Jan 10, 2014 - 8:10 am
I posted this on my personal blog, thought you folks might have comments on it (sorry for the length):
Got a call from my ENT Doctor giving me the laboratory results from the biopsy they took during my surgery. He confirmed that the source of my cancer is the HPV-16 virus.
Why is this good news? Because this particular form of cancer is statistically very curable. If it were not HPV, and we presumably know the cancer was not caused by smoking or drinking, then it would be the rare 7% of unknown Head and Neck cancers. The treatment would not be different, but the chances of success would be less optimistic.
What is HPV? It is the Human Papillomavirus that it is estimated that 80% of the population has. It is known to spread via skin to skin contact, but since so many of us have it, I hardly think it is a shameful thing. Our immune systems normally are capable of dealing with HPV infections in our mucous tissues (squamous cells). But occasionally, and after years and decades, these infections develop into cancer. HPV-16 just happens to be the exact same virus that causes most cervical cancers and is what the PAP smear tests that most women get regularly is designed to detect. There are no detection tests for men at this time for HPV. There are couple of vaccines, some of which have been in the news, that might be able to prevent humans from getting infected by this virus, but the medical community is still in the very early stages of this eradication effort.
So, now that we know the source of the cancer, why did my immune system fail to stop this cancer lesion on my tongue? This is just speculation and the true answer will never be known. However, I am certain that I did myself no favors by allowing the stress of my last couple projects to neglect my fitness and letting my weight increase to unhealthy levels. I certainly don't blame the projects, I blame my reaction to the stress.
Of course, this might not have anything to do with it. Healthy and extremely fit people still get cancer, just as long distance runners still get heart disease. But, I would like to think that fitness reduces the chances of cancer taking hold.
Fitness and what we eat are two of the few things that we can actually control in our lives. Believe me, in my case, those now have a much, much higher priority.
Fitness wise, I just need to be more consistent and regular, and make it a daily activity (with rest also being an important component). Even when I was my heaviest (at 205 lbs), I could still go out and do a 3 mile run, albeit slowly. I just didn't do it very often - a couple times a month at the most, during my last two projects. I just have to treat exercise as important as sleeping, and more important than work and play.
Eating wise, as well, I have not been eating horribly. I don't drink soda (much prefer water), and fast food and junk food are not staples of my diet. Sunny cooks us very healthy foods. But too large portions of healthy foods still creates excess calories that were not being burned by exercise. I have already dropped over 25 lbs over the last 6 months from my extreme, but another 20 lbs will put me safely within recommended medical limits. With my more careful eating routines now, portions are already much smaller, by necessity. This is not the time to make a vigorous push to lose more weight, but 8 or 12 months from now, I hope to be in very different clothes sizes.
These are not drastic changes for me, just shifting priorities a few notches to get the balance right again. And then, hopefully, my immune system will be strong enough to fight off cancer and other illnesses without the need for medical intervention.
I'll keep my thoughts on the spiritual side of things private, but obviously God and the mind-body relationship are also critical. This is another component over which we can affect change, but this is highly personal for me.