life back.
“That little bit of sacrifice versus being able to eat, well worth it,” he said.