It's been 10 years since I was diagnosed with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma... cancer. I started this blog to share the many emotions, fears, experiences and, hopefully, triumphs that I will face throughout this journey. I have two goals for this blog, 1. To gain some degree of personal therapeutic benefit and, 2. To help others who may one day face a similar struggle by detailing the process of diagnosis, treatment and recovery so that they may know what to expect.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Almost Half Way

September 8, 2006 - Today was treatment number 16 of 35. Two more and I will be more than half way home. The radiation effects are becoming more apparent every day. I've discussed the taste issues at length already so I won't dwell on that except to say they're certainly not getting any better. I can't imagine it could get worse at this point but I'm sure that I'm probably speaking too soon. Mealtimes are such a dreaded chore now which is one of the most depressing parts about this whole thing. Anyone who knows me knows I've always loved to eat. There is NOTHING enjoyable about food anymore. People that have been through this tell me that it will come back but at the very least we're talking 3-6 months and in some cases, longer than that. I can't even begin to imagine going that long without being able to enjoy a meal. As of now, I'm basically on a liquid or pseudo-liquid diet. Mainly I'm getting calories and protein from Boost shakes which, surprisingly enough, taste normal to me. I'm also drinking Met-RX protein shakes and smoothies from Robeks which have almost no flavor at all. One 32 oz. Robeks smoothie can account for 30-40 grams of protein and 500-700 calories so that's good. I can also get down cold cereals (raisin bran mostly) if I let it get really soggy. Besides this, I'm limited to soups and plain noodles with lots of butter on them. I tried eating some plain turkey tonight and it really irritated my throat which is starting to get sore. You don't notice how many commercials there are for food on TV until you can't eat any of it. Pizza, burritos, buffalo wings, gyros, my sister-in-law's taco pie... ugh. How I miss these things.

A bit of good news this week. My liver enzyme counts that were off the charts last week have come down considerably. It wasn't the Eribitux causing the problem. Dr. Dar and I both think it's one of the supplements I was taking, either Maitake Mushroom extract or Milk Thistle, that caused the liver damage. I stopped taking all of those as soon as I was told that there was a problem so these are the most likely cuprits.

This past Wednesday, Spetember 6th was my mother's birthday. It also happens to be the 3 year anniversary of her death... from cancer. I made the 2 hour drive to New Market, Virginia to visit her grave. As I sat there, alone, in the cemetary, I guess I expected to feel some sort of communion with her or to even see her come walking towards me among the headstones. But instead all I felt were the gnats flying in my ears and up my nose. I sat there for an hour, just talking. I told her that I missed her and that I could really use her help right about now. But, unfortunately, I left feeling somewhat unfulfilled and more focused than ever on the potential of my own impending death.

My mother smoked for almost 40 of her 54 years so when we got the news that she had small cell lung cancer, it really came as no surprise, at least not to me. She managed to survive 18 months from her diagnosis although the end came very suddenly. I regret that I didn't see her more while she was sick. I also regret that I didn't tell her everything I wanted to before she died. Mostly I regret feeling angry with her for what I felt she brought on herself. And yet, I do feel angry. People have the right to smoke because it is legal and we all possess free will. Unfortunately, no consequences are ever suffered in solitude. Second hand smoke is a killer. Our deaths effect many people around us who are left to grieve. Our society is forced to foot the bill for smoking related illnesses through higher taxes and higher insurance premiums. If you smoke, quit. Don't tell me you enjoy it. Don't tell me it's too hard. Don't tell me you only smoke when you drink or that right now, you're under too much stress. Just quit. There are too many resources available today to make it easier to do so. Do you think it's been easy for me to drag myself to radiation treatments every day when I know it's just going to make me feel like crap afterwards? Do you think it's been easy for me to suffer the side effects that my chemo treatments have had on my physical appearance? No and no. But I make the choice to do it because I want to live for my family. If you smoke, you have the same choice to make. It's easy to live in denial by thinking that it's not going to happen to you but the truth is the odds are overwhelmingly against you and they get worse with every cigarette you light. I don't mean to get on a soapbox here but it is my website and this is something I feel strongly about. I know that many people reading this are smokers and a number of you have families. Do you want to die knowing you could have avoided it? Do you want to die knowing that your children are going to be angry with you for the choices you made and the effect that those choices had on them? You're probably saying, "Well look at you, Mike. You've never smoked but you still got cancer." That's true and I wish I knew why. It's probably not a stretch to say that growing up in a house with smokers or having a mother who smoked while she was pregnant with me had some effect. But who knows? Maybe this is just my lot in life. It doesn't change the fact that if you smoke, you do harm to yourself, to your family and to society at large and if you want to quit, it just takes some will and determination. Do it before it's too late.


Blogger FamnBlan said...

Good piece this week Mike! You need to send these posts to Smoke Free MD...who are trying to make all MD bars/restaurants smoke free!! Powerful.
As for the food, that just sucks and there is nothing I can say to make it better. However, Joanne Lehmberg broke her jaw in 3rd or 4th grade and her mom puree'd EVERYTHING! Ravioli, tuna , name it! Just reminded me of that time...maybe we could find ya some of her secret receipes
Hang tough least the Ravens won, right?

6:04 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hang in there! You can do it.

8:56 PM


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