We've created this site to keep everyone updated and provide coordination for driving and meals.
We want to share with you Dean’s status as he deals with cancer (specifically, oral cavity cancer). We are learning that it’s typical with a cancer diagnosis that everything happens so quickly, which makes it challenging to provide timely updates. We are in good hands with all the medical team, including Dean’s U of MD surgeon, the oncologist and the wonderful oncology nurse who will coordinate care, which will take place in Columbia near the hospital.
Dean began an eight week course of simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy in the beginning of January. Radiation is a daily (well, like a standard job with weekends off) 15-minute treatment of his neck and mouth area. The effects of radiation build over time leading to tiredness and, for oral cancer, pain that will require narcotics which may make it challenging for him to drive during this process. The biggest concern during his treatment is adequate nutrition due to eating challenges (basically only liquid smoothies, muscle milk, etc.)
As background, Dean’s cancer was diagnosed in November 2014. He found a lump (stage 1) in his tongue that was removed last December by his surgeon at University of Maryland. The tumor board unanimously recommended that he not have radiation/chemo treatment at that time, but he had to be closely followed for two years since recurrence typically occurs within that period. We understand that recurrence takes place in less than 10% of patients who have this type of cancer. This October – shortly after completing one of Dean’s life’s dreams, the Kona Ironman (yay!) – he experienced severe pain in his jaw. There was nothing visible to the surgeon at his regular appointment the week after we returned from Kona, but a tumor quickly developed and, although the surgery took place immediately, the tumor had already “communicated” with (broken through) the floor of his mouth. With recurrence such as this, aggressive treatment is recommended.
Oral cancer typically recurs in the head and neck area, sometimes in the lungs – the current cancer could be from a “traveler” cell that broke off from the first tumor but was not in any way visible. The surgeon does not know the cause of Dean’s cancer – he said he is in the group with gene anomalies that they do not yet understand. For those of you who want to understand more about all this, the American Cancer Society has a very informative web site at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/oralcavityandoropharyngealcancer/.