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 cancer...you 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.