CHATTANOOGA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alexa Gash had recently moved to East Tennessee with her husband, Peter, and one year old daughter. Peter had accepted a job as an Assistant Coach for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga Men’s Basketball team. She was settling into her new life and going about a normal day when she discovered something strange while brushing her teeth - a painful growth in the back of her throat. Visions of the worst-case scenario raced through her mind which were soon confirmed. It was cancer, oropharynx squamous cell carcinoma to be specific.
Alexa quickly began the confusing, overwhelming educational journey familiar to most cancer patients. Her journey led her to multiple clinical opinions and a number of potential treatments. One of the early favorites was radiation therapy where X-ray beams would be directed through her body to destroy the tumor. However, this came with some pretty scary side effects. Alexa learned that patients treated with conventional radiation therapy for her cancer typically suffer from a painful condition called mucositis caused by the excess radiation dose delivered outside of the tumor. Mucositis often leads to an inability to eat and significant weight loss. In some cases, patients require a feeding tube because they can no longer swallow. In more severe cases, patients never regain the ability to swallow. Most certainly Alexa would not be able to care for her one-year old daughter with these types of side effects.