HEAD NECK CANCER - A learning journey
This is the fourth entry in my learning journey of HEAD NECK CANCER. I was fit, active, and in every way looked and felt healthy, except for a lump on my neck, that I put down to stress. This has turned out to be cancer that has jumped the boundaries of the primary cancer, located at the base-back of my tongue (oropharyngeal cancer STAGE IV). Fortunately this cancer is localised above my shoulders, is linked to the HP virus, and so the prognosis (outcomes) are expected to be good.
Everyone's cancer journey is unique. And the variations of cancer are diverse.
I am encouraged by hearing the detailed stories of two women friends with HNCs, of what they went through. Both were full of gratitude for the learning, for being in good medical hands, and the fact that their loving husbands drew closer and 'spoiled them silly'.
They reassessed what was important for them and adjusted their mindsets accordingly.
I hope that 2018 will bring a clean bill of health and a new time for action beyond my current world of cancer.
CANCER DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE
Anyone is a potential target for cancer, no matter your age, gender, skin colour, ethnicity.
Men have a 1 in 3 risk of some form of cancer to age 75; women 1 in 4 risk.
After age 75, both men and women have a 1 in 2 risk of cancer.
Across Australia, there are 367 new diagnoses of cancer every day.
That equates to 134,174 estimated new cases this year, excluding basal and squamous cell carcinomas of skin.
Just over half (54%) will be men, increasing to 71% males over the age of 60.
The most common types of cancer are breast cancer; colorectal-bowel cancer, prostate cancer and skin melanomas.
With increased education campaigns, the incidence of prostate cancer has declined.
The most common cause of cancer deaths are from lung, prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer.
With earlier diagnosis, the overall five year survival rates of all cancers has increased from 48% in 1984-1988 to 68% in 2009-2013.
The estimated incidence of HNC diagnosis in Australia in 2017 is 3,625 men and 1,330 women.
The estimated deaths from HNC in Australia in 2017 is: 777 men and 249 women.
Main causes of oropharyngeal cancer are:
Reference: Australian Institute of Health & Welfare Cancer Series No. 101. Cancer in Australia 2017.
HALF-WAY THROUGH TREATMENT
I have just passed the half-way mark for my treatment.
Today is Day 20/ 35, and I have just 3 more chemo Tuesdays remaining.
It is like I have been on a wildly swinging suspension bridge, and now I am settling into the routine of Monday-Friday treatment days and it is passing quickly.
I am still eating by mouth, although at times it is slow and painful.
Sometimes it feels like a big fat spiky toad is sitting at the back of my soft palate, trying to obstruct every swallow.
Sometimes I cough, and it is like a sudden spray of frogspawn wants to escape from my throat.
Sparkling mineral water is helpful to counteract this.
My weight is relatively stable, thanks to David's patience in preparation of suitable foods that will slip down easily and still be tasty.
I have a range of medication to deal with pain, nausea and mouth ulceration, including cocaine mouthwash and morphine if needed. My face is undergoing a bit of a skin peel, but I have to keep reminding myself, 'This too will pass.'
In three weeks, the treatment will continue its action, and three months later, I hope I can dare to say, I have overcome this bully monster attacking me.
Thank you for your prayers and messages of support. Thank you also to the professional and compassionate team at Peter Mac, walking beside their patients, hand-in-hand.
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,