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Local Man Relates To Douglas’ Battle With Cancer

By Jane Slater, CBS 11 News
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas man said that the news of Michael Douglas’ throat cancer diagnosis hit close to home.

Louis Dennis was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer in December 2008. Dennis said that his case, like Douglas, went undiagnosed for many weeks — possibly months.

Dennis, like many North Texans, said that he suffered from allergies and he initially thought his throat problems had something to do with that. “The only problem I had, the only symptom, was problems swallowing,” said Dennis.

But when the problem would not go away, Dennis asked doctors to probe even deeper and perform a scope of his throat. That is when the real problem was revealed. “They said I only had a quarter of an inch left between the tumor and the back of my throat,” said Dennis.

Dennis was immediately admitted to the hospital for an aggressive treatment plan that included 12 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. He said that the radiation room was particularly frustrating. For six weeks, 17 minutes a day, Dennis laid strapped to a gurney in a claustrophobic hold. “They literally pin your shoulders down, put a mask on your face and head. [The mask] is deadbolted and you are immobilized,” said Dennis.

Dr. Anand Shivnani, an oncologist at Baylor Medical Center of Irving, said that the process is necessary because the area is a critical zone for treatment and must be treated with care. “This part of the body is so important for a variety of different things — obviously appearance, speech, taste, swallowing and nutrition,” said Shivnani.

Dennis said that Douglas is likely benefiting from a team of friends and family members right now, and he said that is important for a speedy recovery.

Dennis’ wife, Gloria, said that she sympathizes with both Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones — but said that they will likely come out a stronger couple — like the Dennises did. “Going through it makes you appreciate every moment, every day,” said Gloria Dennis.

Dennis said that his story and Douglas’ serve as a reminder to “go with your gut” when things do not seem right. Requesting a probe, Dennis said, likely saved his life, although doctors said that stage-four throat cancer is treatable and the diagnosis is very different than a woman who receives a stage-four diagnosis for breast or ovarian cancers.