On April 11, 2019, Jim’s doctors confirmed that the earache that wouldn't go away was caused by two cancerous tumors - one on the back of his tongue and the other in his left tonsil/lymph node area that would require chemotherapy and radiation. Treatments began May 6 at St. Dominic's Cancer Center. His oncologist is Dr. Guangzhi Qu and radiation doctor is Dr. Eric Balfour.
Here on this CaringBridge website, we can keep all of you updated and give you a place to refer friends who may be going through this very same scary time with cancer. We very much appreciate your prayers and words of encouragement.
Fortunately, this kind of cancer is very treatable, and we are confident that with your constant prayer, love, and support and God’s strength, we will sail right along and get him and his throat back in working order well before duck season. And he was even able to finish out turkey season in style in Oklahoma with Turner.
This particularly nasty cancer has not only brought us to our knees in prayer and pain, it has brought us to our FEET. We want those of you in our world to learn how to prevent it happening to others.
We were blindsided, for when this cancer shows up, it most often arrives unannounced in otherwise healthy people as a simple painless swollen lymph node in the neck. Jim’s caused strange persistent earaches, and Dr. Jim House saved his life by immediately referring Jim to Dr. Jess Roberts who diagnosed the cancer, to our shock and horror, on site. On April 11, the biopsy confirmed Drs. House and Roberts’ suspicions.
The treatment plan is in three stages:
1. 39 daily radiation treatments (72 total grays of dosage) with weekly Taxol/Carboplatin chemotherapy to support throughout the radiation.
2. After chemoradiation, a six week break. At the end of six weeks, a scan (CT scan) to see how the bad cells have responded and whether or not any escaped to wander elsewhere.
3. After the six week break, four Taxatir/Carboplatin chemotherapy treatments every three weeks to ensure that if there are any cells even thinking about travelling, they are stopped.
This bizarre oropharyngeal cancer is caused by human papillomavirus #18, that can be prevented with the Gardasil vaccine (HPV 18). Almost everyone has some form of human papillomavirus, for there are hundreds of strains. Normally our bodies clear the infections without assistance. But in some cases, the virus triggers cells to go crazy and become cancerous. The frightening part is that it can do this after sitting dormant for as long as 30 years. Gardasil protects against many of the cancer-causing strains and is now recommended for young people aged 10-26 and some adults up to age 45. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/06/26/new-hpv-vaccine-recommendation-people-through-age/?noredirect=on
In Australia, the vaccine has been so successful that very few cases of this cancer ever appear any more. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/world/australia/cervical-cancer-hpv-vaccine.html
Although not much is clear as to exactly how people get this virus, the vaccine is proven to work, and the cancer it causes is very treatable. However, we would not wish this horror on anyone. So… it is our hope and prayer that we can do our part to ensure everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated so we can eradicate this nasty virus from the world.
As cancer takes another swing at our family, we fall to our knees in prayer with all of you for the strength to continue to STAND BACK UP and FIGHT this nasty, unexpected, uncalled for, unannounced, insidious invasion into all of our lives. Meanwhile, we press on with treatments and recovery.
Thank you for writing, texting, praying…and generally loving on us both. We look at all the cards every morning as we gear up to whip this nasty stuff. We both appreciate each one of you more than you can ever know.
Jim's cell is 601-906-9293 if texting is easiest for you and his mailing address at Herring, Long, and Crews is P.O. Box 344 Canton, MS 39046
(P.S. If you or someone you know is going through this treatment, the best resource we've found has been the Facebook group, HPV+Throat Cancer Survivors and Caregivers. They are 1000+ strong and provide so many tips and trick on how to beat this along with daily encouragement. Fantastic bunch of people.)