Friday, March 15, 2013

Becoming a part of the cancer club....

Today is my one year anniversary. I was diagnosed with Cancer on this day last year. Since then, my life has fit into two categories; before cancer and after cancer.

My ENT called me while I was at work to give me the results of my biopsy and stated that it looked like we had some 'Trouble'. I will never forget that moment. In 2 seconds flat, I felt a warm rush ravage my body from the top of my head down to the tips of my toes. I sat at my messy cube desk, barely able to hold myself up long enough to listen to the remainder of our call. I was in complete disbelief. During my biopsy appt, he confidently expressed that he thought the red tissue was just abnormal scar tissue from my tooth abrasion. I left that appt not thinking I had cancer. That was why the news was so devastating. And so it began from there.
This all started last summer. I was eating an organic flaxseed cracker from Costco and distinctly remember the bite that chipped my upper left molar. It left a sharp edge that I waited TOO long to have fixed. I had a lot going on in my personal life and it seemed that everything else was more important than my sharp tooth. The funny thing is that this sharp tooth slowly pierced a little hole in my tongue over the course of the next 6 or 7 months. It doesn't help that my dentist is in another state, but I take full responsibility for not making myself a priority. Lesson Learned. 

When I finally made it to the dentist to have the tooth ground down, my hygenist suggested I have my tongue biopsied if it didn't heal 30 days after having the tooth fixed. I didn't think much of it. It didn't heal and I decided it was time to schedule an appt. I had a PA at first who referred me to my ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat specialist). I ended up seeing him first, then coming back a week later for the biopsy procedure, which was no picnic. My ENT told me he thought it was scar tissue from my sharp tooth hole and that he thought I DIDN'T have cancer. I figured I was just being safe and the pain from the biopsy was enough activity for me. 

Well, he called me 5 days later when I was at work and my life changed at that moment. The next 5 days were hell. The day after hearing that I had at least stage 1 squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue, I had to have scans done to see if this was the only cancer in my body. At this point, I had no idea how serious this was and if I was going to be full of cancer. I had the scans that Friday and would get results on Tuesday. I had a trip planned to Seattle that weekend to have some dental work done. My ENT told me to keep my appt and have my dentist check for any sign of infection because I was going to have surgery soon and my mouth needed to be in good shape. I would also use this opportunity to tell my family about my cancer. I was so nervous about telling my Mom, even though she was a rock. Mom returned to Portland with me and went to my appt. the following Tuesday. The news was good and bad. The scan results didn't show any other tumors in my upper body. That was fantastic. They did show that I had a few swollen lymph nodes that indicated that the cancer may have already spread to the lymph nodes. They also had more information about the type of tumor I had and it was considered a very aggressive tumor.  I was also tested for HPV, because this is what is causing this type of cancer for many young adults these days. I was negative. I didn't know why I had this cancer in the first place, but it didn't matter. The next order of business was having that bi-atch taken out. I had to wait almost a month and it was brutal. 

This was when I felt more support than I have ever felt in my life. My family and friends swarmed around me and filled me with love. It was amazing. I had them lighting candles and visualizing healthy nodes and they were wonderful. So my surgery day finally arrived and I was nervous, but happy to finally have the tumor removed. HEX BE GONE! (I named my tumor Hex)

Here's a pic of Mom and I waiting for my name to be called in the waiting room. I didn't get emotional until I was in the prep room. I remember texting Des and Bill and getting emotional, as I felt my fear take over. Luckily, this time would go by quick. They wheeled me into the OR, where an extremely attractive male nurse anesthesiologist asked me what I did for a living. I was able to get Multnomah County out, and then I was out. I woke up in the recovery room to a nurse that was freaking out about a hematoma I had on my arm. I couldn't attend to that just quite yet, because I couldn't swallow. It was a very unsettling feeling. After waking up a bit more I lifted up my arm to see a bump that was raised nearly 2 inches off my arm. Something had gone wrong and the nurse was freaking out, which made me freak out. She then gave me pills to swallow. HA! seriously? I then tried to tell her(very unsuccessfully since I couldn't talk because my tongue was so swollen from having a large portion of my tongue cut out!). She eventually figured it out and gave me Morphine in my IV. AAAaaahhhhhhh.... I know why people are addicted to that stuff. It helped with the pain immediately and just yeah..... good stuff....
Here's a pic a couple of hours after surgery.
Here's a video Bill took that evening. He was trying to make me laugh, but I was feeling too bad to find humor in anything. I was sucking on a sponge, which was the only way to wet my mouth. I couldn't drink, or swallow and had to carefully place liquids in the opposite side of my mouth using a sponge. This was kind of a miserable time for me. The little pouch I hold up in the video is my bag of blood and lymph fluid that was draining out of my neck. Yummy.

My Mom stayed in this chair for 5 days straight. She never left the hospital until I did. A mother's love is very powerful. Thanks Momma.
I had a team of peeps that helped me get through this 5 days. Erica and Bill were there everyday, just sitting with me as I slowly improved. They made me laugh and held my hand when I felt like shit. Erica also did Reiki before and after my surgery that helped in ways I can not express. She is so talented. 

I was kind of obsessed with how my blood to lymph fluid changed over the course of the 5 days. 
This was a pic right before the doc pulled out my tube on my discharge day. 

A few hours before I was set to go home, my surgeon came in and handed me some papers. He was smiling and said we had good news. My Margins were clear and my lymph nodes were also clear! I would NOT need chemo or radiation!! I started crying immediately. Mom was on the phone with Erica and it was almost like she was there in that moment too. I had SO MUCH to be thankful for at that moment. This meant I was likely to have a happy, healthy and long life! 
No words to express how joyous this time was for myself and my friends and family! Thank you all for your prayers and healing thoughts! I had thousands of people praying for me and I could feel the love.

Before going home, I recorded Billy cracking me up one last time. He was doing an impersonation of my swallow. His portrayal is accurate. Nothing was going down the left side of my throat since my incision went from mid-tongue to pretty far down the back of my throat. Swallowing was my worst nightmare while in the hospital. Bill's humor helped a lot. 
After 5 days in the hospital, I started my 3 weeks of rest at home. It was nice actually. This was when I started my research on healthier lifestyles and also anti-cancer diets. My results from surgery were the best they could have been, but I was acutely aware of the fact that it could come back. I wanted to start doing something to keep it from coming back.
Erica, Bill and my Mom were there everyday for the entire recovery period. I also had visits from Laurie, Betty and Tammi. Here's a video I recorded shortly after getting home. I was pretty emotional and on A LOT of pain meds!

Even though I look like a mummy in this pic, I was stoked because I was about to take my first shower. It had been nearly 11 days!! 
Post shower bliss!

Took off my stiri strips. Progress is speeding up!
Did I mention that having tongue surgery makes eating difficult? I didn't eat much for the first week, but when I got home, Billy got creative. I had been drinking only juice and protein shakes, but upgraded to blended soups. Hooray for salty concoctions! 

I was really living large with this meal! Blended spagetti with marinara and cheese. Again- props to Bill for making me delicious and easy to eat meals. 

Here are a few other videos I recorded. I get kind of chatty, but wanted to be able to hear my progress. I was going to speech therapy and trying hard to speak without sounding like I had an apple in my mouth. Even now, I still have certain words that are challenging to pronounce. 

I have spent the last year trying to figure out why all this happened to me. I've done a shit-ton of research on nutrition and balance in the body. One cause that resonates with me is the presence of toxins in my body. It was only a couple of days after receiving my diagnosis that I felt a special connection to the planet. This will sound a bit weird, but when I was diagnosed, I felt like my body was  polluted and imbalanced. I felt like my body was a small earth. I felt a direct connection to the destruction and disrespect that we as humans have for this planet. I had the same relationship with my body. That has stopped. This has started me on a new journey to treat my body with love so that it will carry me on this path for as long as possible. I will be posting on lifestyle changes that I believe are good for our bodies and good for the planet. We have a lot of work to do people! 

BE WELL and thanks for reading! Ps. when you go to the dentist, make sure they check your mouth! Oral cancer is growing at alarming rates. The earlier it is caught, the better your chances for survival are! Along with that advice, please stop eating processed foods, consider a vegan diet, and no matter what you do, eat more vegetables! 


Miss Night said...

My sweet friend, the same week last spring, I learned of your cancer, and another friend's MS diagnosis. While there was so little I could do for either of you, I thought you would want to know that it has changed how I think about my body and my health. I eat a lot (A LOT!) more fruits and veggies, drink a lot (A LOT!) more water, make time for regular workouts, and prioritise 8 hours of sleep every night. I know these don't sound like big things, but it's really been about beng more mindful of how I take CARE of my body. Thank you for being part of that change.

I am so proud of you and the way you have grown through this. I miss you like crazycakes, and wish you lived across the street (or even across town) so we could hang ot every few days instead of every few years. Love you so much.

babybuddhalover said...

Thank you Amy!! Nicest comment ever! I miss and love you too!

ltz123 said...

It seems strange to be celebrating a 1 year anniversary of discovering cancer, but I think its a good reason to celebrate. I don't think there are many people who have experienced as many different aspects of life, especially at such a young age. You are an inspiration. You have incredible determination to achieve greatness. Whether you are about to embark on a journey to beat cancer, or to reach new heights hiking a mountain trail. Much can can be learned from you. I am proud to be your brother!

babybuddhalover said...

Geez Dave! I feel the same way about you! I really feel like my cancer has been a gift, opening my eyes to so much I would have not thought about or felt had it not happened. I guess this is life. Thank you for the kind words brother and the feelings are mutual!!!