Aug 22, 2010 - 4:40 pm
From the staging, you know that I have a "mild" cancer. It is almost totally confined to a vocal cord. I was lucky in that severe hoarseness was the presenting symptom. I also had ear aches and an almost constant cough.
I am finishing 6 weeks of radiation; I have 3 treatments left. I opted for a milder pain medicine, and have been able to maintain my weight. I can drink water and eat soft foods like yogurt. I also use Gluucerna Shakes, which is much like Ensure but formulated for diabetics.
My head/mouth has not been radiated so I've been spared the mouth sores.
As soon as the treatment started, I began finding ways to reduce pain. These tricks will be different for every individual; so you will need to find what works for you. Among the things are:
Before treatment started, I bought some cheap shirts with open collars (all under $10). The creams will gum up the shirts, so I didn't want to wear anything "good".
There are two areas of pain: in the throat from swallowing and the other from the burnt neck.
I never go more than six hours without pain medicine. I eat something every time I take the pain medicine. I also drink at least 6 ounces of water with each dose of medication. This has allowed me to have near normal saliva. (And the fact that my mouth has not been radiated.)
I am posting this so that interested parties, who are just entering head and neck radiation, may get a feeling for the full spectrum of effects. Everyone is unique, and everyone's cancer is unique.
When you start radiation treatment (especially if you are lucky enough that chemo is not involved), you have 2 to 4 weeks to figure out what will work for you. Once the pain gets significant, you probably will not have any desire to experiment.
And my oncology team has been terrific in explaining the medical options open to me. And helping to decide on the correct medications. But they did not have much to say about the little "tricks" I used to get through the treatment. This is perhaps because the "tricks" will be different for each individual.
I wish everyone the best. RicK