Standing Up to Cancer: Nine Days Into Treatment
As you may be aware, this body has been going through a fourth bout of cancer. I’ve had head and neck cancer and this time it’s more extensive and I need radiation and chemotherapy in addition to surgery. I had cancer surgery January 2015 and depending on how treatments go, I may need another surgery. Part of the reason I agreed to chemotherapy (I was initially resistant to the idea) is because I wanted to do everything possible to avoid another surgery as it would be extensive involving 1/3 of my jaw, the roof of my mouth and more. That said, I started treatments last Monday.
I started sharing my cancer journey via a video series https://www.youtube.com/user/tandyelisala and thought it would be helpful to write about how things are going. If you or someone you know is going through head and neck cancer, I hope this helps.
I recognize everyone is different and the experience will differ. Here’s my day-by-day experience thus far:
Day 1 radiation: I didn’t feel or notice much
Day 3 radiation: I felt twinges of pain/burning and started noticing facial redness
Day 4 radiation: The left side of my face started swelling up pretty good
Day/week 1 chemo: I noticed nausea, exhaustion, some dizziness and loss of appetite
Day 5 radiation: I noticed more redness around the face, cheek and neck
Here’s the latest video: https://youtu.be/3g8lYNlWxEo
Day 6 radiation: I noticed sores developing around the mouth
Day 7 radiation: More sores started developing in and around the mouth and everything seems to have a metallic taste. I am working harder to get enough water to stay hydrated because of the taste.
Day 8 radiation: My radiation oncologist said I am losing weight too quickly. I didn’t see a problem with it. He mentioned that if the contour of my face changes too quickly that it would be more difficult to deliver radiation to the right areas. I am finding it more difficult to eat solid food. Soft foods are slowly becoming too difficult due to the sores in the mouth and the metallic taste. I’ve started using my GI feeding tube.
Day 8 /week 2 chemo: My appetite was good on chemo day (except when I almost threw up during treatment) and noticed continued nausea, exhaustion and loss of appetite. I also noticed it’s harder to swallow with a sore throat and I have a dry mouth. I also noticed more sores – ugh. My mouth and tongue are white throughout. My lips are starting to hurt, too.
Day 9 radiation: I am tired and starting to feel constant pain on the left side of my face.
I have fairly light skin and expect to feel the burning. Thus far, the pain has been more on the inside of my mouth. I’ve been using Aquaphor pretty liberally on the outside of my face; which has helped keep my face moisturized. I also use ice chips to help numb the areas; although cold things tend to make me nauseated so it’s a double edge sword.
I’m doing my best to keep my spirits up and take care of myself through this process. All in all, we’re down week two and I look forward to the journey ahead.