Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Diagnosis

Today Angela and I met with a team of physicians at Cancer Care Manitoba. They met in the morning for a 'case conference' where different experts in their respective fields (Radiation, Dentistry, Surgery, Chemo, etc) would discuss my case and offer a plan of attack.

Dr. Kerr, the ETN surgeon, explained the 'big picture' to us that afternoon:
A biopsy that was taken the previous week showed that I indeed have cancer in the base of the tongue. Unfortunately is advanced further than they would like it to be. At this point is would be labeled 'Stage 3' (Stage 1 the least, Stage 4 the most advanced diagnosis). For that reason they felt that removing the cancer surgically would not be a good option as I would be left without proper speaking or swallowing functions. Their recommendation was to try to eradicate the cancer with a combined treatment of 7 weeks-daily radiation (15 minutes each session) and chemotherapy.
After Angela asked what the assumed survival rate might be, he, after asking me if I would like to know, said 50% for three years. Strange to hear that.

That day I was also examined by the Cancer Care's dentist who explained to me that the blood supply in my jaw would very likely die out due to the strong radiation. This in itself might not be a long term problem, but if I should need to have a tooth pulled in 20 years from now my jaw might not be able to heal itself and get infected. If there are any teeth that might potentially proof problematic in the future, they would have to be pulled now as a precaution. She concluded that 4 of my right side back teeth should be pulled ASAP. Needless to say that came as a shock to me. They arranged an appointment with my dentist for Tuesday the 9th. I am definitely not looking forward to that one.

I was also fitted for a upper-body cast that would keep my upper torso completely still and in the exact same position during the radiation treatment. That way they would be able to aim the ray gun at the exact point that they choose. A large sheet of warm plastic was pulled over my face and through suction, took the shape of my chest and face. After that I was literally screwed to the table with it and they took a test scan. Cool.

It was explained to us that the preparations for the radiation treatment would take 14 days. So, now we would have to wait and hope that things would progress swiftly.

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