Documenting my life with cancer
| " I Have Cancer? " Part 2
In the last part I mentioned that things had progressed really fast and it has been just 3 weeks since being diagnosed on that fateful Tuesday afternoon of July 27th. I met on the following Friday with the team from the Helen Graham Center, three days later and things were explained to me. I will ask that although at this time I have not identified any of the Dr.s, keep in mind that I have seen so many in such a short time and as you will see, gone through so much, it is hard to remember who you are yourself. I will sort it out because I do want to thank all involved here.
The long and the short of the 7:30, Friday meeting, was I met two head surgeons, specializing in ear nose and throat. An oral surgeon and his assistant,A coordinator, a nutritionist, and I really don't remember the rest that were crammed into the small examination room that morning. The ear nose and throat Doctor, Dr. Hockstein, informed me that it was indeed from cigarette smoking and thought that it may be located somewhere in my tonsil area. I had a PET/CAT scan of my whole body 3 days prior and this is what they came up with. I also discussed my teeth with a Dr. Arm, and his assistant, Dr.Groy and Dr. Hockstein. What I was about to realize is that the surgery alone will do nothing for treatment purposes except locate the cancer and remove it possibly. I would need chemo and radiation treatments to fight the cancer from spreading and since it was possible located in my throat area, I would need my teeth removed. I thought just some. That following Monday morning at 7:30 am, August 2nd, I met with Dr.s Groy and Arm and they both looked and discussed the removal of several teeth. The bad ones for reason of infection and the other were by choice. It seems that if you have great teeth; and receive radiation treatments, your teeth will likely be destroyed. There is one option which to me seemed too much and that was a Fluoride bath daily during the radiation treatment to save the good ones.
I had 28 teeth and some were bad but not as bad as I was told. The long and short of it was, by 10:30 that morning I needed to decide how many were coming out because they had to come out now! One week before the exploratory surgery for the cancer. So I agreed to remove them all and headed for a buffet to eat perhaps my last chewed food in a while. I came at breakfast time and into lunch, so that I got a bit of both. I had to be back at Wilmington Hospital for the extraction of the 20 teeth at 1 pm.
I wish there were an option here and it was easy to express what it feels like to have all your teeth pulled out at once. But I can't even begin to explain the trauma that I was in for. I had explained before they began that I had a hard time with anesthetics when having teeth pulled in the past. That day, before it was all complete, I had received what was the maximum amount you should have of Novocaine. The last 4 teeth I still felt and the surgery was stopped as I let him pull it anyway without telling him that I could feel it. All that accomplished was that my blood pressure shot dangerously up and another surgeon had to be called down to decide to continue. I managed to calm myself right back down and they proceeded with the last three with my promise to tell the truth if I could still feel the pain. Let's just say that they finished and then I told the truth, OK? After 3 hours of tugging, pulling, twisting, prying and some 40 needles stuck in your mouth, I wanted it over with. And at 3:30 I walked out the clinic and out to the car with a mouth full of blood soaked gauze and no teeth. This is the beginning of the pain and I am not sure how much worse it will get with the radiation, but I will explain later how it was explained to me.
They say, you never appreciate something until it's gone and I must say, my teeth were no exception. I say things were going very quickly and I had not even begun to realize that now I couldn't eat solid food any more. At least for the next few months or maybe even more. So here I am looking at what to eat and having to think of how I will get it down my throat without chewing it.
When the Novocaine wore off, the Percocet were not even remotely close to giving comfort to the pain I now felt. Whoever can imagine that 5 mg of pain medication every 4 hours is sufficient pain relief for removal of 28 teeth. Let's just say it is unrealistic. No offense to any of the Dr.s but, you have your teeth I don't. Needless to say, it really hurts and I say that in a present tense because some 10 days later, they still are sore!
If that were not enough shock to the body, exactly one week later, August 9th, I was scheduled to have exploratory surgery to locate the cancer. The plan was to cut me from my left ear lobe down to my clavicle area, across to my front of my face and then up to my chin. They would remove the left tonsil, saliva gland, the lymph nodes and surrounding tissues for the pathologist to look at.
The operation was scheduled 1 pm again, and I had to be there by 11 am to be prepped. Everything went so fast and the fear did not even have time to set in. Before I knew it. I was in and out of surgery and completely lucid before entering the recovery area. Dr. Hockstein said the stars must have been aligned for you because everything went smoothly and they did not have to remove as much as first thought.
I found myself with my jaw fixed now with some 20 metal staples, my face swollen the size of a grapefruit and my throat feeling as if I would never swallow again let alone breath through it. I had a drain tube attached to my neck and a pump sucking blood from the wound.
In the recovery area they asked if I needed anything for pain, and after two shots of Dalaudin and one of Morphine I felt like I could endure the pain. It was very short lived and that first night I spent propped up at a 30 degree angle, staring off into space, thinking of better times and wondering if I was going to get through this whole cancer thing. I still do not know and it has only been 2 days ago since they released me from the hospital again with the standard 5 mg of Percocet for pain. Needless to say, I do not have many left at this writing and about to take two more in a short while.
It is getting close to 6 am now Thursday morning the 12th of August and I plan to venture out a bit today to take care of a few things. I had a rough past two nights sleeping and ran a fever just under 100 which is OK for now. The open wound seems alright and the drain tube may come out tomorrow when I go see Dr. Hockstein again. I am very agitated from lack of sleep and pain, and the anxiety levels are very high I might say also. I think I would cry a bit if it didn't hurt so much. But I am so sore, it is beyond belief, and this is just the beginning. I am told the radiation will hurt much worse and many people on radiation and chemo end up with a feeding tube in place. I cannot even begin to imagine what that is going to feel like. Hopefully I will know more Friday which area will be treated, for how long and what amounts of treatment will be recommended. I am already trying some different forms of foods which I would like to discuss and hopefully others might contribute their own recipes and ideas they had in maintaining weight which is essential for survival, but very challenging .
I guess it needs to be stated as part of this documentation, that my weight prior to January 1st 2010, was an overweight 217. Depending on who's scale I used and the accuracy of it. As of Monday when weighted in for prep, prior to the exploratory surgery, I am at 189.5 lbs and will keep a check weekly on it throughout. I am 59 years old and besides minor surgery on my left hand two years ago and my eyes at age 5, I have never been really in bad health. I took good care of myself until I divorced around 1990 and then did not care to much what I did for many years until recently.
There are I suppose many facets of this whole thing that as time goes on and whether or not I progress or not, I will need to both address and contemplate. There are social issues, religious issues, depression and having the will and determination to fight and fight hard to survive. Perhaps if you asked cancer patients, since this is new to me: what they felt got them through this and was most important to focus on, my guess would be your will power, coupled with your faith if you are a believer in a higher power.
I hope anyone who reads this will realize that what I am sharing and why is my way of coping and getting more information that I can use in my recovery. I speak of it in this way because the outlook has been told to me to be about 70% in my case. Sadly many others have faced much lower odds and still won the battle. It is a connection with people like you if you are a reader and what you can share in anyway to this. There is an old expression about strength in numbers and no one has to feel alone when going through such tough times.
In part three I want to discuss the Dr.s results and outlook from the the pathologist report and the upcoming beginning of the Radiation and Chemotherapy. Also I want to spend some time on what I beginning ti realize are problems from dealing emotionally to this whole change in my life.