Rick Opsahl Rick Opsahl

First post: Nov 29, 2019 Latest post: Jul 15, 2020
Hello everyone,

My name is Jean Carlson and I am a good friend of Rick's wife Mariann.  She has asked me to help her with a Caringbridge site to keep you up to date on Rick's journey.  Below are some details that she sent me to share with you.

Rick's journey began at the end of October when Rick went to the doctor for fatigue, thinking his thyroid meds were off.  He informed the doctor that he was not sleeping well due to arthritis pain in his arms.  This pain would wake him several times each night.  The doctor decided to give him Gabapentin for this, starting a low doze and then going up over a few weeks’ time. 

During week 2 he noticed that the right gland on his neck started swelling a little, nothing that alarming, but at week 3 it really grew and he started having sore throat and pressure in the ear.   He called her told her he was stopping the meds and see if swelling would go down.  It didn’t subside so he made an appointment for Nov. 6th.  At that time she said he had a little bit of a strep throat so she prescribed antibiotics, but because his tonsil was as swollen as it was, she wanted to send him in for a CT to make sure it wasn’t an infection that would needed to be drained and make sure it wasn’t going into the bones or something like that.
Nov. 6th - CT results - was when we found out that he has cancer.

Nov. 8th – PET scan and Biopsy

Nov. 11th – First appointment with oncologist Dr. Hugec from Minnesota Oncology.  They didn’t have the biopsy results back so they could not tell us what type or stage of cancer this is.  We went over a lot of information regarding what he thought the treatment could look like based on where the cancer cells were located.  In his tonsils and back of his tongue.

Nov. 13th – Appointment with Radiologist Dr. Ryan Funk at MN Oncology, great guy.  At this appointment we found out that this is Squamous Cell Carcinoma stage 2. We were starting to get information overload.   Dr. Funk told us we would be looking at 7 weeks of treatment, with radiation 5 days a week and chemo in week 1, 3 and 6, and from the PET, it doesn’t look like is has spread. 

They wanted to do this first instead of surgery as it would be very invasive and would have to take part of the tongue out along with his tonsil, and then they would still have to do radiation and chemo, so we do this first and if for some reason there are a few small stubborn spots left, they can more easily be surgically removed.

He also had a dentist appointment on this day as they said that any dental work should be done before treatment starts.   He needs two teeth fixed, crowns on both.

Nov. 14th – Went to United to have his port placement done.   That was quite the experience.  Appointment was 10:30am, but they didn’t come get him till about 2pm……..so mad about that.

Nov. 15th – Dental appointment for first crown

Nov. 19th  - Meet with Pain management team at MN Oncology.  They made sure to let Rick know that they will do whatever they can do to help him with any pain, nausea, anxiety or anything else that may go on during treatment.   I think that helped him a lot knowing that, I know it helped me.

We also had the CT simulation and mask fit that day.  They make a mask that goes over his head/neck and shoulders, it gets attached to the table/bed he lays on for radiation.  This is done so he won’t move at all during that treatment, this way they can pinpoint the area that is needing the radiation.

Nov. 20th – We went to MN Oncology for chemo class.   Again information overload, but a lot of good information that put our mind at ease.

Nov. 21st – Because this is the throat area they will be radiating, there is a chance that further down the line around week 5 or so, that he won’t be able to swallow enough to take in enough calories, so they suggested that he get a feeding tube, which was placed that day.  They got it in but man he was in a ton of pain, not fun.  Appointment was 6am, we got home at 3pm. He could hardly sit or lay down, but we got him comfy and settled in a recliner to rest. 

Nov. 22nd – Resting well after his feeding tube surgery yesterday.  Feeling better with less pain today and can move around after I help him up from the chair. 

Nov. 25th – we have an appointment with a Speech and swallow specialist at MN Oncology as well as the Nutritionist so we can get some ideas as to what we can feed him that won’t hurt his throat.

Nov. 27th – Dentist appointment for last crown to get fixed, and early evening appointment at MN Oncology for what they call a “Dry run”.  This is to make sure that the mask and everything is good and location markers are correct.  On this date we should get the schedule for the dates/times for each treatment.  But from what its sounding like we may start treatment the first week of December. 

Please visit this site for updates of their journey.   We have also set up a Go Fund Me page to help with the unexpected medical expenses.  Please click on the "Ways to Help" button for a direct link to the Go Fund Me page. 

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