When I started down this journey, nearly every doctor I met said something to the effect that I had two months treatment, high cure rate, I’d be fine. Only one – the radiologist (I’m not sure what to call him) basically said something along the lines of “Hah hah…uh. no. More like three years”.
Damn if he wasn’t right. Then again, he’s been the only one on target every time. Hence, when I had a scary and painful episode, back to him I went. I had a cold coming on, probably had one too many beers the night before, so my throat was tender. Got into a coughing fit and found I had trouble swallowing and breathing.
He sized me up, stuck the scope up my nose and down my throat and pronounced “Nope. Looks like good old fashioned radiation damage to me!” But to be save, he ordered a CAT scan and swallow study. For whatever reason, the man is the undisputed heavyweight champ of getting insurance companies to approve and pay for scans. For the first time in three years, I got a total upper body scan.
It all came back clean. Still, he sent me for lymphodema therapy to teach my blown out lymph nodes in my neck to work, followed by physical therapy. You see, radiation tangles up the muscle fibers, and makes the skin and membranes adhere to your muscle. So I had the mother of all knots in my neck. He had told me to do this last year saying if I didn’t do it myself (work the muscle), someone would have to.
I got the same therapist as years ago. She looked me over, prodded a bit, explained what was going on and we’ll have to work that out. And, it’s going to hurt. A lot. The pain, as she digs into that muscle, is eye opening to say the least. But, I feel like a million bucks after.
I’m still dealing with the collateral damage from the whole affair. Physically, I’m getting way better. I exercise every day. I have an oaf of a dog now that compels me to walk him. Otherwise, no work gets done. He’s a big dude, and we do two 1-hour walks a day. I have to say, he’s been very therapeutic.
We moved, downsizing in the process. It was a months long process to get to the point where I can get back to some sort of exercise routine. My mouth is still dry, but recently I’ve started to get a lot of the ability to taste back. And the black scarring on my tongue just recently went away. It’s made my mouth way more sensitive to pepper though. Kind of a problem in North Texas. Still can’t stand fast food, which is good.
Emotionally, I’m back on track. My therapy, recovery, becoming empty-nesters, grandparents, buying and selling a house, my thyroid hormonal issues, caused unfathomable stress on me, my wife, and our relationship.
That said, after some pain and discomfort, we’re settling back into a normal life almost like we had before having kids. We plan on buying kayaks, and getting back to biking and scuba together.
One of the things I get asked quite often is “How did you know?”
Well, as I said in the first page of this blog – I felt a lump. But I also had symptoms for this or that malady that only made sense in retrospect. Continual colds that wouldn’t go away, already crappy stomach getting seemingly worse. Skin rashes on my fingers that would keep coming back. Low testosterone.
You see, when your body is battling cancer, it leaves off other battles, or switches resources. The low-t was vexing. And funny, considering recently some dudes on buzzfeed had their’s tested and mine was considered low, and a problem that had to be fixed with me at 52, with the same numbers as them in their 20s.
So my recommendation is monitor your health, and get serious about it. Many cancers are asymptomatic. Prostate cancer comes to mind. I had a friend that died of that. He only found out when he went to get a blood test for a life insurance policy. And by then it was way too late. For throat cancer, does that first drink of bourbon on the rocks burn when it didn’t used to? But, meh..second, third, fourth don’t? Maybe look into that.
So there it is. I’m past the period where they say a recurrence happens. Hopefully it’s over for good.