Posted by: dave1949 | 2010/11/17

Commando Surgery, Who knew?

Someone pointed out to me that I haven’t posted anything here for quite a while.
I have been wavering between wanting to update this and not wanting to think about it much at all.

After the good news I got in August there was no real progress in getting my jaw to open up again. I called the doctor and set up the process for surgery to repair the jaw. As part of this he wanted another ct-scan to see what if anything had changed since the last time he was in there and to plan the rebuilding of the jaw to fix it.

The results were not at all what I wanted. The surgeon, one of the best in Canada, and a radiologist in the cancer clinic both agreed that it looks like another tumor is growing in the back of my throat. This along with the damaged tissue, muscle and bone caused by the radiation seems to be what is preventing the movement of my jaw. There is at present no definitive diagnosis of cancer here as that require a biopsy but the mass has to be removed in order to free up the jaw so cancerous or not the surgery will be required if I am to return to normality. Once it is removed the tissue will be tested to determine if it is or is not cancer.

Now I go in on November 23rd for what is called commando surgery. In layman’s terms it is going to involve cutting my jaw apart, removing any damaged tissue both bone and soft tissue, removing the presumably cancerous growth and then rebuilding the jaw using a titanium plate and bone removed from my shin, arm or shoulder depending on how much they need and what seems best to them during the actual operation. They are scheduling 12 hours for this so I don’t think I’m going to line up anything else for that day. Oh and just for fun they have to start with another tracheostomy under local so the anesthetist can save me if anything goes wrong during the operation.

As for the fun to be expected after surgery I have been given these possible problems.

Pain.  Gee that’s a surprise. They have pretty nice drugs to help with this though.

Possible nerve damage on the right side of my face. They will be trying to repair this with a nerve graft if needed but it might lead to symptoms like Bell’s palsy with the right side of my face unable to move. This could lead to problems such as not being able to close my eye causing dryness and irritation and also could leave to difficulty swallowing without choking because the throat won’t feel anything going down the right side which would normally trigger the closing of the trachea to divert anything into the esophagus
instead of the trachea.

The nerve damage if it occurs may also affect the right side of my tongue making speech difficult since it won’t move like it does now. The doc says my speech should still be clear enough for understanding but there may be some slurring and trouble in co-ordinating as usual. This should be curable with therapy and practice after the surgery.

Altered diet for the rest of my life. Depending on just how much thy have to remove the jaw will not be as strong as normal which will mean and inability to chew really hard or crunchy food and difficulty in swallowing large chunks of food without choking. I will probably be restricted to a diet of relatively soft and easily chewed food. Not a liquid diet as such but no tearing off big chunks of steak or entering the hot dog eating contests anymore.

So all in all it looks like an interesting next couple of months after this. If all goes perfectly they’ll find out the growth isn’t cancerous, fix my jaw and all I’ll have to do in the long run is eat slowly and carefully instead of like a hog getting to the slops.
At worst it’s really going to be a bitch but hey what the heck, I’ll have something to crab about for a long time to come.



  1. Dave, I hate to see you having to go through all of that, but hang in there, my friend! I’ll be pulling for you!

  2. I’m really sorry to hear this, but like montucky says, hang in there, we’re pulling for you.

  3. Man, after all that you’re going to deserve some good news. I sincerely hope that after your 12 hours of commando surgery (why do they call it that, anyway??) they can give you some. I’ll be thinking of you on Tuesday, Dave, and sending all my best vibes your way.

  4. So I take it your not going to call me on my birthday?

    • No you’ll Have to get by without that then unless you want a all before 6am

  5. I’ll be up before then!

  6. Thank you all for the good wishes. I think it’s going to be a tad uncomfortable for a bit but what the heck.

    As for why they call it Commando Surgery I’m not certain I just hope it’s not cause they all work without underwear. even if they do though I’m not going to know about it for most of the day.

    I’ll try to post an update on here as soon as I can or get a friend to post one for me.

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