Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Where We Go Now

It's been a year since I wrote Don't Count Me Out, Yet. A year since my world changed after I was given my tonsil cancer diagnosis; a cancer caused by one of two cancer-causing strains of HPV. A rough year, indeed, with many dark moments where I didn't think I'd make it through. But here I am, one year later.

While there were many difficult days, I remember one particular morning when I stumbled into the kitchen, barely hanging on to whatever humanity I still had, frustrated by what I was going through, and in complete misery from the pain in my mouth and neck, and I said to my wife, "If this doesn't work, or if this shit comes back, then that's it. I'm not going through this shit again."

For those of you that know my wife, you can guess how she responded. For those of you that don't know my wife, well, let's just say that's not what she wanted to hear.

But I was suffering, the worst suffering I had ever endured in my, up to that point, forty-eight trips around the sun. I wanted it to end. I can not describe to you, to help you understand, what it's like to go through such an event. If you haven't experienced it, and I hope you never have to, or if you haven't experienced something similar, then you just simply can not understand. That is no fault of your own, it's just the way it is. Life is funny that way.

Obviously things got better. Yes, it still hurts to eat and swallow, and some food is more difficult to eat than others, but for the most part I've recovered nicely. Well, except for the part where sweet things taste different now, especially chocolate. Yeah, that sucks.

I'll continue to be monitored with blood draws and scans and whatnot for quite awhile. That's fine. I'd like to catch it early if it does decide to come back again and rear it's ugly head in a second attempt to try and take me down.

And today I can't say what I said to my wife on that ugly morning last fall. If that shit does come back, then we'll deal with it again. If that means going through all that suffering again, then so be it. Life is only for the living.

I have more living to do.

So, since that is all under control at the moment, it is time to again deal with my voice. For those of you who have been around me for the past several years, you've noticed my voice has gotten worse. It's getting even more difficult to talk, today. No, this was not related to the cancer treatment I received, it was it's own separate thing.

I was seeing an ENT for the voice issue when that had to be put on the back burner because the cancer thing came up. You know, staying alive became more important than being able to speak. Priorities and all.

Well, now I'm back at the voice.

I saw the same ENT this week and, well, let's just get right to it: I'm going to have surgery.

Yes, this is frightening because, as you recall, the last time I went in for a quick surgery (to put in a chemo port), I had a seizure on the table and the procedure was aborted. No chemo port. Then, no driving for six months. I don't want that shit to happen again, so the ENT recommended I see my neurologist before having surgery. Ugh. More doctor visits.

I'm having surgery because all around my vocal chords, including on them, there is papilloma; small wart like things that are caused by, you guessed it, HPV. We won't know if it's from the same strain as the one that caused my cancer until after the biopsy, so, yes, there is a concern they may be malignant.

However, I recently had a PET Scan that was clear of cancer, so I'm thinking there's a good chance it's benign. That doesn't mean it can't, or won't become malignant at some point, though. But I can't worry about that now because I don't know what to worry about. Let's see what happens after surgery.

The surgery will happen near the end of June and I will not be allowed to talk for something like ten days. Ten days? With my kids? I'm going to need to go away to a secluded island for that to happen.

Hmmmmm. That doesn't sound too bad.

In any case, this is where we go now.

It is what it is.

We'll get through it.

I'd like you to know that HPV can cause all kinds of other problems that are not cancer. In fact, of the many different HPV strains, something around 100 of them, only two of them cause cancer. But there are other high risk strains that may cause other serious issues. So with that in mind, my PSA is as follows:

Since my diagnosis a year ago I have been an advocate for kids and young adults to get the HPV vaccine. I have little tolerance for the anti-vaccination crowd. If you're in that group, go ahead and let fear run your life, but Autism is not caused by vaccinations. In fact, you're probably alive today because you were vaccinated as a kid. Be thankful we have such medical technology today that allows us to live healthier lives than in years past.

Get your kids vaccinated.

And if you're a young adult that is already sexually active, talk with your doctor. It might still be worth it for you to get the vaccination.

There's the update. Not the best news, but not the worst either. I'll keep you posted. For now, though, I'm trying to get what I can taken care of before Congress allows my health insurance company to put an annual or lifetime cap on what they'll pay out regarding my medical treatment.

You shouldn't allow that to happen.

You may be fine now, but you don't know what your future holds.

Until next time. Take care.

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