Last week I got a core biopsy on the mass in my neck. The original FNA (fine needle aspiration) biopsy suggested that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes from somewhere else, but it was inconclusive. Additionally, blood tests showed that my hemoglobin IGG level was low – a possible indicator of lymphoma. (I started calling it “Lenny the Lymph Node” because it’s in my lymph nodes)
Friday of last week I had an appointment with my surgeon and he reviewed the biopsy results with me. I have squamous cell carcinoma (“squamous rhymes with “Stamos” so I have been saying I have “John Stamos Cell Carcinoma”). It is NOT a lymphoma. Basically, there is a spot somewhere in my ear/nose/throat that is the primary site for the cancer. It is small – smaller than my littlest fingernail – and as such did not show up on the PET or CAT scans 2 weeks ago. At this time we don’t know exactly where the primary site is located – in medical terms it is “occult,” meaning hidden.
This type of cancer is primarily associated with smokers and heavy drinkers. It’s the throat cancer you get from using chewing tobacco, cigarettes, or heavy, heavy drinking. I have never had a cigarette in my life, drink very moderately, and have never put chewing tobacco anywhere near my mouth. The only other possible culprit is second-hand smoke.
My medical oncologist feels that this cancer is not tobacco-related at all, though. And that’s a good sign in that it’s easier to treat. It’s just one of those unfortunate roles of the dice. He also feels that the primary site is very small in a blood-starved area, which is why it remains hidden.
The type of cancer a person has significantly impacts the treatment plan. Since I don’t have lymphoma the proscribed course of action is as follows:
1. Immediate surgery to remove the cancerous lymph nodes (29th of this month). On the off chance that the cancer has spread to the muscle tissue in my neck, the neck muscle will have to be removed as well. (this will leave me with a slightly deformed neck if that is the case). In either case I will have a wicked cool scar on my neck.
2. Remove my tonsils, biopsy my voicebox, tongue, and throat in an attempt to find the primary site.
3. Recover for 6 weeks.
4. If the primary site is found, immediate targeted radiation on the infected area. If it is not found, broad-area radiation will be the treatment. Hopefully we’ll find the primary because broad area radiation has some possible and uncomfortable side effects.
5. Chemotherapy to “mop up” any possible cancer cells that may have moved through my body.
The surgery will be on September 29th and will be performed at Winter Park Memorial Hospital in Winter Park, FL. I can expect to be in the hospital for 2-4 days. The 29th can’t come soon enough for me. The tumor is growing in my neck and today, for the first time, it is causing some discomfort.
Carey is handling all the logistics around visitations, etc, while I am in the hospital. Please coordinate with her if you want to come by the hospital or the house after the surgery. She is my angel and I couldn’t do any of this without her. If you don’t know her email address then contact me and I will get you in touch with her – she’s my gatekeeper. Only those she lets pass shall be able to. 🙂
Anyway I hope this clears up the mystery and gives everyone a clear understanding of where I am. The prognosis is good that within 5 years I will be cancer free. There are no guarantees in this life, but I am confident that this will be the case. I have excellent medical care and the thoughts and prayers of hundreds of people around the world.