245 days elapsed between my first being diagnosed with throat cancer in July of 2022 and getting the all clear in April 2023. Of course, the worry went on for some time before diagnosis, and I’d actually had a health scare already at the beginning of the year when they thought I had lymphoma cancer so 2022 was a bit of a write off. It’s not over either, I will have lingering side effects of the treatment for a long time, maybe forever. I must get used to living a “new normal” just like we did after Covid 19.
The treatment is brutal. There is no other word I’ve found to describe it, and to be honest, it brings a tear to my eye just typing the word. Emotions come rushing back regularly of what I went through. With modern science they can be very accurate with the radiotherapy (they use lasers to line you up on the machine each day) so they can try to avoid things like the voice box. Likewise, they can choose the chemotherapy chemicals to inject you with which best suit your situation. However, they are essentially just burning you and poisoning you and hoping the cancerous cells die before all your good cells do!
I won’t go into the endless side effects of the treatment or the many drugs I was on, or the dreadful effects on my body, quality of life and of course my partner Julian too.
The reason I’ve decided to make this into an admittedly rather depressing blog, is that I have an important message:
I found this by chance. I was shaving one day and turned my head quite far in one direction and raised my chin upwards. This was the only time you could see a small lump under the skin which once I knew it was there, just felt like a swollen gland, like when you’re feeling under the weather, but only on the one side rather than both. Having already had a health scare because of a lump, I decided to wait a week, and if it hadn’t gone down, I would see my GP.
It didn’t change in size, so almost a week later I was in front of the doctor. Unfortunately, I had to go through the same round of biopsies including one under general anaesthetic, but as they were inconclusive, I had to have a PET CT scan where they inject a tracer which will light up any cancerous cells on a screen. This was the point at which they could see cancer in the base of my tongue in the tonsil area. Luckily, they had not formed a tumour yet so no operation was needed and I could move straight onto treatment.
So, check your body regularly for new lumps and bumps. If you find anything, particularly if it’s not painful, then get it checked out. The doctors told me on both occasions that they have no issues at all with someone being a bit paranoid about that sort of thing as they would rather catch it early if it is something. The first time they suspected lymphoma cancer, but luckily it wasn’t.
Having been told how bad the treatment would be (we had no idea it would be much, much worse than they warned us!!) Julian asked the question – “what happens if we do nothing?”. I was told that if I went back in eighteen months it would have spread around my body and it could be too late. Don’t delay!
I’ve now completed my treatment and had the all clear. It’s not exactly a sigh of relief and just get on with my life. It’s been a traumatic experience and for a while I wondered what sort of life I would have left after cancer. Things have slowly improved since then and I can accept the “new normal”. I will forever have a nagging doubt in the back of my mind about it coming back, either in my throat or elsewhere. I will never be free again and never be the old me again.
We’re trying to live life more now. We are planning to travel more, and have more treats like nice meals out (though eating is no longer the same with a lack of saliva glands and some taste buds), theatre visits and just experiencing life. If I see something I like, I buy it and stuff the cost. We’d like to go out with friends more and just enjoy life whilst we have the health to do so. Nothing is guaranteed. There’s no point dwelling on “what ifs” though – you could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Just live each day to the full.
If The 25 Boutique B&B is on your bucket list and you’ve been thinking about booking up for a while – what’s stopping you? That bucket list can take a while to get through, and if you don’t start now, you may suddenly find a hole in the bucket and things are falling through that you no longer have the time or health to do. I still have so much I want to do and experience so I’m going to get on with it.
We hope to see you soon, and in the meantime – if you have a lump, get it checked!