MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Terry Reiter from Winfield in Putnam County, loves spending time with his grandson Waylon. Being able to watch him grow and learn is one of Reiter’s favorite things in life. When Reiter found out he had been diagnosed with tonsil cancer, his grandson was one of his main concerns.

Terry Reiter’s grandson, Waylon, listens to his heartbeat during a visit with Dr. Rusha Patel.
Terry Reiter’s grandson, Waylon, listens to his heartbeat during a visit with Dr. Rusha Patel.

“Other than my wife and my close family, Waylon was one of the first things that I thought of when I knew that I had cancer, mainly because he’s the youngest one in our family, and you never want to miss the love of a young child growing up,” Reiter said.

Reiter had been having symptoms of an upper respiratory infection for about a month when he decided it was time to see his doctor. After completing multiple courses of antibiotics, he was left with a lump on his neck. His doctor sent him for a biopsy that returned with the news that he had cancer.

“Naturally, any time anybody hears the word ‘cancer,’ it affects you,” Reiter said. “It’s hard to say how it affects you other than to say that I was definitely nervous and worried.”

Reiter’s doctor referred him to the WVU Cancer Institute to see Rusha Patel, M.D., a specialist in head and neck cancer. Together, they developed a plan to treat his cancer in the least invasive way possible.

“She called me one day, and she was excited,” said Reiter. “She said, ‘Terry, I have scheduled you for robotic surgery.’”

Robotic surgery allows surgeons greater access to areas that may not be safe to treat by conventional methods. By performing robotic surgery, Dr. Patel was able to remove Reiter’s tumor more effectively and prevent him from having to undergo chemotherapy. 

“I finished radiation therapy in January, and I was grateful to not have to go through chemotherapy,” Reiter said. “I fared pretty well compared to a lot of people. I actually managed to not even miss a day's worth of work, and it was something that I didn't think that I could do.”

Reiter spent a week in the hospital recovering from the two surgeries that were required to remove his tonsils and a nearby lymph node. When doctors told him he would have to go home with a feeding tube, he fought to recover enough to prevent that from happening.

According to Reiter, the treatment he received at the WVU Cancer Institute not only saved his life, but gave him more time with his grandson.

“My experience at WVU Medicine was top notch,” Reiter said. “To be able to have robotics capabilities in this area is a blessing. Not all states have the ability to use that equipment, and I do believe it helped a lot.”