Choices a 68 year old will make after a Dx for oral cancer are very different from choices I made at age 33 with two young children. There are choices. Different surgeons make different recommendations; Radiation oncologists have different treatment plans. Sometimes the treatment might just be radiation and chemo with no surgery. Sometimes, all three.
The 68 year old man is the friend of someone who knows me. He is a widow and his children live in another country. He shared that he has lived a full life. He heard that radiation to the head and neck is devastating, (and he is right!) He does not want to live the rest years of his life disfigured, unable to eat normally. How do you respond to a fellow survivor who asks for your advice?
With surgery, everyday you get better, you heal. When you are getting better, there is hope. When there is hope, you can go on. With radiation, everyday I got worse. I kept thinking, ‘it can’t get worse than this,’ and it did.
The surgeon said he will need to replace part of his jaw with bone from his leg. He is getting a second opinion. He will need to recover in a nursing facility since he has no one to care for him at home. After surgery, they will know more about the follow-up treatment will make a recommendation depending on the spread.
Here is a photo of me with a man who was in a similar position. He is in the tan turtleneck. I met him and his buddy Jerry after I lectured at the Stanford Medical Center Head & Neck Support Group. Hans eats with a feeding tube and doesn’t speak clearly, but has found joy in living.