Wednesday, August 17, 2011

There And Back Again

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!


Olivia said...

HOORAY for the end of chemo and radiation, and the promised return of your sense of taste and and and... YAY!!!

I was interested by what the doctor said about veganism. While I fully agree that a lot of the vegan health claims are pure bs (All that really has science behind it is the absence of cholesterol in a vegan diet, and lower cholesterol's implications for heart/vascular health), I disagree with his assessment of WHY the bs health claims are spread around.

While I'm sure profits play a part, I think the real reason is simply that vegans want to create more vegans. Most of us believe in our hearts that it is absolutely wrong to use other species' bodies for our own desires, and think about the suffering of animals on farms (factory farms and otherwise) on a daily basis. However, we also realize that not everyone chooses to make the connection between a pork chop and the suffering and death of a pig, or even if the person DOES choose to make that connection, most times we vegans can't make them care about the life of the pig in the same way they care about the life of a cat or dog, for example.

So, for the people we can't reach by convincing them to care about animals, we try to appeal to them through talking about the environmental impacts of using animal products, or the health benefits of giving them up. And yes, this results in bs. We do have clear statistics on cholesterol and all that I mentioned above, but the vegan evangelists among us go ahead and choose to tell people that going vegan "may" (because if we say "may," we don't have to have science backing it) cure all their ails.

Personally, I resent those tactics--really, I resent all in-your-face, our-way-is-the-only-way methods to convince people to turn to veganism. There's even a movement in which the people call themselves Vegan Abolitionists (I know, right?!), where the people vote and lobby AGAINST laws that improve the lives of animals on farms, because they believe that then people will feel better about eating "happy meat" and refuse to listen to vegan propaganda.

Personally, I believe the only way to reach people is to provide information calmly IF ASKED, life your own life in line with your own values, and let people make their decisions. So much about the vegan evangelist crap just makes people close their ears and further dives us from one another.

Okay, so this turned into a bit of a rant on my part. I guess if your bothered to write a paragraph sort of about veganism, you might be interested? If not, feel free no not approve my comment, hehe. I love you Guy, and I'm so so so happy you've made it over the chemo/radiation hill. <3

Guy said...

No, I agree with what you've said, and while I don't think I'll ever become a vegan, I am all for more humane treatment of animals in all things, whether it's farming or the pet industry. There are too many people who still believe that animals are put here for our benefit and the way they're treated means nothing in the end, just a means to use a resource.

I think Dr. Rothman looks at a lot of things through his own one dimensional lens. When asked about HPV and whether the surgery cures the underlying cause of the cancer (in many throat cancers, HPV is the cause) he has consistently answered that the treatment is the same whether it's caused by HPV of smoking. He doesn't answer the question because he's focused too much on his end of it - surgery and the cancer. I don't think he even realizes he skirts the real question at all. Same with veganism. It doesn't register that a lot of veganism is talked about through word of mouth, he only hears about this product or that product and only sees the seller behind the movement, not the actual philosophy or the people. I think this is because when people talk to him about it, it's always in the context of "will it prevent or cure the cancer" because that's all he ever deals with. I was actually surprised that he had said that he can't argue against it being unhealthy "eating whole foods". Not that he wouldn't find that truthful, but that it was a qualifier that almost negates what he's saying. It doesn't, but as a surgeon, and knowing a little of his personality, his God-complex is waaay up there and just having people ask him questions, I could see that it was difficult for him to be diplomatic in his answers, when it seems more like he wanted to roll his eyes at most of the questions.

Thanks Livvy! It's good to be done with it, for now. I just wish I was feeling better already. Going to take a couple of weeks, but I'm getting there!