Patient Stories



Jennifer's Story

Jennifer's Story

With every passing month, things are getting better...If you have to go through something like this, Dartmouth is the place to do it.

The last thing you'd expect as a 35-year-old personal trainer and fitness instructor, who doesn't drink or smoke, is to be diagnosed with cancer. Yet, that's exactly what happened to Jennifer in 2008. "I went to my primary care doctor in Laconia for what I thought was a swollen gland," she recalls. "That led to further tests that showed I had a tumor on my left tonsil that was spreading into my lymph nodes. The tumor tested positive for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which actually made my prognosis much better."

After having her tonsils and lymph nodes removed, Jennifer underwent an aggressive regimen of radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Norris Cotton Cancer Center. "If you have to go through something like this, Dartmouth is the place to do it," she says. "Dr. Tom Davis, a head and neck cancer specialist, and my entire care team did a fabulous job taking care of me. They made me feel like I was the only patient they had."

Still, dealing with side effects from her treatments, adjusting to life with a feeding tube for six months, and having to re-learn how to swallow haven't been without their challenges. "At 120 pounds, I couldn't afford to lose much weight—that's where having a specially-trained oncology dietitian like Jeannine Mills really made a difference," says Jennifer. (See story) "Jeannine is not only very knowledgeable and helpful, she's been a great cheerleader for me and my husband through the whole process."

Jennifer is back teaching classes and has resumed her normal daily activities. "My recovery has taken longer than I thought it would," she says. "For example, I still have some rawness in my throat from the radiation treatments and my swallowing isn't back to full-strength yet. But with every passing month, things are getting better."