In late September 2017, after feeling like I had been suffering from allergies for the past several months, a scope of my throat quickly revealed a 4 cm mass at the base of my tongue. To quote Todd Miller upon seeing it (with the scope still hanging out of my nose), “that’s no good.” A subsequent MRI and biopsy confirmed - squamous cell carcinoma, poorly differentiated, p16 positive (a/k/a “tongue cancer”). While “poorly differentiated” indicates that it’s on the move, if there is any good news here, the “p16 positive” designation indicates it is tied to the HPV virus and considered very curable. The bad news is that there is not a practical surgical option given the location (way back against my epiglottis), so we’re looking at some combination of radiation with or without chemo (as a result of a subsequent PET scan indicating that it has not yet spread to my lymph nodes, it looks like we’ll be able to go with radiation alone in an effort to minimize lasting side effects). In addition to being initially diagnosed by Todd, quickly scanned with Antony’s help and pushed to get multiple opinions by Jimmy (we’ve now talked with Hoag, City of Hope, USC and UCLA), I am also very fortunate to have a lifelong friend who happens to be a department head and surgical chief at USC. After numerous consultations and follow-up conversations, we have decided to proceed with treatment under Dr. Andrew Garsa at USC.
Starting Oct 30th, 2017 (x-apple-data-detectors://0), I will begin a five-day-a-week radiation plan at the USC Norris Cancer Hospital. Fortunately, those treatments are currently scheduled to end by mid-December. Unfortunately, it sounds like the wheels willstart to fall off during the last two weeks of that treatment plan and I’ll then really bottom out 2-3 weeks after the treatments are over (just in time for the F’n Marshall Ride). As you might imagine, with radiation in the neck and lower jaw area, there are some side effects that will be unavoidable (from skin irritations and bone damage to the loss of saliva and taste buds). The plan is to tackle these head-on and to not get a feeding tube (following the “use it or lose it approach” on my speech and swallowing). As opposed to traveling to some other cancer center across the country, I’m also looking forward to staying at home throughout this process so that I can draw upon the strength and support of my family and friends along the way.
While this will indeed be a big challenge for the next 5-6 months, I’m focused on getting it behind me and again enjoying time with all of you doing the things that we love, whether that’s cycling, running, watching water polo games, or sharing a nice meal. Thanks again so much to all of you for the support and care.