It has been quite a year. It was Jan 14th last year when the actual treatment of my cancer began. From late October till then there was a lot of testing and planning to get ready for the treatment but the actual first therapy day was the 14th.
One of the odd things and of course one of the deadliest things about cancer is that i a great many of its forms there are virtually no symptoms till it is already well established. When you get the flu or a cold you know it within a few hours, in fact often you know you don’t feel right before any fever or other symptoms become apparent.
I knew for some time that I had some sort of irritation on my tonsil. It wasn’t much just a bit of scratchiness and hen I finally went to my doctor about it he prescribed antibiotics. When they didn’t seem to do anything I was sent to a specialist who tried a different stronger antibiotic and when that also seemed ineffective we elected surgery to remove the inflamed tonsil. The only reason I had done anything about it was that it had been in my mind to try and run the Toronto Marathon in the fall of 2010. I ran i for the first time in 1980 and wanted to use that as motivation to lose the weight I’d been carrying for way too long and get back into more active and athletic condition for the last 1/3rd of my life.
Oct 26 I had the tonsil removed in day surgery and then later that week got the notice that the biopsy had determined I had cancer not an infection.
SInce then life has been quite a roller coaster ride. From the very beginning of the treatment I started feeling like crap.There was no great amount of pain at first and the nausea I had dreaded was well controlled for the most part. Thirty five doses of radiation and three days of chemo through late January, past February and into th beginning of March left me weakened and tired but at the time at least the first couple of checkups post treatment seemed to indicate the cancer had been eliminated.
Through March, April and most of May I seemed to be slowly regaining strength and energy and I was feeling not too bad at all. I even went back to my part time work driving school bus. By the end of May though it was obvious all was not going as planned.
It turned out that the radiation had damaged a lot of tissue in my mouth and it wasn’t sloughing off and disappearing like it should but was staying there and slowly poisoning me. At the time we started more scans and testing and then went for surgery In August. The problem had left me with my mouth clamped shut and unable to eat anything much thicker than a cracker. At one time I could only open my mouth abut an eighth of an inch. After surgery once again I felt better for a while but the clamping in my mouth remained and yet more testing revealed the cancer had returned. Again at this time in Sept and October I felt pretty good. I couldn’t eat properly but with the stomach tube that had been reinserted in Aug I finally stopped losing weight and actually felt pretty good on most days.
With the discovery of the cancer we opted for the Commando surgery in November and another bout of post surgery recovery. After that bout everything seemed to be okay again. I was feeling better and better and still unable to eat properly but was getting a bit more freedom in my mouth. I had started drinking small amounts of coffee or tea while still providing virtually all my nutrition with the peg tube. I once again felt healthy though in pain from the surgery but that was diminishing slowly and I even traveled down to Windsor to share Christmas with friends down there.
As I said to several friends during this time the difference seemed the same as the difference between being sick like you feel with a flu and being in pain like you might be if you sprained your ankle. I felt fine most days but was still in pain.
Then Jan 2 I started bleeding, a lot. Rushed back to St Josephs another round of surgery repaired the damage and so now a year later I’m in much the same situation. Feeling pretty good but in a fair amount of pain as all the seams, suture, and staple lines they have carved into me over the last little bit slowly heal themselves. If the truth be known, and please don’t tell anyone else, I’m afraid I’m also a little scared about whether or not the repairs will hold up. THis week the followup with Dr Archibald went well and after scoping down my throat through my nose he said all looks like its is progressing as it should. The last of the stitching and stapling was removed and I’m under orders to take it easy and let my body heal. I’m sure going to try to follow those orders.
And I also have decided I never want to go on another roller coaster for as long as I live.
On a much brighter note, the year has taught me just how valuable my friends and family are. My sister Sheana has shouldered the vast bulk of the work of getting me to and from appointments etc but I have been helped also by friends old and new and by complete strangers.
And now I have been blessed by my friend Deb agreeing to change status from friend to fiance. We are trying now to figure out when we can get married and move on into my twilight years with an extraordinary partner. It may not be a roller coaster but I know with the two of us together it will be an interesting ride. As one of the great philosophers of the last century said, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
I hope all of you out there in blogland are having a great year as well. Keep on keeping on.