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.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm Still Here

January 13, 2007 - First, happy new year to all. Yes, the rumors of my demise have been grossly exaggerated... or something like that. Just kidding. There have been no rumors to that effect that I'm aware of anyway. It has been a month since my last post, however so my apologies for that. Between the holidays, starting back to work full time and working on getting my basement finished, I've been too busy to think of much else which is good because these last few weeks have been pretty stressful.

General updates... Physically, I feel and have felt fine. I could be (read: should be) working out again were it not for the fact that I've been so lazy. And busy. The better news is that my taste is all but returned. A few things are still a bit bland such as tomato / pasta sauce but on the whole, my taste is normalized to the point of not having to think about it any more. Dryness is still a bit of a problem and the one lingering effect from my radiation treatment and I fear it will never fully return to normal. It is manageable, however, and in the grand scheme of things a small price to pay for my health if, indeed, I manage to stay healthy. The best way to handle dry mouth is, not surprisingly, by drinking COPIOUS amounts of water. I'm up to somewhere close to 3/4 gallon per day, particularly with food. It also helps with the taste of dry foods. Sadly, dry foods for me have consisted mainly of Christmas cookies for the past few weeks. Suffice it to say that maintaining my weight is no longer a problem! For those of you who may be experiencing this, I recommend you subscribe to a water delivery service. I subscribe to Deer Park and for approx. $30 each month, I have five 5-gallon jugs of water delivered to my front door which are served from a water dispenser one can buy at most home repair or super stores (Home Depot, Walmart, etc...) for anywhere from $70 - $100. It's certainly much cheaper than buying the equivalent amount in cases of bottled water, easier to transport and better for the environment. You may be asking why I don't simply drink water from the tap and my response would be "does anyone still drink water from a tap???" If you have a filter, maybe but besides the awful taste of tap water let me just say that I've had cancer once, I don't care to get it again!

So that's the good news. Not to say that what I'm going to say next is bad news but it may turn out to be. As I think I've mentioned previously, I've had this "nubbin" at the base of my tongue which we discovered after my radiation was completed. Dr. Tonnesen never seemed to think it was anything to worry about but he did order an early PET scan just to be sure since the bump is large enough that if it were cancer, it would probably show up. The PET scan was clear. Still, Dr. Califano (as I imagine any good surgeon would) thought it best to be sure by doing a biopsy of the site. So just yesterday, I submitted myself to a direct laryngoscopy with biopsy... a technical term to describe a tube with a camera that was inserted in my throat to get a better look at things. A representative sample of both superficial as well as deeper tissue was removed for biopsy, the results of which I will not know until Thursday or Friday of next week. Dr. Califano did tell Michelle while I was in recovery that from what he could tell, everything looked normal and that it probably is just scar tissue from the original primary tumor or possibly scarring that can occur from radiation trauma. He apparently did something called a mini-biopsy (Michelle didn't think to ask what, exactly, a mini-biopsy entails or the value of the information derived from said mini-biopsy) which appeared normal so he doesn't expect any surprised when the full pathology results return. In her defense, she was probably still preoccupied with the accident she had the day prior with a rather unfortunately placed fire hydrant. Totally off topic but I can now say that in the time I've known my wife she has owned four vehicles... now all of which I will have taken to the body shop. At least this time she didn't rear-end someone while putting on makeup or back over our picket fence.

Anyway, the holidays and work have been a welcome diversion but the truth is, the thought of this biopsy has kept me on edge for the past few weeks. Most who know me will probably tell you that I've reverted to that subdued, introspective self over these last several days and my nerves have been shot. Sometimes I find myself shaking uncontrollably. Even now as I type just as I think about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm relieved at the positive outlook offered by Dr. Califano and I do believe (for the first time perhaps) that the results of this test will be favorable and that I will officially be able to consider myself cancer free. But it doesn't go away. The spectre of cancer returning is something that we live with every remaining day of our lives. Perhaps if I'm fortunate enough to live another 15 or 20 years without any sort of recurrence I will have learned to not constantly dwell on it but for now and for the foreseeable future, it seems I will be preoccupied with this fear.

Well, that's enough of that. I've never been one to make New Years resolutions but this year I'm going to. My resolution is to do all of the things that I said I was going to do through the pages of this blog but haven't really done yet. I'm going to start going to counseling and I'm going to try the alternative treatments that I've mentioned such as Reiki, guided imagery, meditation... maybe I'll even take up yoga. At the very least I think I deserve a massage. ( a REAL massage, not Miss Lillys, Buckey) No goal is worthwhile unless it's time bound so I pledge to do all of this by my birthday which is in April.

Sorry for the long post. For all of you who have asked me, I'll try to keep the pace a little more brisk and the posts a little less wordy from now on.

Oh yeah, Go Ravens! Beat the Colts today and that scum-sucking, backstabbing, sneak-out-in-the-middle-of-the-night-because-we're-a-bunch-of-cowards family that owns them (If you're not from Baltimore, this probably makes no sense to you... sorry).


Blogger Tricia said...

You don't know me, but I have been reading your blog regularly over the past several months. My husband was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in September. I just wanted to say hello and let you know that I'm thinking about you and hoping that you get good results from your recent biopsy. I also wanted you to know that your words reached out to many people, even people like me who don't know you, and that following your story helped us get through our own version of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Good luck to you for continued great health!

1:21 PM

Blogger mikeschafer said...

Tricia -

Thank you for your note. Goodluck to your husband and please email me if either of you would like...

Take care -


9:38 AM


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