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, October 27, 2006

3 Weeks Post Treatment

October 27, 2006 - Status Quo. Nothing much has changed since last week. I am making an attempt to eat at least one item of solid food per day but it's still not very good. I think I am starting to get some sense of taste back for sweets since juice seems to have a bit more flavor but it's still a long ways away from normal.

I will see Califano for my follow up on Monday. I hope to have something, anything, encouraging to report then.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

2 Weeks Post Treatment

October 19, 2006 - Two weeks since the end of treatments and no significant changes. My skin is slowly clearing up although it has become very dry and flakey requiring lots of lotion. The cracking around the tips of my fingers is still an issue but seems to be getting a little better. Mouth and throat discomfort is all but gone. However, still no improvement in terms of taste. Chewing gum helps maintain saliva and, at least temporarily, removes the lingering bad taste that is otherwise ever present. I hope to have more significant improvement next week. On Tuesday and see Dr. Dar for a first follow up and the following Monday and see Dr. Califano. That's really all I have for now.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One Week Post Treatment

October 13, 2006 - Well, it's been just over a week since the end of my treatments and I figured an update was in order. However, the truth is there isn't much to update. I am feeling a little better to an extent. The heavy mucous and mouth sores seem to be subsiding a bit. I have decent energy and stamina. The laryngitis is gone so I can speak again. Sadly, no sign of normal taste yet. But it's only been a week and I'm not expecting miracles. I really just wish I could fast-forward things a little.

The good news... tonight is Midnight Madness (or, as it is now called, Maryland Madness since corporate greed strives to suck all semblance of tradition and nostalgia out of the things we hold most dear) signalling the official start to college basketball season. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year!

I've been passing most of my time reading ( just finished Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis - an EXCELLENT book if you're an Ellis fan and if you've read American Psycho) and am now in the middle of David McCollough's 1776 (another excellent book). Frankly, I'm tired of reading books about cancer and cancer treatments. Part of me wants to forget about the whole thing although I know that's impossible. The spectre of recurrence and, in my case, waiting to find out if these treatments even worked will never allow it. I envy those survivors who have managed to regain normalcy. This is indeed a very, very long road.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Over

October 4, 2006 - Today saw my last radiation treatment. 7 weeks. 35 days. 875 rotations in that infernal machine. Countless hours laying motionless on a hard table. Finally, it's all over. How am I feeling? Relieved to be done for sure. Scared for what the future will hold. Anxious that at any given time, the other shoe will drop.

I have to wait at least 10 weeks before I'll know the effectiveness of what I've just endured. That is the earliest I can have a PET scan without a substantial risk for "false positives." During that time, I'm told that the radiation effects that I've been experiencing will probably continue and possibly get worse over the next 2-3 weeks but after that they should begin to subside. Salivary function will improve gradually over the next 12 months and taste should begin to come back anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months and will gradually improve over the next 12 - 24 months as well. My Short Term Disability insurance wants me to go back to work on October 15, less than two weeks from now. That ain't happening. I've put in for a request to have that extended to November 14 which should give me enough time to heal sufficiently enough to be somewhat effective at work. The biggest radiation related issues I'm dealing with at this point are fatigue - I'm sleeping 12-14 hours per day - terribly thick mucous, loss of voice, poor taste, and to a lesser extent dry mouth, mouth sores and mild pain when swallowing. I've also lost approximately 12 pounds to date. As for the Erbitux, my last dose was yesterday equalling eight total or one more than was originally planned. Since I've gone back on the antibiotic, the acne/rash is not so bad although the tips and joints of my fingers are beginning to crack as though I have small paper cuts on most of them now. They sting but hopefully will be a short term problem.

I want to thank all of the people who have left messages of love and encouragement on this site and have sent me emails and phone calls. It does mean alot to me even if I'm not as responsive as I want to be all the time. I will continue to keep this site updated although perhaps not as frequently in the coming weeks. I believe there is a function somewhere that will let you get new entries via email instead of having to go to the webpage for updates. Look around the site and you should find it. I want to share something that I stumbled on today which is terribly moving and inspirational. It's the story of Dick Hoyt and his son Rick whom I had never heard of. Their circumstances are certainly different than mine but at its core, this is the story of a father's love for his son and the tremendous achievements that can be bourne out of that love. For Rick Hoyt, that love inspired him to do things I'm sure he once thought to be impossible. For me, I'm hoping it's enough to help me beat cancer. If you want to see a short video about Team Hoyt, click here (and get some kleenex.)