Office of Institutional Advancement

“I Am Cancer-Free!”

Head & Neck Cancer Patient Credits Jefferson with Recovery

It all started with a little lump on her neck.

“I decided to ignore it,” says Sally Jo LaMont, 63, a busy corporate social media trainer from Skippack, Pennsylvania. But when that little lump continued to grow over the course of three months, she sought the advice of an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist near her home, who put her on antibiotics.

As time went on, Sally Jo didn’t improve. In fact, she got worse and insisted the ENT perform a biopsy—which indicated tonsil cancer. After consulting with an oncologist at a hospital in Philadelphia, she was told her treatment would include three separate operations to remove the tonsils and various lymph nodes from two areas in the neck.

“That just didn’t feel right. I felt like I needed a second opinion,” she says. A friend recommended Joseph M. Curry, MD, at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health. Curry, in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, examined Sally Jo and told her he could perform all three procedures in one surgery. She immediately knew Curry was “the one.”

“He instilled confidence that all was going to turn out fine,” she remembers. “I felt completely calm and was very optimistic about the outcome because of his attitude.”

On May 1, 2015, Sally Jo spent seven hours on the operating table as Curry used robotic technology to remove the tonsils and lymph nodes from her neck, testing each one during the surgery to ensure he got all the nodes affected by the cancer. She made the decision to go home the next day—which she admits was probably not the best decision she has ever made.

“Post-surgery was not a fun experience,” she says, noting she was not fully prepared for the excruciating pain. But she had her husband, Bruce, and three of her four children at home to take great care of her—and she had a goal.

“I wanted to make sure I was well enough to get to New York and see my son ask his now-husband to marry him,” she says. “It was three weeks out… and by three weeks later I was able to see him pull out my father’s ring and propose. It was awesome.”

Sally Jo has been following up with Curry every three months for the past three years. But at her appointment in August, she was pushed to a six-month schedule.

“I’m going to miss him,” Sally Jo says of her decrease in visits. “Dr. Curry is a great guy—an amazing physician. He takes the time that I need to calm any fears that I might have. He’s very cautious and thorough.”

At one point during the course of her follow-up visits Curry thought he saw a spot on her lung on a scan. He immediately referred her to a pulmonologist. Fortunately, it was a false alarm—but Sally Jo appreciates the holistic approach among physicians, medical teams, and departments to treat the whole patient.

“I am cancer-free,” Sally Jo gleefully announces. And she credits the clinical excellence and kindness of the staff at Jefferson with her recovery. “The care I got here was exceptional— everyone seems very passionate about the work they do. They’re just great people.”