Throat Cancer

Mid 2016, I had a life changing event in discovering I had cancer. My doctors found squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil area in my throat. It was stage 4, N0, M0. This translates in English to a large single tumor, stage4, that had not yet detectably spread to my lymph nodes N0, or metastasized (spread) to any other remote locations M0. 

I ended up getting treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. After some research, I considered it the best facility to treat cancer in Western Washington. In my case, the tumor was considered not practical to perform surgery. The team recommended Proton beam radiation treatment along with chemo. I opted for a newer class of cancer treatment drugs, referred to as a monoclonal antibody rather than Cisplatin chemo. I made this decision due to some of the potential permanent side effects from Cisplatin. The cancer treatment drug I used was called Cetuximab. Rather that functioning like most chemotherapy drugs that work as "intracellular poisons, especially related to inhibiting the process of cell division" Cetuximab is a more targeted therapy going after epidermal cell division on a cellular level. That's not to say Cetuximab was without side effects. They were pretty extreme in my case, but nothing permanent.

Proton beam radiation is basically a very targeted delivery method of administering radiation compared to more conventional methods. Think of a cutting torch compared to a flame thrower.

I'm finished with the treatment at this point, and have been working on recovery from radiation damage for the last month. Thank god for Morphine, Oxycodone, and topical Lidocaine. They are my best friends right now. I need them at min of every 3 hours, and more commonly every hour with the
Lidocaine. Without these pain killers, I honestly don't think I could have made it to this point. This has been a brutally painful ordeal to go through. I've never dealt with severe, chronic pain like this before. Sure, I've had a hurt back to where I could not move, but that was only a few weeks of "serious" pain. Tore a tendon from the bone in my biceps, surgery to repair, cake walk compared to this. This has been months. If I could survive without a neck, I definitely would have opted to just have it removed so I could get on with healing and  

I was told the treatment should have gotten rid of the cancer during my discharge from treatment appointment. In 3 months, hopefully my throat, mouth, and tongue will be healed enough to get an accurate cat scan. The results from this will let me know if I'm cancer free. I'm still using the feeding tube as I can't eat solid food to sustain myself. I did manage to easily loose around 25-30 pounds though.
They say I should eventually get back to being pain free, but it takes time. I have time right now so I'm looking forward to that day.

Looking forward to verification of being cancer free. [ Check this off the list ]

Looking forward to a pain free normal meal, even if it's on pain meds. [ Check this off the list ]

Looking forward to finishing the legal work for custody of my daughter and being able to raise her as she so deserves.   [ Check this off the list. I have custody now!! ]

Looking forward to a return to weight lifting to regain some lost lean mass.

Looking forward to just living life again and putting all this behind me as a bad memory. [ Check this off the list ]

EDIT: December 24, 2016

Close to six months have passed since I was diagnosed with cancer.

Last week, I had my after cancer treatment scan and checkup and got some great news. The doc said no signs of cancer! To me, this means all the difficult times I went through for treatment have paid off. The payoff is in an extended life span. I get to spend the future raising my daughter and enjoying life. I feel as if I've been given a second chance. After going through this and facing mortality, I am questioning many things.....

Number one has to do with realizing how much of life I have missed out on, to be able to be a good wage slave. Most of us trade our time for money. Not to get rich or ahead, but to live paycheck to paycheck. I have full custody of my daughter now. This final legal process took place during my cancer treatment. I have tried twice prior to this to get custody of her, the first time around 14 years ago, the second about 5 years later. I've been paying off the legal fees for these two attempts for 14 years. Without getting into dirt, I will say my motivation for gaining custody had to to with providing a much better environment for her to grow up in. I'll sum up the history of the custody attempts with this. "The legal system is stacked against a man getting custody of young children".

I'm 54 years old. I've spent the last 14 years paying child support and repaying the debt of legal fees. Even though I've been fortunate enough to make a decent living or "wage", I've not been able to get ahead or even have a decent retirement set up other than a meager, slightly less than 1/2 years wages total. With that said, I ask myself, do I want to  to try to build up my retirement? Will I even be around to use it? Or do I focus on figuring out how to survive with virtually no income for my daughter and I, in trade to spend some quality time with her?

The current "best" long term prognosis for the type of cancer I had is about 85% chance of being around in 5 years. That is once we've been "cured" as I have.

I have a different outlook on life now. I've been blessed with having my daughter living with me, along with shot at an extended life. What to do with it?

Continued Later...

EDIT: Febuary, 2017

In my daughter's best interest, I'm going with the "put my head down and "work hard" plan. I'm back to working 1/2 days for now, increasing hours over time as able. Bobbie has always been and continues to be a very good student, with a good outlook towards school along with a high GPA. I need to make sure I have the ability to support her financially both now and through college. Any retirement I manage to build up over time, along with all my assets will go to her upon my passing.

At this point, I consider the cancer behind me other than the side effects from treatment. Life goes on and I've accepted this as my new normal. I'll consider any improvements in my health that may occur over the long term to be hard earned bonus points.