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On March 14, 2017 I heard those words nobody want to hear, "your biopsy came back as Squamous Cell Carcinoma", from my oral surgeon. In my case it was tongue cancer. I'd had a sore on the bottom of my tongue for almost a year. I thought it was a canker sore that wouldn't heal. Finally I was able to get into the dentist who sent me to the oral surgeon for a biopsy.
I don't think it really sank in until I went to the first Head and Neck Specialist who told me what the next steps were. Having to take the lymph nodes from my neck totally freaked me out. I began consulting with my brother Thomas, a very gifted Doctor (Pediatrics), my sister Mary Beth (surgical nurse) and my sister-in-law Tami (nurse and family advocate). They encouraged me to get a second opinion. Which lead me to UC Health Cancer Center on the Anschutz campus.
What an amazing team of doctors, interns, nurses and specialists. Molly, Nurse Navigator, soon became a Rock Star in my world. She earned her title as navigator as she navigated me through the process of meeting with doctors, setting up appointments and getting records. Molly is my Super Hero!
Now with the prep work of selecting doctors, scans, and blood work done, next step is surgery. They will remove the tumor on my tongue (which means they will remove part of my tongue (4 cm at least). They will also remove the lymph nodes from sections 1, 2 and 3 on the right side of my neck and section 1 from the left side of my neck. It's pretty major! There are a lot of systems in the neck (muscle, nerves, artery). The select neck dissection tries to preserve as much as possible. If there is too much swelling they may need to do a temporary tracheotomy. Fortunately, my PET scan came back clean and showed no signs of metastasizing. By G-d's grace the lymph nodes will come back clean too and there will be no need for further treatment beyond surgery. I'll be on a feeding tube for a short while and will need speech therapy - so bear with me as I mimic Jar Jar Binks and hopefully I won't look like the Taxidermist from the non-animated version of 101 Dalmatians.
My sister-in-law Tami and my daughter Alexis will help me keep you informed as we journey through the "valley of the shadow of death". I actually really like Psalm 23. It's not for the dead but for the living! So awesome that G-d is there with us as we venture through creepy scary places. All I have to do is look at Israel to see that G-d isn't kidding when he says he prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies... What an awesome and faithful G-d I serve!
The L-rd is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the L-rd forever! Psalms 23 (NIV).
Thank you for walking this journey with me. Be blessed!