Special thanks to Jason Mendelsohn, SupermanHPV, for this guest post sharing his personal story about his battle with human papillomavirus (HPV)-related tonsil cancer and the importance of prevention through vaccination, in honor of Father’s Day.
Father’s Day has always been a special day for me. My father is someone who I admire, and someone I can trust and depend on. He is a wonderful role model for what it means to be a father, as he leads by example. Growing up, Father’s Day was the day when we treated our father like a king, which was certainly well deserved, and something we should have done all year long. As I grew older, the way in which we celebrated Father’s Day changed, but the meaning behind it stayed the same, and even became more meaningful as I began to realize how much work it really takes to be an awesome dad.
Today, I am a proud father of three great kids, and my wife of 21 years and I work each day to show them the love and support that our parents continue to show us. We have boy/girl twins who will soon turn 17 and a son who recently turned 11. We have a terrific family and I feel truly fortunate.
Now that you know a little about our family, I hope you will better understand why we are committed to having them fully vaccinated, to help protect them from diseases that are preventable. I am a Stage IV HPV-related throat cancer survivor, who was diagnosed back in May 2014, with no symptoms but a small bump on my neck. Within eight weeks of my diagnosis, I had a radical tonsillectomy, neck dissection (42 lymph nodes removed), followed by seven weeks of chemo, radiation, and a feeding tube. Shortly after being diagnosed, unsure about my outcome, I made videos to each of our kids that went something like this, “One day you are going to get married. I am not going to be there. This is what’s important…” They were heartbreaking videos to make, and thank goodness I survived, and never shared them with our kids.
While I was diagnosed with Stage IV HPV-related tonsil cancer at the age 44, my doctors believe I was exposed to the virus in my late teens, almost thirty years earlier. Knowing this, I am fully committed to HPV vaccination, as it would have likely stopped me from ever being diagnosed with throat cancer.
On this Father’s Day, as a cancer survivor, I am proud to do all that I can to keep my kids safe and protected from HPV-related cancers, as well as all other vaccine-preventable diseases.
I am fortunate to serve on the Executive Board for the Head & Neck Cancer Alliance working to help build a global survivor, patient, and caregiver network. I also launched SupermanHPV to provide inspiration and information for those diagnosed with and/or researching HPV throat cancer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 11- to 12-year-old boys and girls get two doses of HPV vaccine to help prevent cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6 to 12 months after the first dose. CDC also recommends that females through age 26 years and males through age 21 years get the vaccine if they were not vaccinated at age 11 or 12 years. The number of recommended doses depends on the age at vaccination.
HPV is a very common virus. In the US, nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected and about 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV causes 32,500 cancers in men and women and HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 30,000) from ever developing.
I hope that sharing my story will help make a difference this Father’s Day. Be sure your boys and girls #GetVaccinated against HPV!
To learn more about HPV and vaccination to help prevent it, visit www.nfid.org/hpv.
To join the conversation, follow NFID (@NFIDvaccines) and Jason Mendelsohn (@SupermanHPV) on Twitter, like NFID and Superman HPV on Facebook, follow NFID on Instagram, join the NFID Linkedin Group, and subscribe to NFID Updates.