In early 2018 we got the news no family wants to hear. Our mom/Gigi/wife had cancer. The good news was it was treatable, stage 1 and radiation would hopefully take care of it. Over the summer of 2018 Mom endured 35 intense radiation treatments while working full time. She got up early, would be at the treatment facility at 7 a.m. and was at her desk before 8 a.m. To say she is tough is an understatement. Over the fall of 2018 she received follow-up scans, retired from work and around Thanksgiving was giving the all clear. We rejoiced. She would just have to come back and see her doctor monthly to watch the healing and monitor for any signs of the cancer’s return.
Unfortunately in late January 2019 her doctor saw something he didn’t like. He scheduled her for a biopsy on Feb. 18, 2019. That biopsy showed the cancer has returned and is aggressive in nature. Her formal diagnosis is stage 3 laryngeal Cancer (throat cancer). For those not familiar with the anatomy this type of cancer affects the larynx, vocal chords and trachea. The news at first was not very good, but after another scan the doctor called back and said it was isolated and surgery should be able to contain it. She will not have to go through any other radiation or chemotherapy. So this Thursday, March 7th she will be admitted to Vanderbilt for a total Laryngectomy. They will remove her voice box and all the affected tissues. It is a complex and difficult surgery. She will be in Vanderbilt for at least a week and will probably be in ICU for a number of days.
Recovery will be long and she will have to relearn swallowing, breathing and speaking. But the great news is the doctors have given us a 70% chance for a total cure and she will be able to speak again but not for a number of months. In the first months after the surgery she will speak with what they call an electrolarynx but the sound will be somewhat robotic. Then about three months after the surgery she will have another procedure which amazingly will be outpatient. They will take a thin layer of skin off her non-dominant wrist and will basically rebuild her vocal chords. Then they will implant a device call a TEP which stands for Tracheoesphogeal Puncture device. This will allow her to regain her speech. When I mentioned in front of the doctor her grandsons knew sign language the doctor emphatically said, “She will NOT need sign language. She will speak again.
We have reached out to a number of family members and friends but have not talked widely about what’s happening. It’s taken us a few days to recover from the gut punch the doctor delivered. But my mom and dad and I have gone through a lot together and we will get through this...together. In April they will celebrate 55 years of marriage. I came along a year later and since then we have been one unit.....unbreakable by war, distance, disagreements, health issues and now cancer. For those of you who know my mother well she is very private and is not great about accepting help. She the most generous, loving, amazing woman, but don’t try to carry something for her. :-). We ask that you not reach out publicly on facebook or post anything, anywhere but on the comments of the journal entries. I (Dawn) will be updating this site daily as we go through this journey and we appreciate all your love and prayers. We feel it....we really do.
My dad and I will be at the hospital with her. We are requesting no visitors at this time and if you need anything or want to ask any questions please reach out directly to me. Billy will be taking care of our boys and our life and his love and support is unwavering. I really can’t express the depth of my gratitude for him.
Thank you all for loving our family so much. You are all truly blessings.