My Story of Cancer Therapy
My Story of Cancer Therapy & Recovery
Summer of 2015 - I was my father's caregiver for a few months. During that time I did not get enough sleep. What I know now is that I became more vulnerable to cancer because I wasn't taking care of myself.
Fall of 2015 – In October I notice a lump on the side of my neck that doesn’t go away – thinking it was just “swollen glands”.
Late December 2015 – My first appointment is with a “head and neck doctor”. He suggests a fine needle biopsy - got that done a week later. Results are ok; no cancer, but he’s not convinced and wants to remove the swollen lymph node.
Late January 2016 – Doctor/surgeon removes lymph node and sends to lab. Results reveal squamous cell carcinoma already at 4th stage! I think, “how can that be, I feel fine”. I was under the impression that anyone who had stage 4 cancer would have many other symptoms other than a small lump.
1st Week February – I meet with the oncologist and go over the plan. Up to this point I thought I would only need radiation therapy, but now discover he wants to add chemotherapy also. Sounds awful. And on top of that, 5 days/week of radiation and 1day/week of chemotherapy – for 7 weeks! (I had no idea how bad this would be)
3rd Week February 2016 :
1st of 7 Weeks of therapy – Start chemotherapy and radiation on Monday. By this time they’ve made the mask for my head – to hold it in place during the 2 minute radiation therapy each day. (Glad I’m not claustrophobic) Didn’t notice anything that first week of radiation; meaning I didn’t’ have any side effects yet. Chemotherapy was interesting. They set me up for an IV and inject a saline solution to hydrate me. Then the nurse brings out an IV bag with a skull and crossbones label on it! She’s wearing gloves and the bag is double wrapped – must be dangerous! I find out its called Cisplatin. The liquid is brown. I watch it going through the IV tube to my arm and the instant it gets in my vein I have a strong metallic taste in my mouth.
2nd Week – I’m not feeling very good, eating with some problems, and don’t feel energetic at all. The oncologist office is pushing me to drink protein shakes loaded with fat because they know I’ll be losing a lot of weight. I’m spending more time browing the internet about cancer therapies.
3rd Week – I’m noticing more ill side effects. A little harder to swallow, and this is because the radiation is gradually frying the lining of my throat.
4th Week – It’s harder to swallow. I’m not eating much and choosing foods that are soft. I’m feeling like a zombie, sleeping more and when I’m awake not really ‘with it’. I’m staying at home almost all the time and searching the internet about this cancer. I discover there were other alternatives to radiation/chemo therapy, but since it was stage 4 there was no time to delay. Amongst the many alternatives was a carrot juice regime – very interesting! I add that to my diet.
5th Week – Can’t swallow anything that’s not liquefied. Drinking protein shakes, carrot juice, and smoothies from the Tropical Smoothie Café. My weight has dropped 30 pounds already and the oncologist is pushing me to drink more of those Ensure shakes each day and warning that a feeding tube may be necessary if I lose too much weight. My thinking is dull and I have no energy. I’m battling constipation which is a side effect of this therapy. I’m wondering how I’m going to get through the next two weeks.
6th Week – I feel really bad. It’s getting hard to swallow anything – even water. The shakes from Tropical Smoothie Café are hard to drink. Carrot juice is almost too thick. The protein shakes I have at home also too thick. I gag on them a lot. The valve that closes my windpipe (?) is not working well now and so some of the fluids I drink go down my windpipe and I have to cough it up. I feel utterly miserable and I think a lot about quitting, even though I only have one week left. I stay in the bedroom most of the time, and I can tell my supportive and loving wife feels terrible for me, but she can’t do anything to fix it. The nurses tell me that many people can’t go through 7 continuous weeks, but I’m determined to finish the battle. I’ve lost 40 pounds now.
7th Week – I know the therapy is almost over, but I wonder if I’m going to survive. One day I have my friend drive me to therapy because I know I can’t. Swallowing anything is hard work, followed by a lot of gagging. My mind is constantly in a fog. April 15, 2016 is my last day of therapy. The rest is uphill, right?
1st Week of Recovery – I feel even worse and swallowing is even harder yet. I sleep a lot, but only a couple hours at a time. I wake up gagging for no reason. My mouth is dry because my saliva glands are ruined. Everything tastes bad. Doctor says my taste buds may come back in a couple years or never.
2nd Week of Recovery – Not much change from last week, maybe worse. My throat is so sore that I feel it constantly. It hurts to drink anything and it has to be cold. I haven’t been able to drink anything hot for at least a month. One of the nurses mentioned that 7 weeks of radiation on my neck and throat is like getting sunburned day after day for seven weeks – you can imagine what’s that’s like, or can you?
3rd Week of Recovery – It’s the first week of May. It’s hard to remember when I started feeling better. I’m pushing the liquid drinks a little more. Not feeling worse than last week.
4th Week of Recovery – Feeling a little better.
5th Week of Recovery – I know I’ll recover now, but it will be a long recovery; steps will be in small increments.
6th Week of Recovery – I’m starting to think about how I can speed up recovery. I lost 45 pounds and back to my athletic weight as a senior in high school; but I’m weak and need to build the muscle I lost.
From June 1st and on I worked on projects on my house and yard each day. The first day I only lasted 10 minutes. By the end of August I could work outside most of the day. My saliva glands were still functioning 10% at best. Taste is still terrible so I select what I drink/eat by nutritional value. By now I’ve been using a juicer to juice 5 lbs of carrot juice along with an apple and drink 16-32 ounces per day of that mixture. I make my own protein drinks each day; can’t eat anything dry without chasing it with water. Brain fog is greatly improved by the end of August.
Racing forward from August 2016 to February 2019 – taste has come back at least 80%. Saliva glands maybe 50%, but still get dry mouth. I had infection in my mouth where the radiation was strongest and had to have 3 teeth pulled last summer. Since then I’ve been using homemade colloidal silver as a mouth wash and the infection has not come back. I work out at the gym and have added 15 pounds from my lowest weight. I feel pretty good…….but –
I just got word from my doctor that an ultrasound test shows a nodule on my thyroid that he wants to do a fine needle biopsy. I recently remember he told me in 2016 that a lot of people get thyroid cancer after radiation/chemo therapy.
I’m a Christian and have a strong faith in my Lord. He will never leave me or forsake me. I’ll update as this goes on.
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