Wednesday, June 08, 2011
Night and Day
Met my radiation oncologist today. Dr Charles Woo. Very personable guy. Hard to say how old he is, but his salt and pepper hair suggest early 40s. As uncommunicative as Dr. Rothman is, Dr. Woo is almost too talkative. I can't say that because I like it, but it's shocking the difference. I can already tell he's not a soft touch. He was rough with that tongue depressor in my mouth, but he looked in there for a good 30 - 40 seconds. He noticed the tear I keep feeling as well. He seemed confident it would heal, I felt. He went over my pathology report.
Aside from the tonsil, I had 27 lymph nodes removed, 2 of which were "involved", aka cancerous. He said that was pretty good, considering. I have to agree that 2 out of 27 is pretty good, in cancer terms. He said they went in there deep and close to the border of the resection. Virtually every surgery has the chance of missing a few cancer cells and radiation is almost always recommended to get as much as possible. There will also be some mild chemo to help the radiation. Then he actually said that there were a couple of studies that showed that supplementing with chemo makes a difference, especially with high risk patients.
Being referred to as 'high risk' was a bit unnerving, even though I already knew that. Still just hard to hear. We talked about my teeth and the need to make sure they are healthy, because having to pull a tooth after the radiation is dangerous. He talked about side effects and I have to say I was a little relieved at what he had to say. I had read a journal the day I got diagnosed. I've mentioned it here before. www.cancerlynx.com - the problem with this seems to be simply that it was written in 1997. There was a lot of concern about losing your saliva glands permanently, or your sense of taste. According to Dr Woo, this isn't nearly as much of an issue right now. They've been able to pinpoint the electron beam to the point where they aren't damaging the nearby organs of tissue nearly as bad as 5 - 10 years ago. He said that I would likely have taste bud issues, but that it would be temporary and also said that my saliva output could be affected but it doesn't suffer serious or permanent damage like it used to. This is a huge relief for me as those were the two things I was concerned about most.
He also explained how the radiation causes burns to the skin, both outside and inside the throat, like a really bad sunburn in and out. I would also lose some facial hair where the beams penetrated, but the side effects of the radiation wouldn't be felt for the first two weeks. He said that sometimes, depending on the person, there could be some fibrosis, a stiffness in the tissue at the site. Sometimes the fibrosis can feel as hard as wood and sometimes nothing happens. Hopefully my good healing abilities will prevent that. I'm going to look up some lotions to apply each day.
So, 36 treatments over 7 weeks. One treatment a day, five days a week. I've learned when a Dr. says it will be rough, I'm sure it will be, but as long as it's not worse than the surgery, I can deal. Not like I wouldn't have to deal either way... just what I'm hoping for.