This time last year, my husband of 24 years was getting 100% of his nutrition through a feeding tube. What a difference a year makes. If you followed my blog in 2022, you most likely got sick of reading about him being sick. So I won’t go into the whole thing, but only a synopsis since it’s Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. It also happens to be National Fast and Prayer Day. I certainly did a lot of that during Chuck’s treatment.
December 2021 Chuck felt a lump in his neck and had it checked out. It was a swollen lymph node which lead to a tonsil cancer diagnosis. Before Chuck, I didn’t even know that was a thing! He had multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation. The last of which caused so much damage to his throat that he could not swallow his food for some time. It was so hard to watch my otherwise healthy husband drop weight and experience so much pain.
The Lingering Affects of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer
In some ways it’s hard to believe that only a year has gone by. It feels like a distant past since he is now cancer free. As I write this, he is having a check up with the surgeon. I wish I could say that these doctor visits are the only remnant of his cancer left, but treatments changed my husband for the long haul. Although his throat pain is gone, radiation completely altered the environment of his mouth. His saliva glands don’t work well and his taste buds gave up. So his mouth is extremely dry – necessitating that he drink lots of water, especially to help wash down food, and he eats much slower now.
Spicy foods are a thing of the past. I don’t even cook with much black pepper anymore. And proteins are hard. Gravy and condiments hold a special place in my love’s heart now – or should I say mouth? They make everything go down easier. The hardest holdover? He can’t taste anything. His comments after a meal now fall into three categories: “It’s pleasant”, “I can eat it”, and “Let’s not have that again.” He now looks for foods with appealing or familiar textures. Not much fun.
But do you know what is fun? That he’s cancer free, that he doesn’t have a feeding tube, and that he has no pain. So much to be thankful for! And we continue to hold out hope that some of his taste buds will wake up. One of his nurses told him of someone who started to taste again after 3 years!
A PSA for Oral, Head and Neck Cancers
If there is one thing Chuck would want you to be aware of in regards to these kinds of cancers, it is how avoidable they are.
Chuck now preaches vaccines (like Gardasil 9), which have been approved up until age 45. If you are under 45 and have never had one of these vaccines, ask you doctor if it’s right for you (that sounded like a prescription drug ad). And the advertisement is over. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me or contact your doctor. And now for the featured post from last week’s link up!
Having been on both sides of this equation, I know there is some excellent advice in How to Support a Friend with Cancer.
The Link Up
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