Kevin's Dead Cat

After surgery sliced off an entire tumor and 1/3 of my tongue, plus six weeks of radiation therapy, I've been re-learning how to eat, drink, and talk with my newly re-constructed tongue and coping with side effects. But the cancer came back and I don't know what's going to happen next.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Radiation Treatment

I met with the Radiation specialists this morning. Three of them. They poked around my mouth, reviewed the CT scan, and went over the post-op findings. Bottom line: I'll be spending five days a week for six weeks in radiation therapy. Earlier, they had graded the tumor as a borderline 2-3 (from 1 to 4). But after the surgery, they discovered that it was actually a 4. Part of the tumor that was taken out had extended from the original mass enough to cause concern. Dr. Kagan explained that from past experience, they believe that there is a 30% chance without radiation that the cancer will come back. If I go through radiation, the chances will go down to as much as 16%.

As far as side effects, there will be dry mouth because the salivary glands in my mouth will be affected, but the glands in my parietal area (top part of my cheeks) will be left untouched. Because I won't be producing as much saliva, I'll have to take extra care with my teeth, so Monday I'll be at UCLA getting some cavity prevention gear. There will be a diminished sense of taste, but with someone my age, they expect that it will return in about 8 months. The inside of my mouth will have some kind of sunburn type sores, but that's temporary.

Dr. McNicoll and Paula made a guest appearance. Paula told Dr. Kagan I was their star patient, but that's only because I promised to get her and Maria drunk soon. Before Dr. Kagan came in with the verdict, Dr. McNicoll sneaked in the exam room to give me a heads-up on what was coming, just to soften the blow a little I guess. Then Dr. Kagan came in and busted him for elbowing into his turf (they were just kidding).

James asked that since I will be coming in for check-ups periodically forever, is radiation treatment necessary since any tumor that may develop would be caught early. Dr. Kagan said no because it would be in a hidden area, underneath my tongue, which wouldn't necessarily be detected with a periodical, visual exam.

I don't even remember the questions I asked, much less the answers. James assured me that I was fine, at least from the outside. I could feel myself go numb. I honestly woke up this morning believing that there weren't going to be any more surprises, and that the biggest thing on my mind this weekend would be moving.

It didn't really hit me until today that I would be a cancer patient for the rest of my life; that there would never be a typical medical appointment for me again.


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