Jenny was diagnosed with late stage oral cancer the day before Christmas. She thought it was the last Christmas she would give her Dad the musk cologne he loves. While her family was watching Christmas Lampoon, a traditional Christmas day activity in her home, she was in another room researching oral cancer on the internet. She found my website. Running into the other room, she cried, “OMG, guys, you gotta come here, right now!! Look at what I found. Read this woman’s story. There is HOPE for me!”
She announced to everyone that she was picking up the phone and calling the number she found on the website. Her mother said, “Honey, it’s Christmas. You can’t call today.” If only she knew I was Jewish and not doing much anyway. The day after Christmas, I got her message left on my home phone. Thanks to our Vonage phone line, I was able to pick up the message by email transcription in Mexico where we were spending the week with friends. Thanks to our Magic Jack, I was able to call her immediately without much expense to us.
I begged her not to have surgery at the local hospital she was planning on going to, explaining that a surgeon who does this complicated surgery less frequently, versus one who does it everyday, makes all the difference in the world for a better quality of life. She heard how clearly I spoke and after hearing more details about my surgery, knew she wanted to go to the same surgeon. I sent an email to Dr Urken, telling him I recommended him once again and gave some details about Jenny. Although his office days are always packed, he squeezed an appointment in for her. Two weeks later, she was in surgery while her husband and parents stayed at an apartment run by nuns from a local church. They were able to stay for $60/night. It was bare, but had the essentials.
We made a date to meet on one of her follow-up appointments after surgery – She looked GREAT! We talked about radiation. I suggested she stay close to home, near family, friends, and her beloved dogs. After all, radiation is everyday. You keep thinking the side-effects can’t get worse….and they do. Radiation to the head and neck region is the most difficult to tolerate because it affects your speaking and eating….such a major part of what life is all about. Also, with Stage IV, the decisions that need to be made by the radiation oncologist is fewer because the protocol is more standard….radiate it all. When you are stage 2 or 3, many more thoughtful decisions need to be made about how much radiation, and to what locations depending on spread. Since Jenny was Stage IV, I suggested she get treated near home.
She wanted to continue treatment in NYC with Dr. Urken’s team and saw Dr. Harrison, the chief of Radiation oncology at Beth Israel Medical Center. He is world renown, travels a lot lecturing, and has less and less patient contact, but since he approved of the treatment, she was thrilled. Kudos to her for spending 6 long weeks in that bare bones apartment, with one family member visiting at a time to keep her company.
Jenny is now two years post-diagnosis, and living life to it’s fullest!