A Very Interesting Way to Spend Your First Anniversary

Okay! So when your wedding is done flash-mob style at a local winery, how do you celebrate your first anniversary? Bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge? Zip-line through the redwoods? Hit Mavericks?

No, you have surgery.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, my husband of 10 months noticed a lump on his neck. When antibiotics didn’t clear it up, he had it biopsied. It came back positive for cancer. It took a PET scan, and MRI and a consultation with a specialist before the source of the cancer was located – the base of the tongue. Surgery was the recommended option because it was relatively small, and the follow-up treatment would be less invasive.

So on January 16, 2012, Jim had surgery, They removed part of the tongue and a tonsil that was in the way. The surgery was longer than expected but it went well. It’s now Friday, January 20th. I am looking forward to bringing him home tomorrow.

Our doctor tells us that 10 years ago, 80% or more of the mouth cancers he saw were in hard-core smokers and drinkers. Jim never smoked and although we drink wine, we are not considered “hard-core” drinkers. No, this is something else. Now our doctor says around 80% of his mouth cancer patients are men between the ages of 51/52 and 65 who never smoked. What they have is squamous cell cancer of the mouth from HPV – the Human papillomavirus.

I wasn’t going to post about this and then I thought it over. I don’t know how many people are reading this blog, but I’d like to think that my readers will grow in number. If Jim and I can reach just ONE and get them to have that bothersome lump on their neck looked at, it will have been worth it to post this.

Jim has some recovery ahead of him. We don’t know exactly what that entails – it could be radiation or chemo or both. I don’t plan on having a day-by-day post of our journey, but I will send out an update every so often.

Finally – our doctor firmly believes that the only way to get any control of HPV is “with the girls”. Getting young girls vaccinated against HPV will protect them from cervical cancer and from potentially transferring HPV to their (male) partners. Because from what they know now, that’s how this occurs. Jim probably got the virus in his 20s or 30s and it’s been dormant for over 30 years. Maybe one day they’ll learn why it “comes alive.”

I hate that this post is sounding like a medical book, but this has been my life for the past month. Again – I felt like I had to share this. If you are the parent to a young girl, seriously look into and consider the vaccines against HPV that are available.

Jim and I are looking forward to spending our SECOND anniversary at some secluded little romantic hide-a-way in Napa, Sonoma or somewhere along the Pacific Coast. About as far away from a Kaiser facility as one can get.


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