I have known many people that have had cancer, some died from it and others survived it. Cancer has never hit too close to home until now. I have cancer. Just the words generate a feeling that is impossible for me to describe. Fear, panic, worry, anger, resentment, and variations of all wrapped up in a chaotic ball is as close as I can come to what I feel since my diagnosis.
I’ll start at the beginning. Sometime in late August 2018 I was using a 6-foot USB micro Endo-scope for some electronics work I was doing with my radios and after I was done, boys being boys, I decided to check out my ear canals. All clear there. Next, let’s see about my dental work, Very nice. How are my tonsils doing? Hmm, that doesn’t look right. I see a pickle-shaped thing with what looks like blisters all over it. A chill ran through me, not thinking cancer but knowing that that is not right and looks like a problem. The endoscope has a camera function, so I click a few pictures and email them to my doctor and ask what she thinks of this development. I got an almost immediate response. A call from her nurse to get my butt into her office the following week. This was the Friday of Labor weekend, so I have to wait 4 days + 1 to see the good doctor. Time to fret and worry. Sure put a damper on the holiday. My wife and I had several discussions over the next few days, talking about several possibilities including cancer.
The following week I drive down to see the doc. She looks down my throat and gives me that well practiced “Umhmm”. She tells me to wait here and she disappears and returns 5 minutes later and tells me to trot over to Ear, Nose & Throat let them look at this thing. The ENT doc has me sit in a fancy chair with cameras and all sorts of probe type instruments. She takes one look down my throat and says, “that definitely look like cancer”. I asked if she planned to biopsy it to be sure, a few squirts of throat numbing, and the samples were off to the lab.
Fast forward a few days, the phone call with the now not surprising news, its’ cancer, Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the throat. Doc thinks it is Stage III but can’t tell for sure until an MRI or CT scan is done.
My normally sedate life suddenly becomes an endless string of doctor and lab appointments.
CT, MRI and a Pet scan and I meet my team. My cancer team consists of seven doctors and 3 other disciplines, Dietitian, Speech & Swallowing therapist and a gastric nurse. This took the best part of 6 hours with one after another coming and going.
Originally, I was told they would remove the tumor and radiate the area. No Chemo!! Woo Hoo! That was short-lived, the surgeon tells me that due to its size he would rather let radiation and Chemo have the first whack at it. Boohoo.
Most all preparations are in place to start treatment all that is left is the “targeting and tattoo” portion so they can hit the same place over and over to reduce the collateral damage. Oh, and the mask that bolts my head to the table……….
My wife is a saint. She has taken the role of Angel in waiting. She has kept me up and encourages me to stay positive and in the moment. She pushed me back to my meditation and prayers. They say the support and mind-body are the largest part to successful treatment. I knew this but have evolved away from it. It feels good to return to it.
Next step is to have a gastric feeding tube inserted. The reason is to ensure that during radiation as my throat swells from the treatment I can still get hydration and nutrition via the feeding tube that is mounted on my stomach. Think meal supplements like Ensure and other high-calorie liquid meal replacements.
Interesting note: the tumor is a P-16 HPV positive tumor. More here. http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm
The treatment is what they call a 35/3. 35 doses of radiation and 3 rounds of Chemo. The first chemo starts the same day as radiation.
I will try to update this blog every week to keep any interested parties up to date.
Here is the bottom line as of 10-04-2018
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Throat
The tumor is 5 CM and Stage II
Treatment starts 10-29-2018 (my choice)