I am married to an amazing man who is one of the strongest people I know [even though we don’t always agree on everything]. He is the reason I believe being positive is incredibly important.
It will be three years ago in April that he was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer. When he discovered the lump in his lymph node in late December, he really didn’t think much about it. He finally went in to have it checked in late February. His doctor, who is incredibly thorough, wanted to schedule him for a needle biopsy right away; that was 2 weeks from his appointment.
He went in and had the biopsy and a scan done and we waited for the results – they came back inconclusive. So his doctor scheduled him to see an ENT surgeon. When he went in to see the surgeon, the surgeon wanted him to have surgery right away so that he would be able to look at things more clearly and get a biopsy if needed, by this time it was beginning of April.
I have to say, the waiting and wondering was excruciating. I was at home when the surgeon called saying that he had the results of the biopsy from the surgery. My husband wasn’t home, so he could not give me the results – I gave him my DH’s office number. Shortly after my husband called to give me the news, the only other time I can remember his voice being so strained was when he called to tell me his Dad had passed away from his fight with cancer. I knew that it was not good news.
It was an incredibly hard time for us-we did not know what to expect and they did not tell us much at the start. We both went through the stages of denial – It is not hard to see why patients get depressed. We talked a lot about the possibilities; his dad’s death and fight with cancer were still fresh in our minds, we knew what his dad had been through and that he chose not to do a second complete round of chemo. David was more introspective than usual, I can’t imagine being in his shoes, but I can tell you that I was so scared that I would lose the man I love. He is such a beautiful person and my best friend. After a particularly down day, he went to get into his car, turned on the radio and the song ‘Won’t back down’ by Tom Petty came on. When he got home he said that he was going to fight no matter what, and no matter how hard it was going to be. From then on that was his song- I knew when I heard it playing that he was having a hard day, and he needed the song to push him through. He also decided then that nothing was going to stop him from walking our daughter down the aisle for her wedding, that was the vision he held in his mind.
We didn’t really even know what to tell our daughter, but we decided that we would wait until went into the Cancer clinic to speak to the oncologists. They were amazing, I honestly don’t know how these people do this day in and day out.
They did tell us that it could be really bad, mainly because of where they had to radiate. They would make a special mold [cast for his chest ] to protect other parts of his body from the radiation but they could pretty much use pinpoint accuracy for the area.
The part that would be really bad was that as the radiation progressed, the inside of his mouth would literally become burned, and it would be difficult, if not impossible to eat properly so he may have to be tube fed. They also mentioned that if he had to be tube fed, his recovery would be much slower.
He was scheduled to start his daily radiation treatments and his day long Chemo a week later. The first round of Chemo wasn’t too bad, he didn’t get the effects he heard from others but as the radiation progressed he became weaker and lost more weight, he needed to increase his caloric intake to 3500 cal/day and triple his daily protein intake. This wasn’t the easiest thing to do, as it was getting harder and harder to eat. I would make up all his meals and grind them finely so he could swallow them, we used a lot of walnut oil – very expensive – should have bought stock in the company at the rate we were going through it! He would take xylocaine to freeze his mouth before he drank or ate anything so he could swallow without it hurting so much. There came a time where it would take him 3 hours to finish a meal and then have to start all over again. I made high protein high calorie shakes and meals, he was determined not to be tube fed, and I was determined to help him. I encouraged [ok, pushed] him to finish his meals and keep going. I cannot even imagine the pain that he was going through every time he had to swallow, but he did it. It was so hard to watch him because I knew he was in so much pain but he needed to get the food in. It took a lot of strength to endure what he endured.
He ended up losing a fair bit of weight, but he was lucky they never felt that he was not getting enough nutrition, so we did not have to go the tube route. It took a while for him to get back to his ‘normal’. The Doctors were all very impressed with everything – his weight, his counts, his skin breakdown or lack thereof. Part of that was his attitude – he was determined to fight and stay positive. I believe that is what helped him through it.
He was very lucky, it was caught early and he had amazing doctors that acted quickly. He wants to give back in some way, this month is Manuary, a month where men grow beards in support of Head and Neck cancer; it is the fasted growing form of cancer in men under 50. My husband wants to raise awareness of this type of cancer and put a ‘face’ to it so to speak.
Please help support him in his efforts to raise awareness about and money for Head and Neck Cancer research.
You can go to his page here and donate. Thank you!