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Husband Just Diagnosed

kimmygarland's picture
Posts: 313
Joined: Aug 2009

My husband was just diagnosed with hypopharyngeal cancer with spread to lymph nodes. I am so scared, and he is very stoic. He will have 6 treatments (1 per week) of chemo, and then several weeks of daily radiation with a few more chemos thrown in for good measure. The doc says their protocol has 80-85% cure rate, which is encouraging, but says the treatment is rough. The information and number of doctors we have had thrown at us is overwhelming. Monday first visit with chemo oncologist, then pending appts with radiation doctor, special dentist, he'll have to have chemo port put in, they want to put in a feeding tube "just in case" it's needed, the list goes on and on.

He is very positive and I am the one who seems overwhelmed! Of course, I am not indicating this to him... stiff upper lip and all.

I will be here for support I am sure, I have already read so much info that has been helpful.

Glenna M's picture
Glenna M
Posts: 1576
Joined: May 2009

I just wanted to welcome you to the discussion board and tell you that you have come to the right place for support and advice. There are many long term survivors who have helped and encouraged me through some rough times and I know they will be there for you when you need them.

Your husbands' treatment sounds like a long road but with you there by his side I'm sure he will be able to handle anything, he sounds like a very strong man. Just make sure you take care of yourself also so you will be able to be strong for him when he needs you. As one great gentleman on these boards always tells the caregivers - being a caregiver is the hardest thing you will ever have to do and you need to take time for yourself to take care of the caregiver. I would also be very encouraged by the 80-85% survival rate your doctor mentioned. I would take those odds any day:) I have squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx and NSC adenocarcinoma in my left lung, unfortunately both are inoperable/incurable, but my cancer team is very optimistic that after I finish my treatments I will have a very long remission. I just keep telling myself that they will find something else for these kinds of cancers before I have to fight them again. I will not give up hope.

As I said, you will be meeting a lot of great people here who can help you. Even if it's just that you need a shoulder to lean on there is always someone here for you.

One thing you must do is make sure your husband eats as much as he can so he doesn't lose weight and make sure he stays hydrated, never, ever let him be without a bottle of water.

My best wishes to you and your husband. Please post again to let us know how both of you are doing, we care and want you to know that you are not alone in this battle.

kimmygarland's picture
Posts: 313
Joined: Aug 2009

Thank you Glenna for the welcome. I hope you get good news and have a long and happy remission after your treatment.

I will make sure to push the fluids with him once he starts treatment.

Posts: 101
Joined: Jun 2008


Sorry to hear about your husband. The first thing I did after my diagnosis was learn how to spell the damn thing...hypo what? I looked it up and saw I was a stage IV. The internet has some less than optimistic comments on this stage and location...DON'T believe it. Most are based on out-dated studies; recent results are much more encouraging. Surgery, chemo and radiation with concurrent chemo worked for me. Two years post treatment and no sign of any cancer. Your hubbie will do equally well. May I suggest: eat lots now, get in the habit of drinking plenty of water, use Aquaphor or some similar ointment on the neck after each radiation treatment, use the meds available without hesitation, look forward to meeting some of the nicest people around...the care team, rest more, take it a day at a time (just like life itself), pay attention to the nurses, post here as often as you like and make plans for the future. Wishing you and yours the best of health, Rich

Posts: 4
Joined: Aug 2009

Be there for your husband. It will be hard but you have to do it. There will be alot of emotions but yours are second compared to his. My husband was diagnosed with neck cancer in May 2008. He was 37 I was 34. It was very hard. He had Chemo and Radiation. We were blessed with an Oncologist that was straight forward and blunt which was what my husband needed since he is hard headed. He never had to have a feeding tube. His doctor told him that as long as he was eating and drinking and not losing major weight it wouldn't be needed. He did not have one. My husband had a port and major neck surgery! He still has some after effects but per the last scan, no cancer. We now face more problems. My employer (with whom I had insurance through) fired me for standing up to an employee that was harassing me. They knew my husband was going through treatment and surgery and we needed the insurance. We tried to pay the cobra but just couldn't afford it. Now we have none and he is forgoing normal check ups because we can't pay. I am in the process of trying to find programs etc that may help. It is stressful but follow your heart and don't jump into things you don't think you will need. The feeding tube can always be done later and yes the radiation does wreck havoc on it. The hospital were the radiation was done had some awesome recipes and I will try to find them and post them for you. Good Luck and I will answer any questions that I can for you!

carolinagirl67's picture
Posts: 153
Joined: Jul 2009

Hey there,

My husband just started treatment on Monday and I was overwhelmed too. He was diagnosed on June 1st. So much has to happen so quickly and it is overwhelming. We just had our feeding tube put in on Friday. He is fine. Everyone I talked to said get the tube before treatment. Of course the goal is not to have to use it but I have found that almost everyone needs it. My husband has tonsil cancer and will have seven weeks of radiation and three chemo treatments. We have one chemo down and two to go. This is a great place to ask questions and I have found it a good place to be heard. Remember to take care of yourself too, get a pedicure or whatever you can to make you feel a little better.

God Bless you!

kimmygarland's picture
Posts: 313
Joined: Aug 2009

Thank you so much for the words of wisdom and support.

We were all set to start 6 weeks chemo on Monday, two week rest, 6 week rad/chemo. Then yesterday the Radiation Oncologist doctor told us they may have another option for him. He is diabetic and the chemo could damage his already bad kidneys. They have a new treatment - a biological medicine type of chemo (has been used successfully to treat lung and thyroid cancers and is in testing phase for throat cancer) taken by mouth that could be taken during radiation.

The radiation doc believes he can get rid of the tumor with the radiation and the chemo is an "extra", and that the chemo pill should be enough chemo for the "extra".

We are waiting back to hear if his labs confirm that he is eligible for this (has to have a certain level of creatin), and then to hear from our lead doctor (ENT Oncologist/Surgeon) to see if he agrees. If they all agree and the tests come back ok, we'll proceed with this method - cure rate is same percentage plus we'll save possibility of chemo damage to kidneys.

It is overwhelming, these treatment decisions, as they could be life altering. It's so much at once... plus all the doc visits, etc. My husband is very positive, and I am coping ok, but am ready for treatment to begin so we can start to get RID OF THIS MONSTER! Patience... patience... I keep telling myself.

Posts: 3
Joined: May 2008

Kimmy: Sorry to hear about your husband. It is overwhelming what you have to go through to make it to the end of the road. You did not give the age or the physical condition of your husband before being diagnosed. Hopefully he was in good physical condition. I was 58 and in excellent health, very muscular and weighed about 190 lbs.. Through 35 rediation treatments and 7 chemo treatments I lost 50 lbs.. Without the feeding tube who knows what my weight would have gone down to. I am now about 2-1/2 years post treatment and have very slowly gained back about 20-25 of those lost pounds. All the muscle mass I built in 30 years of working out and lifting weights is gone. I have experienced serious side effects from the radiation, however I find that the radiation effects different people in different ways. Make no mistake that this is probably the most devastating radiation you can take due to the area of the body being treated. It is great that your husband has a positive attitude. Hopefully he can keep this through treatment. I started out that way but as the radiation became tougher my attitude changed. I did make it though and am still alive and trying to learn to cope with my new life. There is light at the end of the tunnel. God Bless

pmfennell's picture
Posts: 28
Joined: Jun 2009

You are about to enter into a world that can be overwhelming. Keep a journal for questions and reflections. Both my wife and I did when I was diagnosed and going through treatment. It reminded us of questions to ask the docs. between appointments and put our feelings into words. We also kept an accountants pad of all the meds. I was on as well as the schedule. It helped a lot. you will have to make many decisions and follow directions from your "Oncology Team." And it is a team and you are part of it. Don't be afraid to ask questions. They can be very helpful in dealing with and processing your feelings.
On another note, make sure you make time for yourself. You will need a break from time to time. Don't feel guilty about taking it. The time you take for you will help you both get through this and beat it. Get the feeding tube in ASAP while your husband is feeling his best. It is much easier to have it done now, then down the road when you discover you need it. I had mine put in right away and had it removed 3 months post treatment. I was glad to have it because it allowed me to remain hydrated and taking in plenty of calories to maintain my weight. Keep us posted and remain positive.

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