Monday, May 7, 2007

Background - Where it Began

I had been thinking of writing a blog ever since I was diagnosed with Head and Neck cancer on April 29, 2005, just over two years ago. It has been a tough journey. I'll try to keep the background brief and factual so as not to dwell on the past. In October 2004, I had a growth removed from my groin area. I had the results sent to MD Anderson. It was diagnosed as a mild form of Sarcoma. The surgery was minor and I had check ups every few months, but didn't think much of it. In December of 2004, I had a severe flu-like sickness. It lasted two weeks. Over the next few months, I noticed my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck were swollen. Antibiotics didn't help to get rid of them. On April 29th 2005 I had a fine needle aspiration procedure performed... 3 minutes later I was told I had Cancer. My life changed as well as that of my wife and to some extent our daughter. Since mid-2005, I have had radiation treatment (35 times over a 6 week period), 5 surgeries, and am currently in my 4th round of intense chemo. My Squamos Cell Carcinoma (SSC) cancer has recurred 3 times.

I continued to work (I was a management consultant traveling extensively, working with Forture 100 executives) through radiation and chemo up until my last major surgery on July 13, 2006. On that day, they did a mandible resection. They removed my left lower jaw bone (and 4 teeth) and repaced it with an 8-inch piece of titanium. On top of the titanium, they placed a piece of my tibia (bone from my leg). They also replaced an area roughly 7 by 2.5 inches of cancer-infected tissue within my throat. The muscle and tissue needed for the "replacement parts" were taken from my lower leg. They grafted skin from my upper leg to cover the surgery from my lower leg. The surgery took 12 hours. I was in ICU for another 2 days and the hospital for a additional 8 days. My doctor told me that I had a 0% chance of living more than a few months without the surgery and only 15% chance of being cured with the surgery. It was a tough decision. Just before the surgery, two of my siblings (and their families), my wife and daughter, and I went on a once-in-a-lifetime trip sailing around the Aeolian Islands off the coast of Scicily for a week and visited Paris for a few days. I decided that I didn't want to miss my daughter growng up or lose seeing my family. It was not until I had a long talk /walk with my daughter from the Left Bank back to our hotel that I made the decision to have the surgery on the last day of our trip.

At this point, the surgery has extended my life by, I'm guessing, at least 9 months. I had no evidence of disease from July to December 13 2006 when a PET and CT scan showed new tumors in three areas of my neck. I was hoping to go back to work in January 2007, but that changed with the new diagnosis. I began a new chemo cycle on December 20th. It's side effects were so intolerable that it put me in bed for 6 out of the next 7 weeks. That chemo was a cure worse than the disease and was stopped in late January to let me recuperate. In March, I began a new 6-week chemo cycle. I'm now on my second 6 week cycle. IV drugs are delivered each week and I take a daily chemo pill---Tarceva. On my last scan two weeks ago I only showed one tumor in the right side of my neck and it had shrunk by 50% from the previous scans. I believe there is other cancer still in my body, but it is not concentrated enough to show up on the scans.

That brings me to where I am today. I plan to write a few more general entries before getting into a daily update.

1 comment:

Millie said...

ED, It was good to read your story and know how strong you are in accepting (and fighting) the hand dealt to you. I already knew this from your dad and from Frannie. If indeed you didn't know it before, you are lucky to know now how much your family loves you. Naturally I can't help but think about your mom and the love she engendered in so many others and particularly in me.
Leonard and I wish you well in this fight to survive.
By the way, your dad sent me (and probably many others) a very happy report of his lasr visit with you.
We are well and glad to be in NYC close to Josh and his family - as you amply detail, family is super important.
Much luck