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Head and neck cancer

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2008

Hi, My husband has head and neck cancer with an unknown primary.  He just had a feeding tube put in today.  Tomorrow he goes for surgery to pull some teeth, because they are going to radiate his head and neck.  Everything has taken so long to come about.  In a couple of weeks he starts both radiation and chemotherapy.  I am so scared.  We have been married for over 25 years.  It seems that I am the only one to take care of him, even the children are being selfish right now, i do not know if it is because they do not want to deal with it or not.  On top of that I am taking care of his aging mother who is 82.  I also have a job that I am trying to keep throughout all of this.  Sometimes i just want to crawl up in a hole and give up.  I know that cant happen because my husband needs me and that is all that keeps me going.

Posts: 765
Joined: Apr 2012

My husband was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in July 2010.  Since that time he has undergone 70 rounds of radiation, 10 rounds of chemo, surgery, 2nd primary at the cervical of his esphoguas, now a reoccurrence of the 2nd primary and spread to his right lung.  He declined further treatment.

During his treatment and surgery, he did very well.  Yes the first round of 35 radiation and 3 chemo was hard on him but he was also 73 when he started with this beast.  During his first round of treatment, he was seeing our local ENT and oncologist who was treating him for a rare blood cancer that my husband was diagnosed with 7 years before the laryngeal cancer.  When the radiation and chemo didn't get the tumor, we were referred to a head and neck specialist and that was the best decision our local ENT and oncologist gave us.  

As a caregiver it is hard to watch our loved ones suffered but I can say that my husband for the first 4 weeks of radiation drove to his treatments which were 15 miles from the house.  But I met many people who drove themselves during their whole treatment.  I was always with him in case he didn't feel like driving, but I was also retired.  Our first round of chemo was only 5 minutes from the house and he didn't want me to sit there with him during the 2-3 hours it took for him to get his chemo.  Now during his second round of radiation, he might have drove the 30 miles to the Winship Cancer Center but I always drove home and towards the middle of treatment, I was doing all the driving.  

He takes care of his feeding tube and feedings himself.   The first time the feeding tube was put in we were told he might not need it, but he did for the hydration and nutrition because the radiation eventually closed off the back of his throat which had to be rebuilt during his laryngectomy. Just make sure your husband drinks lots of water to stay hydrated because if he doesn't it will lead to problems.    As far as having help during all this time from anyone, and we have 4 grown children, and grown grandchildren, no one ever offered to come stay with us and help in anyway.  Even today with their father dying, they don't offer any help nor do they bother to call and check on him.  Only one is good at doing that.  But that will be theirs to deal with when their father passes.  My husband still works in the yard on his good days, he still drives when he has taken no pain medication but driving is something he is doing less and less of.

Once piece of advice I can offer you is don't baby your husband.  Let him do what he can to help himself and help you.  Head and neck radiation is the worse we were told and they were right but my husband was able to handle it without too many problems.  As treatment goes on he will sleep more and that is good for healing and pain medication is needed too.  My husband didn't want to take the pain medication because he was afraid of getting addicted but the doctors told him no that the pain medication will help him heal.

And the best piece of advice I can give you, is to take care of yourself.  And to take time for yourself regardless of what is going on.  You will need it to get thru this.



jim and i's picture
jim and i
Posts: 1788
Joined: May 2011

My husband was treated for tongue cancer which spread to his lungs. I quit work to take care of him which was a wise choice since he is very sensitive to pain meds and they made him wander (sometimes naked) outside. I can't imagine taking care of his mother as well. You might contact Council on aging or Medicare for help with her. We were able to get in home care for half day for Jim's mother when she was with us, They helped bath her, prepare her breakfast and do her laundry. I would also suggest going on the Head and Neck board. There is a wealth of support and info there from survivors and caregivers as well. They continue to be my best support system.

I pray things go well.


Posts: 20
Joined: Oct 2011

It is so hard to know what to do. My husband was treated for sinus cancer and we  try to go on as we did before.. His prognosis is always up in the air, so sometimes I wonder if I should work less ( I am also finishing up a degree) and spend more time with him.  I guess there will always be second guessing about the best wy to handle this.

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