In the News

Mark Mondahl’s Story | Learning to Appreciate the Simple Life

What seemed like your ordinary sore throat proved to be much more for 57-year-old Mark Mondahl. 

After eight months of persistent pain and a mouth sore that wouldn’t go away, Mark finally saw otolaryngologist Dr. Hearnsberger, who quickly identified a tumor. After a biopsy, Dr. Hearnsberger referred Mark to Dr. Stern, surgical oncologist and head and neck specialist, who confirmed a malignant tumor on Mark’s tonsils. 

With more than 40,000 new diagnoses in the U.S. each year, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is the sixth most common malignancy in the world. Within the oropharynx system, the part of the throat at the back of the mouth, the tonsils are the most common site of malignancy. 

While the prevalence of diagnoses was not lost on Mark, he said his immediate reaction upon hearing his diagnosis was, “Not me!” 

Given the important role the oropharynx system plays in speech and swallowing, surgery can be difficult, but, in Mark’s case, necessary. He credits his medical team, which included medical oncologist Dr. Wilder, for their “steadfast and confident demeanor” that suppressed his worries and helped him mentally prepare for surgery.

Following his operation, Mark went through five rounds of chemotherapy and 30 sessions of radiation therapy. While he drew on a deep internal determination to get him through two months of treatment, Mark’s cancer journey was fraught with immense fatigue and a bout of pneumonia that sidelined him for awhile.

Shortly after finishing his course of treatment, Dr. Stern scheduled Mark for a CT scan to confirm whether or not the treatment was successful in eliminating his tumor. While Mark said he was a bit “out of sorts” when he heard the news that the results came back positive and he was in remission, he says that he was beyond thankful. 

Now in remission, Mark says his entire perspective has changed. He says that today he “has more appreciation for the small things like going to work and simple home life.” 

For others who are going through a similar diagnosis, his greatest recommendation is to “Do everything your medical team advises you!”