In 2013, Dorothy Dinehart started noticing that lying a certain way caused her difficulty breathing. A visit to her primary care doctor in Canandaigua led to identifying the problem: She had tumors on her voice box.
She immediately came to Wilmot Cancer Institute to see Paul van der Sloot, M.D., who performed a scope to better understand the problem. Dorothy stayed in the hospital and had a tracheotomy to help her be able to breathe. After her tracheotomy, Dorothy had to learn how to suction her stoma, which was very difficult, but she felt fortunate that her nursing team was encouraging as she learned how to do it.
“I was afraid of that all the time and finally one day they said, ‘You’re going to do it,’” says Dorothy. “They were there when I did it, and if I needed help, they would help me.”
A month later, she had her voice box removed. Her sister Gayle, her main source of support, helped her communicate with a board where she could write what she wanted to say and erase it with a button, like an Etch-a-Sketch.
Once she had recovered from surgery, she started radiation therapy with Deepinder Singh, M.D., in February 2014. She had 30 treatments.
Later that year, she also experienced shrinking in her stoma and needed to have a feeding tube put in so she could receive nourishment. On top of that, while the radiation helped keep her cancer at bay, it also caused her teeth to fall out. With the help of Nirmala Tasgaonkar, D.D.S., at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health, she managed to stay strong.
“I just go day to day,” she says. “That’s the only thing you can do with this.”
Dorothy eventually received dentures and is very happy with the care she receives. “It was such a good feeling,” she says about being able to eat again.
Despite these challenges, Dorothy has stayed involved with the New York State Women’s 600 Bowling Club as secretary treasurer. She’s planning a trip to visit her sister in Florida, and she’s also spent time helping people she knows who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
Dorothy has had a difficult journey, but she is grateful for the care she receives and the support from her family.
“I’m grateful that I’m alive, that the people at Wilmot and Eastman have helped me tremendously to get through this. They’re always upbeat,” she says. “If they don’t see you within a year, they still know you by name and I’m grateful for them all. They’re just like one big happy family.”