Apr 28, 2019 Latest post:
Dec 20, 2021
Dear Friends and Family,
Welcome to my CaringBridge page, where you can stay updated on my journey through this difficult time. Have no fear, though, as I still have many more songs to sing!
Here's how it started: Back in February I noticed a deep cut on the posterior lateral portion of my tongue. Didn't give it too much thought, even though it was fairly painful. Maybe caused by a tortilla chip?? At a routine dental checkup the very next week (thank goodness for the timing!) my dentist noticed the laceration and, as a precaution, referred me to a maxillofacial surgeon. After trying a steroid cream for a few weeks, the cut still wasn't healing like he had hoped, so he performed a biopsy and sent the sample to MUSC in Charleston. I got the results on Wednesday, April 24th: fairly aggressive squamous cell carcinoma. Pathology didn't indicate virus (HPV), nor do I have other risk factors for this type of cancer, so this was not looking good at all.
That night, Laura pulled all of the strings she could in the medical community and we were able to see a local ENT who specializes in head and neck cancer the very next morning. That surgeon, in turn, pulled all the strings she could and got us in to see world-renowned surgeon Terry Day the VERY NEXT DAY. That Friday, Laura and I drove to MUSC, where Dr. Day and his (large) surgical team, including reconstructive surgeon Dr. Pete Hornig, were waiting for us. It turns out these two have performed hundreds of surgeries together and their results have been incredible. After our visit with them, many of our fears were assuaged. The plan is to resect the tumor on my tongue, leaving 10mm margins on all sides, and then reconstruct the tongue using skin and tissue (along with an attached artery and vein), which will then be implanted on the remainder of my tongue and connected to an artery and vein in my neck. My jaw literally dropped as Dr. Hornig described everything that might happen during the 6- to 10-hour reconstruction phase of the surgery...what amazing surgical techniques he has at his disposal! Recovery times will totally depend on the size of the resection and reconstruction...they said 3 to 10 days in the hospital, depending. I'm looking at 3 to ??? weeks of recovery time afterwards. They gave us a 50/50 shot at going to Peru on May 26th, though! Guess we'll know more after the 7th.
I will return to MUSC on Tuesday, April 30th for CTs and PET scans, as well as visits with the radiation oncologist, dentist, and speech therapist. I'll be sure to post updates.
I know your thoughts, prayers, love, and positive energy will help keep me going during the difficult times ahead, and I am grateful for the wonderful support you will provide me, Laura, Megan, and Thomas.
I love you all and look forward to singing for you again very soon.