Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. Thank you for visiting. My first entry is a bit long to bring you up to date. Everything started on 10/18 at my annual physical. My physician said you're doing really well - let's just take a look at your lymph nodes. This was followed by an ultrasound then a biopsy that said cancer. Subsequently, a cat scan to pin down more details. Then a number of other preparatory images, tests and procedures.
The results said an oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma on the left side. In English, a cancer on the left side of the throat wall behind the mouth. On the plus side the cancer is HPV 16 related, not the traditional type that is alcohol and/or tobacco related. This is a plus because HPV (human papilloma virus) throat cancer has a better prognosis. The only significant minus is that there is less experience in treating the HPV variety so it may be over treated. The studies of this are ongoing. The cancer is in some nearby lymph nodes. It would be preferable that this not be the case but it is very common that this type is in nearby lymph nodes at time of diagnosis.
As of 12/12/16 the situation is as follows. PET scan shows the primary site has gone only to a few nearby lymph nodes. There are no distant metastases. Preparatory work is mostly done. On 12/14 will get my first infusion of an immunotherapeutic agent. Sometime the following week will begin seven weeks of once a week infusions along with five times per week of radiotherapy. The cancer is operable but surgery would almost certainly be followed by infusions and radiotherapy. Infusions and radiotherapy done first will quite likely make the surgery unnecessary. Treatment will be done at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center. It has two advantages. It is an NCI designated comprehensive cancer center. It is about a five minute drive down the street.
Physically I feel perfectly normal. Sometime after treatment starts I will almost certainly begin to feel quite sick. I've always enjoyed irony. Emotionally & psychologically I'm doing much better than I would have expected. The question is, will that continue after I actually start feeling sick? In any case, my mindfulness/Buddhist practice tells me all things change and we ought always be in the present moment. This is always the case but present circumstances bring this home in a very real way.