The weekend, I attended the Oral Cancer Foundation Walk for Awareness in Andover NJ. What an inspiring event, as always! I met Andrew, diagnosed at 26 with tonsil cancer shortly after being married, now a 3-year survivor. Trevor and Todd were buddies from their sons being on the same soccer team….6 months after one got oral cavity cancer, the other did. What a story! The wife of another survivor told me her husband snored like mad for a month – she couldn’t sleep on the same floor of the house it was so loud….he went to an ENT who diagnosed him with base of tongue cancer.
Then there were the two dentists who are survivors of oral cancer, Jerry Wilck and Mike Boylan. I see them year after year at this walk.
The most difficult story for me to hear was from a woman, my age, diagnosed the same year and almost the same month as me, with cancer in the same area of the mouth…..The difference between us is that I had targeted radiation therapy (IMRT) and she had standard radiation. Now, she wears a neck and back brace because the radiation has deteriorated her spine. 18 years ago, when we were both treated, there were only 12 IMRT machines up and running in the country. There wasn’t even one in Philadelphia, and yet in Allentown PA where I was treated, Dr Vigneri had one. Due to the targeted nature of my treatment, I was spared the harsh effects of therapy to all the normal tissues, glands and bones in and around the area radiated.
Gratitude is an attitude. The Oral Cancer Foundations walks around the country are a constant reminder about how much there is to be grateful for in life. If you would like to contribute to the work this foundation does to support survivors of this disease, as well as educate the general public and advocate for research….I would welcome your contribution: http://donate.oralcancer.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participantDonations&participantID=23931