Yesterday I was reviewing all I’ve been through in the last 18 months, mentally forming the time line into a glass sphere, like a Caithness paperweight, and holding it up to the light, twisting and turning it to look at it from all angles and I found a view that startled me. Caithness Glass
The cancer was a threat, there is no question about it. But the effects that I am still feeling and will carry with me for life are a direct result of the treatments and NOT the actual cancer. The scale of the trauma to my body to treat a small tumour lodged in a tonsil seems all out of proportion. It seems sorta like trying to control dandelions with Agent Orange, pruning roses with a chain saw or swatting mosquitoes with a sledge hammer. The optics are just so extreme!
With the cancer at the time of diagnosis, I had one single swollen lymph node. My throat got a bit irritated if I spoke for too long. And that’s it. It was the treatments that really made me unwell for the better part of a year.
There was the time lost to the surgery and the protracted healing, followed by the chemo and radiation therapy which kept me physically ill for the better part of 4 months and in a weakened state for the better part of a year. The treatment approach cost me a tooth, and a split jaw, and a tiny plate to hold it all together again, not to mention the facial and neck scars. The use of my tongue continues to be a chore, and eating is just a bore because of the effort and the reduced taste sensations. I lost most of my saliva glands to the radiation treatment and now have an ongoing challenge with dry mouth syndrome. I can’t grow a full beard because of the radiation, yet I feel that I must maintain my goatee to hide the scar.
My hearing is diminished because of the cysplatin chemotherapy, and I’m getting really tired of the little glockenspiel player that accompanies my tinnitus.
My right shoulder still has areas of numbness, tends to roll forward, and always feels ‘tight’ because of the damage done to the controlling nerves when removing lymph nodes from my neck. My left forearm is significantly scarred and my left hand is weakened by the forearm flap. And my left thigh has an oddly symmetrical scar from where they took skin to overlay the left forearm damage.
So when you look at it all in a certain light, you really do start to wonder if the medical community can’t find a slightly less invasive set of treatment protocols. So much damage for such a small thing.
And then when you consider that the same tumour is capable of wreaking enough havoc in the body to kill 21% of the estimated 35,720 new cases expected in the USA in 2009, maybe the full body trauma isn’t quite so extreme.