Expat living in India when diagnosed for scc tongue cancer


Dealing with the realization that my ulcer was malignant was definitely one of the hardest moments of my life. It was my first year in this new teaching job and I couldn't have picked a more caring group of administrators, colleagues, parents, and students. Immediately after revealing my condition I had a team of caring individuals that began offering help of all forms. I began consulting with doctors in Pune and Mumbai to discovered the best treatment offered for this type of cancer. If you can imagine, with so many patients dealing with very similar diagnosis I experienced the extremes before I finally settled on the Doctor whom I would trust with my life. I decided on SIR Reliance Foundation Hospital (happily surprised that it was a vegetarian hospital).  

Just before my surgery I said to my surgeon, ( with tears streaming down my cheeks, " Please do whatever you have to to make sure this cancer is taken care up once and for good." She squinted her eyes, smiled and leaned close to me while looking through her thick glasses and said, " Joseph, I will take care of you don't worry." I woke up in shock as I slowly realized exactly what had transpired. My Dr. was right by my side holding one hand and she said, " Joseph. I had to do the reconstruction with the free flap as I explained. That's why your arm is in a cast. You did great! Now the important thing is that you listen closely and do everything that I say. ...... " Her instructions and care were exactly what I needed at that moment. 


I have so much to share about my experience(s) and would love to hear from anyone who cares to ask or share a similar one. I will be the first to admit that I cried so much before and aftery surgery. In many ways the crying helped but beware it can complicate the healing as swelling also occurs when we cry.


If you are going through the same cheer up you are not alone.


  • Hondo
    Hondo Member Posts: 6,636 Member
    edited May 2016 #2
    Welcome to CSN H&N


    That is a beautiful story my friend and shows that there are wonderful people all around us every day.






  • MrsBD
    MrsBD Member Posts: 617 Member

    Wow! I can't imagine being so far from home during such an ordeal. How wonderful that you had a new "family" and such a caring doctor rally to your side. Sharing your experiences is not only cathartic, but it does not cause swelling. ☺ You will also be helping the newbies, so feel free to tell your story. We are also family.

  • the_wife
    the_wife Member Posts: 184

    Welcome to the thread and feel free to post as much and as often as you wish. We are always open and within reach. I firmly believe that by telling our stories and sharing with others, we expediate the healing process in our minds and bodies. 

    Best wishes to you on your journey back to health!

  • Josephwc
    Josephwc Member Posts: 69
    I last taught art in China

    I last taught art in China where I met Pan-Pei (Thomas) and luckily he was visiting India on a 6 month visa when I discovered the scc. If anyone is familiar with Indian practices the medical field expects that a close friend or family member will stay with you at all times (night and day) to help with recovery. Thomas was that person for me and I relied on him for everything. Together we fought through the first 12 hour surgery where I had over 1/3 of my tongue removed, a free flap taken from my right forearm and skin grafting from my left leg. I woke up from the first surgery so stiff and sore with a tongue that felt three times it's normal size. The cast on my left arm was so heavy and I had tubes coming from the left and right sides of my neck and bladder. The doctor warned me that the next three days were crucial and that it was very important that we protect the new vein that was feeding my reconstructed tongue. I sat up right for three days in icu and 7 more in a shared room on the main oncology ward. I couldn't bend my head at all for fear that the blood supply would get blocked. This scared the hell out of me because I was so tired and all I wanted to do was sleep. Thomas watched very closely and gently lifted my chin everytime I knodded off. Thank you Thomas. The nurses checked frequently and listened to my pulse with a doppler. I waited so desperate each time for the sound of my pulse as they placed the doppler on the tip of my tongue and left side of my neck. The moment I could hear a healthily performing vein the tears began to flow. I think I cried so much because everything was happening quickly and I wasn't happy or clear about my future career, recovery (speech), personal life, etc... The tears caused swelling in my neck and that wasnt good for the new vein or recovery but Ai couldn't seem to stop. 

  • Josephwc
    Josephwc Member Posts: 69
    Thank you all for the nice

    Thank you all for the nice comments. They do help.

  • Star57
    Star57 Member Posts: 10
    edited May 2016 #7
    Very touching story as I am

    Very touching story as I am going through a very similar situation...I have not had reconstruction....yet...can you talk normal and eat? My surgery was Tuesday. Prayers coming your way..

  • Josephwc
    Josephwc Member Posts: 69
    edited May 2016 #8
    I typed you a very detailed

    I typed you a very detailed response and then lost it. Here goes again. My first surgery to reconstruct my tongue and disect nodes was March 21st. My second surgery was April 2nd.  I was discharged on April 9th. I returned to a full day of teaching on April 19th. My speech was noticeable but not bad at all. I worked up until May 6th, it was the end of the second week of radiation. I couldn't do it any longer. 


    Are you going to have the reconstruction?


    A friend sent this message, " I read somewhere that the process of healing is not linear - its spiral. Just hang in there and know that you are on the road to recovery."  I think that is good to remember.