Diagnosis: Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Since she was a young girl growing up in Wauwatosa, Beth Dowhen has loved teaching. Whether it was her brother and two sisters or a room full of teddy bears, she found students everywhere. After marriage and stints at other types of jobs, her husband, Dennis, encouraged her to go back to school to make teaching a career. While juggling roles of a wife, mom of three and active volunteer, Beth took classes at Wisconsin Lutheran College. She instructed art students in the elementary grades and wrote Vacation Bible School craft books for several years.
Eventually Beth received a phone call from the principal of Wisconsin Lutheran High School asking if she would consider teaching there. ?I was so excited, I just blubbered something over the phone,? she says. She started substituting, taught art, and later moved to the family and consumer education department. After 19 years, Beth reluctantly left the school and students she loved because she had developed an undiagnosed medical condition that left her exhausted after a day in the classroom.
For two years, Beth and her doctors tried to solve the mystery. Beth finally saw Dr. Kenneth Friedman, a hematologist at Froedtert, for a second opinion. That visit led to more awareness of possible conditions that could cause her symptoms. Eventually, Beth was diagnosed with Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma at the base of her tongue. No one suspected oral cancer since Beth was a nonsmoker, nondrinker, and HPV negative.
Beth has received radiation and chemotherapy and some complementary acupuncture therapy, and now her scans show no evidence of cancer. She?s returned to teaching, this time as a volunteer parenting coach at a counseling center.