Jim (Dad) was diagnosed with Stage I Laryngeal cancer in July of 2016. We were told that cure rates were high with radiation, no need for chemotherapy, and that he should be able to regain full use of his vocal chords & voice after some time.
6 weeks of radiation treatments began in August. Toward the middle of these treatments, dad began experiencing quite a bit of neck pain and his ability to breathe became more and more labored. At the completion of the 6 weeks, we were hopeful that we would begin to see some improvements, however dad's pain continued to worsen and his breathing became more and more of a struggle.
The Thursday before Thanksgiving he was brought into the ER due to breathing concerns. He was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in a Minneapolis with pneumonia and tracheotomy was performed to open his airway.
Further biopsies were taken during the tracheotomy and it was found that the cancer was still present. It was also found that dad's neck was full of necrotic tissue as a result of the radiation.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, Dad underwent a laryngectomy (http://www.healthline.com/health/laryngectomy
) to remove the cancer that was still present in his throat. Dad seemed to heal well and began adapting to his new anatomy and was able to go home a week prior to his birthday (12/16) with his doctor telling him there was no reason to think that he now wasn't cancer-free. And was given the go ahead to begin eating solid food again.
On Friday 12/16 Dad had an appointment to place his prosthetic voice box and was anticipating beginning to learn how to speak again. During the appointment, he was asked to cover his new stoma hole and blow in order to get a feel for things. During this, he blew and ended up with a large fistula between his trachea and esophagus, and was bleeding into his lungs. The doctors were able to get this under control and he was able to go home.
The fistula was caused by the necrotic tissue in his neck, and his laryngectomy surgery was not healing as it should because of this.
This continued to get worse, and anything dad would eat/during was seeping through the fistula and into dad's lungs, eventually landing him in the hospital again the Thursday before New Years.
After meeting with his ENT MD & plastic surgeon, a procedure was performed to graft healthy skin from his wrist into his throat to hopefully promote healing and allow him to be able to eat normally once again.
New Years Eve found dad in surgery again to place a feeding tube directly to his stomach (G-tube). The following Tuesday, dad underwent a second major throat surgery in a month to hopefully rebuild his esophagus & repair the fistula.
Dad did a great job of showing he was still strong and able to care for himself in the hospital following this surgery and was sent home that Friday.
After being home for about a week, dad began to develop some serious swelling in his neck area, leading to another trip to visit his ENT MD. His neck was cut to drain the swelling and further examination was done along with further biopsies and another aspect scan.
Results of these tests revealed that his cancer had spread aggressively throughout his throat/neck, and also into his lungs.
This brought dad to meet with an oncologist who suggested that Dad's rare reaction to the radiation may have been the result of things he was exposed to back when he was a Ranger in Vietnam in the early 70s (Agent Orange)" possibly). We were all very saddened/devistated to hear that his cancer was now at a stage IV & very aggressive. Dad was given the option of going into hospice care or giving aggressive Chemo a shot which may give him another 6 months to 2 years with us depending on how he & the cancer reacts to the chemo.
On Monday 1/30 dad was scheduled in for another surgery to place a Chemo port, with Chemo scheduled to begin the following day. They took his vitals and blood. His blood work came back showing an elevated white blood cell count. Dad was admitted to Abbott NW and put on IV antibiotics to get that under control so he could hopefully get his port placed and begin his chemo treatments.
Tuesday 1/31 found his white cell count down a bit, and MDs were fairly confident any further elevated count was most likely due to his body fighting the cancer. With time being of the essence, It was decided to have dad begin his chemo in the hospital via IV on Wednesday 2/1.
Dad also met with Pallative care MD on Tuesday to discuss his goals, his level of pain and how they can help him with all of this. Goal was, of course, to get back on the golf course, and maybe be able to do some fishing.
2/1 found dad getting his first Chemo treatments. These went well with no real issues to report. They kept Dad overnight and prepped him to go home on Thursday (2/2) which he did.
Friday 2/3 we took a trip to Minnesota Oncology for post Chemo follow up fluids.
Dad is still getting accustomed to taking care of everything at home now with feedings, meds, PT, dressing wounds, and attempting to rest/sleep.
Thank you to anyone and everyone out there who has kept Dad in their thoughts and prayers throughout this entire ordeal. He (as do we) loves each and every one of you and appreciate all of the love and support. We definitely feel it.