HEAD NECK CANCER - A learning journey
Hello, dear readers, family, friends, students, colleagues,
This is the fifth in my series on HNC (Head and Neck Cancer). It is a first hand account of being a (patient) patient. I was in Indonesia on a volunteer teaching project when I returned to Melbourne Australia for investigation of a lump on my neck. Turns out that I have oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, located at the base (back of tongue) and metastasised to my right cervical lymph nodes. Stage IV.
Quite serious, but can be kicked out.
Calling all my favourite women super heroines to kick bully butts hard- Come in Emma Peel- Avengers; Lara Croft, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Spiderwoman, Bat Girl, Super Woman, Xena and all. Plus magic from Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, and Tinkerbell...
So many times I have walked away from workplace bullies and toxic people...
BUT, I cannot walk away from tongue cancer.
There is only one way to deal with it: face it, trust and follow the instructions from the good doctors and staff at Peter Mac. They pack a mighty punch. Kerpow!
Your prayers and well wishes do wonders to my spirit too.
Another 3-4 weeks, and my winter of discontent, and that dip in the U-curve, will start to be an up-tick. Better believe it...
DCOUNTDOWN TEN DAYS:
I am now in the sixth week of an 8 week integrated chemotherapy-radiotherapy treatment at the world class state-of-the science-and-art Peter Mac Cancer Centre, Grattan St, Melbourne:
- : 8 doses of chemo-cetuximab on Tuesdays (one loading dose was given the week before radiotherapy started), followed by 35 doses of radiotherapy Monday-Friday.
At the beginning of this week, there were 10 days to go; now it is Wednesday, so one more dose of chemo next week, and with 28 radiotherapy treatments completed, just 7 more to go, finishing on 8 September. Whoo-hoo!
So what's new since last time?
Eating and swallowing are more difficult; so I'm taking extra liquid nutrition via the PEG tube. David's strawberry, banana, almond milk, honey and RAW pea-based protein powder, by PEG is much better (yes, I can still taste a bit via stomach- marginal reflux) than Nestles Resource-2 drink. Sorry Nestle, I have to be honest.
Can't believe I just ate a croissant with marmalade while writing this...and David out for a walk! Hee hee!
There is a bit more nausea, but combatted by taking more Pramin, anti-nausea before food, including PEG feeds. It's not nice to take 30 minutes to eat one small container of Yoplait yoghurt and then it regurgitates without much warning. Ugh (a little cry here)!
My weight is relatively stable. I lost a bit in Indonesia and was 69kgs on return to Oz. David fattened me up to 72.5kg at the beginning of treatment in July, and now I am sitting on 69.9kgs.
Yes! We can do this - together!
In the weekend, the front of my neck started to resemble a rock lobster, freshly boiled (not for public viewing), and then like a turkey's neck...then ouch- itchy, and peeling, flaking...so today, a new solution- Derma-eaze gel covered by a net gauze dressing, a frilled collar, held in place with a net band.
As you can see above, an Elizabethan collar look- resembling my (second) wedding day outfit, or more of a frilled lizard? What do you think?
Thank you to the radiotherapy nurse today for this smart fashion look.
The skin on my fingertips and elbows has cracked open, making writing by hand and on the computer a tad difficult, but Moo Goo and cotton gloves at night is helping to reverse this. The skin on my face is less spotty now too...smile:)
Perhaps it won't be too long to go out in public again. I am feeling mentally good, as the light is shining at the end of this marathon tunnel...
Yesterday we received our post-treatment review dates: 1, 2 weeks; 1 month; 2 month, 3 month, 6 month and 1 year review dates, so guess what? We can plan our interstate trips - Tassie for a while, Sydney, NSW and Queensland...coming to you soon!
SPECIAL SYSU VISITOR
Recently, one of my (many) star students from Sun Yat-sen University School of Tourism Management- Zhao RUO Nan (MANDY), now studying Events Management as part of a 2+2 BA program at University of Queensland visited with a treasure book full of handwritten, printed and decorated messages from classmates, other students and SYSU colleagues. I cried, tears of joy. We also spoke to Anthony Li Zikai via FaceTime in UC, Berkeley! Wow!When Mandy told me she and several others will graduate mid December, I immediately set this as a goal to be there In Brisbane.
I was at the beginning of this cohort's university learning journey in beautiful Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, PR China and Insha'Allah, God willing, if the Universe conspires with my will to be there, I shall be there to celebrate your sweet victory, for so it is also a little bit mine.
PS. Another student Lydia who also was in one of my first writing students at SYSU is now studying her Masters in Translation at the University of Melbourne, just around the corner. So looking forward to meeting her soon! Lots to be thankful for... it is still a beautiful world. Thank you, everyone... If you send me a personal message at email@example.com, I'll send you a personal reply.
Best wishes for your final exams dear students!
As a gentle provocateur of positive change,