As most of you know, Greg had stage IV head and neck cancer back in 2010 that started in his tonsil. With chemo and radiation, he was able to recover with no remnants of cancer remaining. This summer, Greg was feeling that an old lesion on his tongue (from the previous radiation treatment) started getting sore. The doctors decided to biopsy it on 8/30 (along with an additional “sore” spot and both tested positive for squamous cell carcinoma (head and neck cancer again although with a different primary). With this positive tongue cancer diagnosis, they went back in on 10/4 to get clean margins, but Greg had developed another spot at the very base of his tongue (deep in his throat). He is having surgery on 11/8 to remove some lymph nodes and to “map” out the areas of cancer throughout the head and neck region.
Obviously this is very tough news. After his second surgery, we decided to get opinions from Northwestern (where his ENT is) as well as University of Chicago and MD Anderson in Houston. Stage IV tongue cancer is particularly tricky, as it is stubborn and does not respond just to chemo. Radiation is used in almost all cases to ensure it is beaten back. Radiation in your mouth (and at the base of your tongue) poses some significant challenges, as the radiation burns the cells and causes long term damage to the areas it covers. They are very concerned about re-radiating anyone, and particularly in the head and neck area. After visiting the three hospitals, we have decided that Greg will participate in a clinical trial at U of C. After his surgery there next week, he will enter a chemo induction phase for 6 weeks. They are hoping to stabilize or reduce the size of the tumors. If they are successful, the surgeon will go back in and try to remove the tumors with clean margins. Then we will re-evaluate next steps late December/early January as to the chemo/radiation portion. We have a tough few months ahead of us.
We are truly grateful for everyone’s support. Jean Fies (firstname.lastname@example.org) is kindly coordinating meals as we will be journeying back and forth to Hyde Park frequently over the next few months. Greg is sporting some new red “kick cancer’s ass” boots from our dear friend Allison Bacon and I’ve got some sassy new red Ugg slippers to match (red is the color of head and neck cancer!). We are thankful we live in a city with some of the best doctors in the world, and have so much faith in the care they will provide at U of C (the same docs treated Grant Achatz if anyone knows his story). Right now, Greg is eating anything he wants and lots of it, as we have to fatten him up (unfortunately I am too!). The protocol begins this week, whether we like it or not.
We are forever grateful that we have so many friends and such an amazing community. For that, we feel truly blessed. As we turned our clocks back for daylight savings yesterday, we just hope and pray that when we turn our clocks forward on March 11, this will be behind us.