Radiation Begins

I’m strapped onto a motorized table. My hands grip adjustable holds that are meant to help align my upper body to millimeter accuracy so that the powerful, invisible radiation beam hits its intended target: my tumor. Red lasers find my alignment tattoos. My entire head is encased in a custom mask that was molded to my face during my simulation just two weeks ago. The mask is securely attached to this motorized tray, which will immobilize my head and neck.

Me, my mask, and I.
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Holiday Tripping

“I want to go to New York for Christmas,” my youngest announced.

Erin and I have been talking about gifting our boys more experiential things for the holidays, as opposed to more stuff. This year, we finally did it. We have been planning a trip to New York City for Christmas for months. It’s been a lot of fun for us to put this together, all while dropping little clues and hints here and there for months now. Commenting on scenes in famous New York locales, like the Oculus in one of the John Wick movies.

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Medical Oncology

The past few days have entailed my initial consultations with my Medical Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist. They are the dynamic duo that will be attacking my cancer. The doctors said that cancer surgery on the neck area is “morbid” and “very invasive,” and that we are hoping to avoid that option. I shudder to think of what that entails. I’m sure there are YouTube videos on it, but I’m not typing that into the search bar.

I’m coming to learn lots of new jargon through this whole process — if there’s anything I’d like to contribute to modern medicine, is to help improve the communication to the general public. Medicine needs a science translator, its own Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I’ll put my name in that hat after these treatments are over.

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Moley McMolar-son

The pain stabbed through the fog of (local) anesthesia like an intruding sword. And in another split second, it was over. My bottom right molar had long given me trouble, and had been recommended, by more than one dentist, for extraction, with a bone graft and implant to replace it. However I haven’t been in a hurry to spend a couple grand, so I’d been putting this off for a few years.

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Must love PETS

Radioactive sugar solution coursed through my veins from an IV in my right elbow. Cancer loves sugar. Within 45 minutes the sugar would be gobbled up by any cancerous masses within my body, to be detected by a special high-tech machine that would tell me if my cancer has spread, or has stayed in its little nook in my throat.

And now, we wait.

Fun with Medicaid

Medicaid is amazing. We’ve been on Medicaid since April of 2020, just after I was laid-off due to the pandemic. Until I was on it, it was really just something I heard about in news stories — I had no idea of the actual experience of it.

On “Full Medicaid,” our family has paid zero dollars for medical treatments and prescription drugs, of which there have been quite a few. While finding a private practice that accepts Medicaid is tricky, especially in the “nicer” areas of town, the major hospital systems all accept it and for our purposes, it works. We just made sure our pediatrician and PCP all took the coverage and all is well.

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The Great Journey begins

It’s been five days since I was woken from general anesthesia with the news that my sore throat of 6+ months is not just a sore throat.

The words have sunk in. Hypopharyngeal keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma, well-differentiated. A ~3cm mass of mutated cells that have convinced my immune system to ignore them — nothing to see here folks!

As it turns out, at some point the medical oncologist was supposed to have reached out to us in these last five, excruciating days. That would have been nice. The system has failed.

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“It’s cancer.”

Dr. Dobson’s eyes said it before her mask-covered mouth could say the words. Even in my post-biopsy-operative anesthesia haze, the words still hit me like a ton of bricks.

The bright side is, the Dr. explained, my children are safe, this cancer was not hereditary. No, this one was all my doing. A silver lining, however tiny, indeed.

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