I’ve been keeping in contact weekly with an anesthesiologist who is going through treatment for oral cancer. He finally completed his radiation therapy. His words below are a harsh reminder about what happens when oral cancer is diagnosed late. He had a lump on the floor of his mouth which was misdiagnosed as a torus.
“OMG, THIS IS DIFFICULT. I can’t wait to be through with this part, Eva. Every morning, 3 – 4 AM I wake up in tears, torrents of pain: mouth, neck, absolute agony. I love to be asleep, it’s my only brief escape. I was actually dreaming about swimming, running, biking … all those fantastic hill workouts I used to do: running the logging trails behind the local university with the crew team, everyplace I’ve lived – fantastic. Now I just feel like a shell of the man I used to be. This has got to get better soon. This week post radiation has been the worst. I’m still struggling with eating and still losing weight. Just choking back the Ensure as much as I can, supplemented with soup, soft boiled eggs and cottage cheese. What a battle this is. Everybody loves to congratulate you when you’re DONE with treatments. I just didn’t realize the hardest part was just getting started. They really ramp you up through that whole process, then drop you off at the end. Because radiation hits stem cells, the hit you get doesn’t manifest until a week later. So this is the really BAD week. Next Wednesday is when the healing really should officially start. I’m still piling on the damage right now as these dead cells make their way to the surface.
The weekends are difficult ‘cause my wife and son are around. I love them dearly, don’t get me wrong. But we are not living the same lives right now. They are on a separate track for the living, the thriving. I’m just surviving. At least during the week I have a few hours to myself to not be bothered, get some eating, reading done. We’re swinging into summer here and life is happening all around me, fast, especially with a very active 9 year old boy in the house. And I am still very much sidelined. I want to be back in the game. I want my voice back, I want to drive, I want to get off the pain medicine. I want to go out and see people, go to the movies, anything.
Thanks for listening Eva. I like the way you said, “there is light at the end of the tunnel”. I know there is. I’m just a type A, impatient man. It comes from working with all those impatient surgeons my whole career.
Okay, I did get out on a bike ride yesterday with my son. We rode 12 miles round trip. It was wonderful: to be outside in the air, feeling the wind, hearing birds, seeing trees and the river flowing by … absolutely beautiful. As if I wasn’t a lover of life before, I will henceforth love everything life has to offer, to the fullest. You can count on that.”