My Throat Cancer and Recovery - Part 1

Published: 15th November 2011
Views: N/A

I said in an earlier article that I would write about my throat cancer. Well here it is. First I want to say that while I will never recover 100% because of the surgeries and remaining medical appendages, I still consider myself 90% recovered as I write this tome today.

Like too many men I was always very athletic and healthy, bullheaded and never took the time to go to a doctor unless I was dying and absolutely had to. If I could breathe, I could work and Iíll be fine in a day or so was my mantra. The wife, as I suspect do many, wanted me to go to the doctor it seemed every time I got even a sniffle. In my mind I could always hear coach yelling, "Play through the pain Son".

About the only illness I ever had was a chronic case of sinus problems during the seasons when the pollen snowed yellowish-green or I was in a really dusty situation like land clearing or construction in general. Getting to a sauna after work was like heaven to me.

Iíve had these sinus problems since high school and just managed it with Sudafed, a little cough syrup and an occasional lozenge. I just took my sinus problems in stride never allowing myself to think it could be something like Throat Cancer or worse. I also began smoking when I was 16 so that did not help either.

As I got older and was focused on work and family only (out of order I realize now), I started to get overweight and out of shape. This was also partially due to going from an active hands-on construction field position to an executive office position. Not much exercise on the phone or meeting clients in an office or at lunch.

Around age 49 I went back to being "Mr. Do It All" when I expanded and ran my own construction business again. My sinus problems immediately began raging harder during that dry dusty summer. I also set out to intentionally lose some of my plentiful excess weight around this time. That part did not work out too well.

I say all of that for background because my Throat Cancer hit me like a ton of bricks at age 55. All during those years from 49 to 55 my sinus problems got longer and hit harder every year. I continued to treat it the same way but deep down I think I knew this was different. I even subconsciously thought throat cancer was a possibility but I would not let myself accept that thought. I began a weight loss program again thinking if I got in better shape the sinus problems would become more manageable.

The weight loss program worked extremely well for me this time; too well. I continued to dismiss my feeling poorly to sinus problems and not allow myself to think it could be throat cancer or something more. Of course I did not go to a doctor as I lost approximately 100 pounds in 60 days by not eating, modest exercise and being proud of the resulting weight loss.

I finally was forced to consider that I could not manage these sinus problems when I was rushed to the emergency room unconscious. I awakened 5 days later in ICU. I was told I was within about 12 hours of being dead when I arrived at the emergency room from malnutrition and by the way I have throat cancer.

I awakened to find a trachea in my throat and a feeding tube (PEG) in my stomach. I left the hospital 3 weeks later. My strength was coming back very slowly I could not eat by mouth. Even so, now I needed to deal with the throat cancer.

I was stupid for not admitting I had a real problem and not seeing a doctor. It wasn't like we didn't have a family doctor but I viewed him as necessary for the wife and kids. I can tell you from first hand experience that playing "Mr. Invincible" will not detect or cure throat cancer.

When I left the hospital I was alive and I had the trachea and PEG to accompany me. Now all I needed to do was find a way to cure throat cancer and Iíd be good to go again.

You may wonder what throat cancer has to do with natural vitamins and supplements? In a nut shell it was my need to recover from throat cancer and avoid being on highly addictive medicine that prompted to become very well versed about natural vitamins and supplements. Most of my study was research then actual use of natural vitamins and supplement products until I settled on the ones I still use in my daily diet.

Now to deal with the Throat Cancer...

Time came to go home to ponder how to deal with the newly identified throat cancer now that my 3-week ordeal in the hospital was finally over. The challenge for me is that I know absolutely nothing about throat cancer or any cancer for that matter. I have been around others struggling with various types of cancer but never close enough to really understand the disease; the pain, the process or the treatments up close and personal.

Fortunately for me I was diagnosed with throat cancer in Charleston, SC; home of Medical University of South Carolina which includes The Hollings Cancer Center on campus. In hindsight, if you're going to have cancer have it here because MUSC and Hollings are as good as it gets at throat cancer and other cancer treatments. While it is the only place I have been for throat cancer treatments, I cannot imagine where you could find more knowledgeable or better specialists not to mention the staff and state of art facilities.

My newly acquired ENT became my primary physician during my hospital stay and after my departure. His first act after I got home was to send me to MUSC's #1 Radiation Oncology Specialist who also happened to be the head of the Radiation, Nuclear Medicine and Oncology Department at MUSC and Hollings plus he was an MUSC Board Member.

My very first visit to this Radiation Oncology Specialist for an initial examination, consultation and to devise a treatment plan was a real eye opener. At the moment he began to speak I could clearly see he exuded massive knowledge about cancer and was as matter of fact when he spoke as a head on automobile collision.

After he examined me and reviewed all of my records, scans and other medical documents he looked over then asked "ME" what "I" wanted to do about the throat cancer. My thought was, "Your the doctor aren't you? You tell me." I did muster enough wisdom to ask him to spell out and explain all of my available options. He did not hesitate to answer.
He told me he would list them from simplest by odds of success to most difficult by odds of success. They were:
1. Go back in the hospital immediately and he could cut out my larynx to remove all the throat cancer. I would not ever be able to speak again without a mechanical device but I could have the PEG remover and eat by mouth very normally. Chance of success was about 99%.
2. Within a week or so, begin a full lifetime regiment of radiation treatment (36 applications in my case) accompanied by a prescribed Chemotherapy program. Chances of success for this program are 80% and if successful I should be able to eat by mouth and speak when complete.
3. Within a week or so, begin a full lifetime regiment of radiation treatments only and hope that can eradicate all of the cancer cells. Chances of success were 50% for this program but if successful I would be able to eat by mouth and speak when complete.
4. Within a week or so, begin a full regiment of Chemotherapy treatments and hope that can eradicate all of the cancer cells. Chances of success were 40% for this program but if successful I would be able to eat by mouth and speak when complete.
He pretty much laid out all the options except doing nothing thus dying too young. One of my daughters was with me as the doctor put forth these possibilities and she was as overwhelmed as I was.
After a moment or so, I cleverly asked him what he would he would recommend if I was his Grandmother and she had this throat cancer? In a bit of a panic I promptly thought to ask him before he answered if he likes his grandmother?
He was a little amused. He said it was because the mere question displayed a good attitude toward the throat cancer and the oncoming treatments instead of complete fear. He commented that that sort of attitude would prove to be invaluable during any treatment process. He is absolutely right about the significance of a not good, but great attitude during treatment and recovery. I'll speak more to the importance of attitude later.

I honestly thought his answer would be the #1 option of just removing the larynx but instead he recommended #2 for his grandmother. This is when I learned that he was MUSC's Radiation Oncology Specialist and head of the Radiation, Nuclear Medicine and Oncology Department at MUSC and Hollings plus he was an MUSC Board Member. He told me that he would be able to personally administer or at the very least design and oversee all of the throat cancer radiation treatments.

How could I turn down such an offer? I agreed to take his advice and we set a begin date for the first radiation treatment in two weeks after I had seen and scheduled for Chemotherapy with the chemo specialist. My next step was to visit the chemo doctor and learn just what chemotherapy is. I had no clue other than the treatment makes a person weak, sick and lose hair.

After a short question and answer session with the chemo doctor he immediately mentioned 2 types of chemotherapy drugs he wanted to use. While he left to call and consult with my radiation doctor, he left me the printed material for the two drugs to read before he could start treatment.

The primary chemo drug was what he called the Martha Stewart drug Erbitux by ImClone. The second was called Cisplatin. When I read the side effects particularly for the Cisplatin, I was ready to leave and do the radiation only program. It seemed like it would do more damage than the throat cancer itself.

Reluctantly I proceeded with the radiation and chemo program. For the next 8 weeks I was either being shot in the neck with radioactive lasers or sitting in a chair for 5 to 6 hours at a time while chemo drugs dripped into my bloodstream.

Surprisingly, I did not lose my hair and did not get sick from either the radiation or chemo. I did however break out in whelps all over my upper body and neck from the Cisplatin.

All during the time since I cam out of the hospital some 14 weeks prior I was trying to live on and gain weight from 8 ounce cans of a nutritional supplement prescribed by the doctor consumed through my PEG. I was also taking a couple of very addictive pain drugs.

The recommended dosage of this nutritional supplement was 4.7 cans per day. I built my self up to 12 cans per day and was unable to gain any of my weight back and had no energy. In fact I was still losing weight at 12 cans per day.

This was the event that caused me to seek a better solution. I also do not like taking any drugs if I can avoid it so I wanted a solution there also. That is where my extensive research of natural vitamins and supplements begins.

More to come about my throat cancer, treatments and diet search in the next submission....

(Special Note: I am happy to speak privately to assist anyone dealing with throat cancer or a similar situation. Just contact me with your contact info through the contact page and I will get in touch without discretely.)

Dick Gibbons

Report this article Ask About This Article

More to Explore