That's the letter, and that's what I've got.
I now have two new doctors, Doctor Death-Ray and Doctor Joy-Juice. They are going to team up with Doctor Sawbones and Doctor Delphi, together with a little help from my dentist Doctor I.B. Drilling, and they're going to beat this out of me. Okay, maybe it's 'We're going to beat this!'
I have squamous cell cancer, and I test positive for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The cancer is located at the base of my tongue, in two lymph nodes and in a tumor in the side of my neck, next to my carotid artery. I'm told that this is curable in one of three methods:
One, Divine intervention. I pray for a cure and the cancer vanishes. While this has been known to work, I kind of think the Lord wants me to try an alternative method.
Two, surgery. This is a twelve hour surgery and involves breaking my jaw, taking my tongue out and cutting deeply into my neck. Now, given that (like everyone else) my neck and head are made up of
cement an incredibly delicate network of small muscles, nerves and support parts, there is very little chance that my surgeon (Doctor Fatfingers) would be able to get me back together again without significant damage. So nix the surgery.
Three, a combination of radiation therapy and chemo therapy. Doctor Death-Ray is going to hose the area down with powerful x-rays. He'll do this five times a week for seven weeks. Doctor Joy-Juice will give me chemo therapy once per week for seven weeks. The deal here is that the radiation weakens the cancer cells so that they fall off and die. The thing is, other cancer cells will be dislodged by this variant on urban renewal and will take up residence somewhere else. The suburbs, maybe. That's where the chemo comes in. The chemo runs through my system on a search and destroy mission, indiscriminately shooting anything that looks funny. It'll get the cancer cells, even if there's a little collateral damage along the way.
I'm opting for procedure number three.
I'm told the prognosis is excellent. The national success rate is 85%; Dr. Death-Ray’s personal rate is in the high 90s.
So that's my story for now. I'll keep writing as inspiration strikes me, but here's some valuable knowledge I've managed to learn so far.
- If you have to go through this, start keeping a medical journal. Make notes of all your appointments, tests, office visits and telephone conversations. Even if the thing is organized chronologically, one page per event, keep it up to date.
- Ask for a copy of any test results and keep them in the journal.
- Keep a list of everyone you talk to, along with their address and phone number. It doesn't matter much who they are, if you talked to them at all, write it down. Make sure your pharmacy of choice is on the list.
- Keep a list of your current medications and keep it up to date.
- Buy a digital voice recorder and record your doctor visits, especially with your oncologist. Listen to the conversations afterwards and transcribe the conversation as best you can, noting the important stuff.
- Take someone with you, and make sure it's someone smarter than you are and not under the influence, like I'm likely to be. Have your friend take notes and ask questions.
- If and when you get a prescription for pain medication, find out from your doctor where you should get it filled. I'm off the Vicodin and on to something else which works better, but which I had one helluva time getting filled. One pharmacist said he could fill it, then when I arrived he somehow had run out of the drug. Another said he couldn't fill it and dismissed me out of hand. A third gave me the fish eye and asked what was being treated - not that it was any of his damned business, but I told him: Cancer. He filled it. Later on one of the nurses told me where to go to get my pain pills, explaining that your friendly neighborhood pharmacist might not know me or something.
There's more, but I'm finished for today. Thanks for reading.