Tom Baber

First post: Feb 14, 2022 Latest post: Nov 5, 2023
Thank you to my family and friends  who are our support team.  I am blessed beyond measure and am bouyed by my faith in my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Chris.  My story is more about how God is showing up in this journey than how we got here.  My sincere prayer is that God will be glorified through my illness.
That said, my story really begins 15 years ago when  I discovered a lump in the left side of my neck, below my jaw.   After several diagnostic tests,  I was told that  it was likely a blocked salivary gland, and while it could have it removed,  the doctors didn't really feel it was much to be concerned about.   I decided to leave it alone and to address it if it ever changed.

Fast forward to September 2021 when  I began experiencing regular pain in the lump which was waking me up;  time to take some action.  While  being examined  for another, relatively minor condition,  I happened to mention  this lump in my neck to the doctor.  She referred me to an ENT surgeon who  ordered a CT scan of my neck and performed a needle biospy of the lump.   The CT scan revealed a mass and the biopsy was inconclusive . Given the history ,  we agreed with the surgeon's recommendation to undergo surgery to have this mass ( now tumor) removed and  then biopsied for further analysis.  While cancer was certainly in the he back of our minds,  it was never mentioned as a possibility by the surgeon.  We remained optimistic that the surgery woud be the end of this issue and would soon be in the rear view mirror.

The surgery was performed on 12/8/21  on an outpatient  basis, but took nearly four hours; twice as long as expected. The extent of the surgery  became more clear when  I received a call from the surgeon the following  week with  the results of the biopsy which confirmed the presence of  cancer, specifically  adenoid cystic carninoma.  Unfortunately,  the cancer was also  found in one of the three lymph nodes removed during the surgery,  so there was the possibilty of the cancer spreading.  My head was spinning as the surgeon mentioned  referring me to a  head and neck oncology surgeon for more surgery  followed by radiation.   It was certainly a surreal moment and took Renee and I several weeks to begin to come to grips  with the reality of being diagnosed with know ...that happens to other people, not me,  right?

Being relatively new to the Kaiser system,  we had significant concerns about  their ability to provide the best care and treatment for  this serious condition. As we began to share this diagnosis with family and close friends we were strongly  encourgaged to seek second opionions from outside the Kaiser system.  Over the next several weeks,  we were able to speak with head and neck oncologists  from both Hoage and City of Hope,  who generally validated the treatment plan Kaiser was recommending.  After consulting with two  physician friends who are familar with  cancer treatments, we filed a grevience  with Kaiser requesting to  have my treatment transferred to City of Hope.  We then prayed and gave the results  to God.  While Kaiser denied our appeal,  it  was clear they were on notice of our concerns and we were getting special attention by the entire medical team.  Through all of this, God has given Renee and I an amazing peace about the treatment plan and our medical team at Kaiser.

At this point I am 10 weeks post tumor removal surgery and I feel great!!  I have been exercising and focused on healthy eating to  get my body in the best condition possible before I begin the next phase of treatment.

So what's next?  My neck dissection surgery is scheduled for Monday, 2/14 ( yes,  Valentines Day!!) .  That surgery will remove additonal lymph nodes  followed by a biopsy.  Our prayer is that no additional cancer is found.   After a night in the  hospital,  I will be off work and recovering at home  the remainder of the  week.

6-8 weeks after  surgery,    I will  begin a 6-week course of  30  radiation treatments to remove any remaining cancer cells in my neck.  While the side effects of the radiation will  not be pleasant,  I am assured they will not be permanent and  will be a distant memory a  year from now. 
While Renee and I remain very optimistic about the outcome of my treatment,  we humbly acknowlege  this is due to  the prayers and support of our dear family and friends  and ultimatley the trust and hope we have in our Lord. 

We have chosen  Caring Bridge as  means of keeping each of you updated on this journey.   Our heartfelt thanks to each of you for  the constant care and concern you have expressed to us in so many ways.  A special thanks to our childeren, Jenn, Jamie and Brent who have volunteered to share the responsibilty  for posting updates  during this time.

All our love, 

Tom and Renee

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