The first doctor I went to told me I had tonsillitis. It was only after seeing the third ENT specialist, that they recommended I undergo a biopsy. Sure enough, four days after undergoing my biopsy, I could see large plaques and necrotic tissue forming in the back of my throat. I had squamous cell carcinoma. After receiving my diagnosis, I researched the ENT specialist who had the best track record with squamous cell carcinoma. I wanted to make sure I was getting the best opinion available.
I underwent 36 sessions of combined chemotherapy and radiation. The sickness from therapy was extremely challenging. It was beyond what I had imagined. I come from a family of physicians and I still wasn’t prepared for the physicality of the treatment. One time, during the first couple weeks of treatment, I fainted while I was eating my lunch just after a chemotherapy treatment. I thought I could handle getting treatments on top of my normal workload, but this experience made me reevaluate that choice.
Treatment changed my body completely. It debilitated my kidneys, diminished my ability to swallow and completely changed the texture of my saliva. At times even water was unbearable, burning my throat every time I drank. I have chronic mucositis to this day, and I constantly need to clear my throat. Throughout it all, my wife was my main support. She kept me level-headed during the whole process.
Each day, I tried to push myself to stay motivated and keep a positive frame of my mind, no matter how I was feeling. I was adamant about making my baseline move everyday even if I just got a little better. Even today, I have to remind myself: everyday is a gift.
Will You Share Your Journey?
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. As part of that theme, we post stories written by oral cancer survivors, caregivers and medical professionals for our 30 Stories in 30 Days™ campaign. The insights they share can help others along their journey.