Hats Off to My Cancer-Warrior

Back in January I posted about my husband’s cancer surgery on the date of our first anniversary. It’s hard to believe that was almost four months ago, and five months since we found out he had squamous cell cancer of the throat, specifically the base of the tongue. Here’s a summary of our journey:

  1. December 7, 2011 – first learned about the cancer.
  2. January 16, 2012 – surgery to remove the cancer on the tongue.
  3. February 10  – surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes.
  4. March 13 – surgery to implant a PEG feeding tube in his stomach.
  5. March 15 – first of 30 radiation sessions.
  6. April 25 – last radiation session.

Today I decided it was time to write about my cancer-warrior. I won’t say this has been an easy journey, far from it. But he has been surprisingly upbeat overall. I think the darkest times were right after he came home from the first surgery. For a man who has been very healthy for 65 years, being weak, unable to eat or sleep or speak properly… it was a real shock to the system. He said he felt like a 65-year-old man.

Right now, he’s out getting his hair cut. He likes being able to reconnect with things from LBC (Life Before Cancer), like hopping in the car, driving over to Pleasanton and seeing the same gal who’s been cutting his hair for the past 18 years. Yes, he needs a quick nap after getting home, but the main point is he’s getting out. He’s not moping around the house singing “woe is me.” He’s even been doing the lawn-mowing for the past few weeks. So what if he needs two days to do what he used to do in an afternoon. He’ll get back to that point.

We’ve been very lucky, both of us, to have had excellent health for so long. True, we eat well but as anyone would tell you that’s not enough these days. We’re not big fans of exercise, either; his is done with a lawn mower and mine is done with a vacuum cleaner. (OK now – you can get your minds out of the gutter!) I have a roll-up exercise mat and hand weights, I know I should do more, but….

So this has been a bit of a wake-up call to both of us. To realize we really do only have so much time here on this particular planet, and it’s best not to waste it.

So hat’s off to Jim, my cancer-warrior, for putting up with all the crap slung his way for the past five months!! Now all we have to do is get him back to eating real food and get that dang feeding tube removed. I’ll be sure to post when that happens.

My Husband’s Cancer Diary

My husband, Jim, is currently undergoing treatment for squamous cell cancer of the mouth as a result of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). We have decided to document our journey with a blog. Here is the address:

www.radiationroad.blogspot.com

Please pass on this address to anyone you know who might be suffering from squamous cell cancer of the mouth caused by HPV. We are going to do our best to document every day of radiation treatments, which started today, March 15, 2012.

They say shared experiences can be a powerful thing. We hope that by documenting our journey, we might help others who are having to deal with it. Just to know there’s someone else out there dealing with the same thing can be helpful.

We will try to respond to any questions and/or comment on the blog as quickly as possible. To all those other there is cyberspace suffering from cancer of any kind, we send you our most sincere wishes for a speedy recovery.

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.