Just a little background to catch everyone up….
I first went to the Dr in September 2012 with a nasty cough that I did not want turning into bronchitis. While there, the Dr noticed an “enlarged lymph node” but due to my nasty cold, it was not uncommon. Three weeks later, the cough is long gone but the swollen lymph node is still there. So I called and asked them what they wanted me to do and was set up with an ultrasound test. Those results came back inconclusive so next was a CT scan and that came back with “a mass” and was referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor. The timeframe is now late Nov. During his exam, he stuck a tube up my nose and down my throat. THAT was a lot of fun. After the exam, he said he could rule out Hodgkins Disease and lymphoma. Ok…great….wait…what???
The next step was a biopsy. This was done from the exterior and the procedure just happened to fall ON MY 50th BIRTHDAY! “So what did you get for your birthday?” Me: “STABBED IN THE DAMN NECK!”
The results came back on 12/28 and it showed a malignant form of cancer but they weren’t quite sure what kind. The ENT Dr. recommended Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville. It is about 80 minutes from my house
Mid-Jan, we went down there and another round with the ENT, another tube stuck up my nose and down my throat, and during the exam, this ENT discovered that my right tonsil was what was cancerous.
Wheels suddenly were set in motion and within two days I had blood work done, another CT scan, a meeting with the radiology Dr, and another biopsy, this time from inside my throat. (not fun, FYI)The Radiation Dr is Dr Mendenhall. That just happens to be the name of the small town in MS where I grew up. His assistant? Dr McGee. The town of Magee was Mendenhall’s arch rivals in football and was only 10 miles apart. I thought this was hilarious.
The good Dr Mendenhall informed me that while this particular type of cancer was 85-95% curable, the treatment is a bitch. I needed to receive radiation twice a day, five days a week, for six weeks with a dose of chemo thrown in once a week. Oh joy.
So armed with that knowledge, I girded my loins and cinched up my jockstrap and buckled my helmet (get the picture? Are you sure? Enough? Ok.) and resigned myself to getting started. But oh…wait….there is more.
(If I could play the Darth Vader/ Empire music right here for your audio pleasure, I would.)
“Mr Finley? You need to see the dentist.”
Ok…no problem. My teeth aren’t the greatest in the world from chewing tobacco for (mumble mumble mumble) years but I had been going to my dentist for once a month for the past three months and had been correcting some issues.
Soooo…..went down to Shand’s Dental office. One word about Shand’s in Gainesville. It is THE hospital for the University of Florida. Home of Steve Spurrier and Tim Tebow and Emmit Smith. Because it is the UF hospital, what do you think they have? YOU…in the back row? YES…..Students! So the UF dentist asked if it was ok if some students joined her and me, being the all around good guy that I am said sure…no problem. She brought in FIVE students! So when this dentist looked down in my mouth an poked my gums with sharp instruments? They ALL had to.
After the exam, she explained that I had three teeth that MAY need extraction in the next five years. (FIVE…5…V,,,,4+) OK. No problem. Oh but wait..yes there is. Here is a fun fact you can use to share…..because the radiation kills the bad cells, it also kills the good cells…like the red blood cells…like the ones that produce oxygen. So if one of these teeth on the bottom jaw needed extraction after radiation, then the lack of oxygen could be enough to begin necrosis (rotting) in the jaw bone.
So I had two options….one, leave the teeth in there and hope they don’t need extraction in the next five years. BUT IF THEY DO…..then I have to get into a hyperbaric chamber pumping out 120% oxygen for 90 minutes a day, for 20 straight days, then get the tooth pulled, then do it again for 10 more days. It is called “a dive”, based on what deep sea divers have to go through if they stay down too long. It was developed by a dentist in Miami area and has seen great results.
Anyway, those were my choices. So the next day, I had my two back lower molars pulled on both sides of mouth.
Oh…and after all this is over I “get’ to wear fluoride trays (mouth guards full of fluoride) for five minutes a day for the rest of my life AND I get to go visit my dentist FOUR times a year. Yippee!
so…two weeks after that oral surgery, I finally started radiation.
Long story…thanks for bearing with me. I promise the other stories won’t be so long. Well…probably not….pretty sure anyway….