Thankfully, the prognosis for the kind of cancer I was diagnosed with last fall, Stage II HPV-related Squamous Cell Tonsil Cancer, is good.
Now that I’ve recovered sufficiently from surgery late November to remove the tumors — one on my left tonsil and a cancerous lymph node on the left side of my neck — I’m scheduled to start treatment next week. Depending on the results from tomorrow’s scan, I’ll be receiving radiation five days a week for the next six or seven weeks. And I’ll be getting chemo once a week.
After my meeting with Dr. Kim, my radiation oncologist, in her office, I met with the lead radiation tech and one of her colleagues. They had to make a new mask for the treatment because the one they made last fall, weeks before the operation, no longer fit. My face is not as thick as before . . . and, even though my neck’s still a bit swollen, I seem to have lost my extra chin along the way. 😉
Though I’ve put on more than 10 pounds post-op, I’m a good bit skinnier than before. (Folks keep telling me how good I look, which I guess you could say is one of the positive aspects of all of this folderol.) I can’t remember the last time I was trying to gain weight, that’s for sure.
Once again, Dr. Kim reviewed the side-effects, which are due to manifest after a few weeks. She said that it’ll take about as long to recover from the radiation as it does to receive it. The radiation effect accumulates so that the maximum effect is two weeks after the end of the treatment; the peak for the chemo is further down the line.
I said something about my post-op experience preparing me for this, at which point Dr. Kim solemnly informed me that this would be worse . . . and last longer. Whether the course of radiation lasts six, six-and-a-half, or seven weeks, this is going to suck.
By all accounts, everyone I’ve spoken to — the surgeon, radiation oncologists (both of them), hematologist-oncologist, radiation tech, and the nurse navigator on my team from the cancer center — this course of radiation is one of the worst, if not the worst — most difficult and painful — treatments they do. They were also quite clear that patients respond differently: some folks get through it with minimal difficulties speaking, eating and swallowing while for others it is disastrous.
Be that as it may, the side effects are wide-ranging and they last for quite a while. My sense of taste will decrease, disappear, or change (to become less pleasant); this can take months to return. Or these changes can be permanent. I’ll have a sore throat and sores in my mouth which will make swallowing, eating, and talking difficult. For who knows quite how long.
Radiation will affect my salivary glands as well so my mouth will be dry for a year or so. I’ll need to keep my mouth moist — sipping water, drinking a medicinal potion, and using ‘dry mouth’ products. Is that the term— dry mouth — because, somehow, ‘wet mouth’ doesn’t have the same appeal. Due to the concurrent changes in the bone, including my teeth, I will have to be super diligent about brushing and flossing.
As demoralizing as it was to learn about the side-effects at first, I appreciated that no one’s sugar-coating what I’m in for. I would rather know; I’d rather prepare realistically. Between a vast field of foolhardiness and the unending terrain of terror, I’m laying down a path, steadfastly finding and taking the next step.
Even so, it seems likely I may be sitting still or at least staying put long enough to address more issues and ideas that inspire and instigate. Through what’s to come, or at least most of it, it’s the wherewithal to continue writing that I’m working toward. Looks like I’ve got quite a bit yet to say. About the past, present, and future of Moshe’s method, for instance. Then there’s community, conduct, cybernetics systems, and the other means by which coordination manifests.
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