Well, it's official. I'm done with chemo and radiation!
The techs from the radiation room gave me my mask and some t-shirts for the family and some "congrats!" balloons. Even so, it was a bit anti-climactic, but still, very happy to be done with it.
On the down side, Dr. Woo was not happy with me for losing so much weight in the last week. 158lbs is not good, especially when I started at 174, according to his notes.
Afterward, the family and I drove to Banner Desert Regional, the hospital I had my surgery at, to attend the SPOHNC (Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer) meeting. My surgeon was to speak at the meeting and my parents were very interested in going. Since my radiation took place at 5:00 and the meeting started at 5:00, we were a little late, but caught the tail end of his talk. It was rather interesting and somewhat befuddling how there were a couple of old farts there trying to rationalize their drinking with questions about fermentation versus distillation. Basically alcoholics looking for an 'out' to continue drinking, even though Dr. Rothman clearly stated that alcohol use, along with smoking, is THE main cause of head and neck cancers and the continued use of alcohol is a huge contributing factor in survivors having reoccurrences of cancer. Genetic mutation being the main driver in cancer growth and damage to cells being the main cause of that mutation. Alcohol causes damage to cells. Period.
There were also a number of questions about vegan diets and the like, which Dr. Rothman answered fairly diplomatically, but directly. Basically, he said that while he can't argue that eating whole foods isn't healthier, there is no data correlating a vegan diet, or any diet for that matter, with preventing or curing cancer. In fact, he went as far as saying that the vegan movement, culturally, is about selling vegan products and vegan cookbooks and vegan t-shirts and the idea that it can cure or prevent cancer is just another branch of that marketing business. It is all supposition and none of it is based on scientific research. In fact, the concentrations, none of which are found in nature, are often a cause for damage or illness as opposed to being therapeutic. I took this to mean supplements and the idea that pushing certain herbal "infusions", which I've actually heard a great deal about in the last few months. More than a few people, some even in the medical field itself, have tried to convince me that I should stop my treatments, that they are just damaging me and are the product of greedy doctors in cahoots with the FDA and are just after my money through expensive radiation equipment and such. Oddly these are all people who have already been through traditional treatments and are 'converted' after the fact.
I did get to talk to another patient I'd met previously, a man named Frank. He went through a similar treatment regimen as I, having also had cancer of the tonsil. He was, however, treated at the Mayo Clinic here and had a distinctly different surgery than mine. While he did have cancer in both tonsils, he didn't have to undergo the whole jaw removal thing. I did find out from him that his treatment ended in mid-July and he's already gotten some of his sense of taste back. Good news indeed. Bad news is that he's developed some lymphodemia, which is a common occurrence after this sort of cancer. Basically, because he had lymph nodes removed, the fluid the nodes would normally be helping pass out of the body are gathering in his neck and causing issues. Good news seems to be that this is alleviated with simple physical therapy.
So, I'm sorta done. I have a followup with Dr. Szewczyk on August 29th and another with Dr. Woo on Sept 21st. Other than that, I'm done for the time being!