Aug 22, 2020 Latest post:
Apr 14, 2021
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This past October, I developed a dry cough while camping at Mt. Rainier, which lasted a couple of months. Having allergies here in the Pacific Northwest, I attributed the cough to my allergies. In January/February, the cough was replaced by a constant sore throat. Again, due to allergies, I didn't think too much about it. Around March, I developed intermittent headaches on the right side of my head., enough to take extra- strength Tylenol to relieve them. Shortly thereafter, I started having intermittent sharp right ear pain. Around this time, I slept on my neck wrong, which didn't allow full range of motion while turning my neck while making lane changes. COVID19 hit, and I was too consumed at work to really worry about my personal health, until I realized this wasn't going away or getting any better. I had 2 virtual meetings with my PCP, Dr. Sarah Lux, who also assumed it was allergies and GERD. She put me on a 6 week regimen of OTC meds, which did nothing. My followup appointment, she referred me to Dr. Matthew Jung at ENT Associates, who did a nasopharyngeal procedure and then decided to do a CT scan. This was now the end of June. Being I got a call to schedule an appointment to discuss the results, I figured it wasn't going to be good news. At my appointment, he informed me he wasn't "going to sugar coat this, but this looks highly suspicious for cancer". He looked again in my throat with the long tube, and scheduled me for a direct laryngoscope on July 10th. Jeremy and I were supposed to leave on July 4th to meet up with our Yellowstone friends, and I made the very difficult decision to postpone our trip (yes, we did manage to make it to Yellowstone for 6 full days, where I was able to process this information in my "happy place"). The frozen section from the biopsy confirmed cancer, which I was immediately able to find out before I even left the hospital. Later, while in Yellowstone, I received a call confirming the cancer diagnosis, stage IV. Upon our return, I had an MRI and PET scan. I also found out i have 2 lymph nodes, asymmetrical, on the sides of my neck which are also cancerous. The good news is (thank you, Lord), the cancer hadn't spread to any other parts of my body. This cancer is caused by HPV, and reinforces my belief in getting our children vaccinated against HPV. It's been a flurry of activity since the diagnosis- consultations with both the medical and radiation oncologists (I'll need to have both, but no surgery), dentist, speech pathologist, feeding tube consult, and I'm sure I'm missing some. My port was placed in St. Peter Hospital 2 days ago, which will allow blood draws and administration of both chemotherapy drugs. My regimen will be - 5 days a week for 7 weeks. Each day I will spend 3 hours in the infusion chair. Mondays I'll be hooked up to a " fanny pack" to wear at home until Friday (I get the weekends off - yay!) Radiation will be at the end of the 3 hours, lasting only 15 minutes. I am waiting to hear when the feeding tube surgery will be. This is important to have in order to get my supplemental nutrition, should I need it ("insurance"). I am in the process of getting FMLA, as I am not planning to work during this treatment time. Being a medical assistant to a busy family practice doctor (I love working with Dr. Cates at Pioneer Family Practice!), I don't have high expectations o can keep up the pace. Will I lose my hair? Don't know- not everyone does. No, I wouldn't wear a wig - I'm not that vain! The chances of a full recovery? - I've heard 80-90%. Do I need support? YES! Please, I invite my friends, family and coworkers to be on my side of the team and help cheer me on during this scary process. I'm been very transparent with this diagnosis (I'm usually quite guarded about my medical status), but, please, if you have any questions regarding my health or treatment, emotional or physical being, don't hesitate to ask. Thank you for joining me.