Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Going Live and Going West Virginian

Thanks to the prowess of Chris and Samantha, two of my three tech-savvy offspring, this BLOG is about to go from the Beta version to live. And you are here to witness it!

Since Crossing the LD, several events have occurred. On 2 January, National Naval Medical Center Bethesda went on "the great primary tumor search" with me as the unconscious searchee. After 90 minutes of digging, they found and removed polyps in each nasal passage and found the primary tumor, now known fondly as T2N2BM0, Stage 4A.

In the "more than you want to know" department, T2 means the tumor has a diameter greater than 3 cm, N2B means two nodes besides the primary tumor, M0 (zero) means not apparently metasticizing and Stage 4 A is the highest cancer stage but CURABLE. We have chosen to focus on T2's last name, "A."

The tumor, oro-pharyngeal (or throat cancer), is located at the very back end of my tongue in an area known as the vallecula, right next to the epiglottis which sends food and air into differing pipes. In the 1970's this thing would have been known as Deep Throat, for those of you who can still visualize.

Next, all the relevant departments at NMCC had to examine me in prep for the "Tumor Board" which was held on 10 January. Victoria and I went to otolaryngology, medical oncology, oral surgery, radiation oncology, speech therapy, gastroenterology, nutrition, general surgery and others I have forgotten.

We are told this Tumor Board is quite the extraordinary event. About thirty of the senior staff meet with CT, MRI, X Ray, and PET scan results. For several hours, the senior residents of each department present and then the board develops a consensus approach on treatment. The PET scan, searching for tumors anywhere else in the body, reported none - as well as the thankful absence of dogs or cats in my torso. So, I am now a board -certified cancer patient.

Next stop, the dentist... Huh?

It's true. The treatment will be primarily radiation treatment, supplemented by chemo and finally by some clean up surgery.

The radiation will be applied through a mask designed to let multiple weak beams focus on the tumor from differing directions. Many at once is like "time on target artillery" in the military - very powerful. I will have these radiation treatments five days a week for seven weeks. Chemo will be included in week One, Four and Seven.

Because the radiation will pass through some molars which will die, they must come out before treatment begins. If we wait until they die, they can affect the structure of the jaw when extracted, with bad results. So, first the dentists and oral surgeons.

Second, all this radiation is likely to make the area so inflamed and sore that I will not wish to swallow. I must keep trying, lest I lose swallowing and speaking functions due to atrophy. If I cannot swallow, I will have a feeding peg already surgically placed in my stomach with a tube coming outside into which fluid and nutrition can be inserted.

Therefore, next stop on this E Ride is two days from now, Thursday 17 January. Back to NMCC and surgery for teeth out and peg in. Despite our recent move to Ashburn, I promise that I will try not to look too West Virginian - my daughter Samantha's description for those with missing teeth! Radio and chemo begin after surgery heals, on or about 4 February.

Longer than a post should be, but brings you up to date. Prayers continue to be felt and welcomed.

See you on the high ground!

Kernal Ken


teddyp said...

Ken, this is my first time ever responding to a blog, I wish it had been under different circumstances. For a luddite like me this is a big deal. I hope you'll add old golfing and bowling buddies to your list of cheerleaders. You've got a lot of friends in your corner who've got you in their prayers. Teddy

Crazy Granny said...

It will be great to keep an eye on you ken. We are on your side, and you know that you are in our prayers.

Tobi said...

I love that your blog is so heavy on the details. It's great to know and yet somewhat terrifying all at the same time. Now that the doctors have your "target acquired" let's go in "heavy and hot'.

chelsea said...

My prayers are with you and your (as well as mine) family! I know you are a strong and amazing man and know that you can fight through this. It will be amazing to read your blog weekly! Thank you for the amazing, yet scary information that you write so incredibly.
Chelsea Haas
Audrey's Sister

Sue said...

I'm glad you're including all of the medical terminology and the nitty-gritty details. Did you know that my husband Dan got his PhD in Oncological Sciences? He understands all the lingo and medical mumbo-jumbo in your post. And now I feel like I can have an intelligent conversation with him!

TooTall said...

Thank you, Ken, for your update. You have always been a big supporter of mine- through high school volleyball and basketball games to reading my doctoral work. Now it is my turn. You and Victoria are in my prayers! I love you both!

Anderson Zoo Keepers said...

So when do we get to go on the "appreciate the beauty of West Virginia and those who live there" trip with Samantha? Or has the state already banned her? :-)

Love ya! Rangers Lead the Way!


Anonymous said...

Colonel, you and your family are in our prayers! Dan

Hebrews 12:1-3 (New American Standard Bible)
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Unknown said...

Geez Ken,
nothing like leaving a good description. I must say that serves a positive purpose, as most of us stay securely in ignorance. My prayers are with you, ole friend. And may you become much older!

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