Throat Blog — The Tumor Strikes Back

Well, I had a hard time selecting a title for this post. In addition to what I ended up choosing, choices were:

  • Return of the Tumor
  • The Tumor Menace
  • Attack of the Tumor
  • Revenge of the Tumor
  • The Tumor Awakens
  • The Last Tumor
  • The Rise of the Tumor

The only Star Wars title reference I could not fit in was “A New Hope.” I suppose, “A New Tumor” might have worked…but this is the same old tumor.

Got the official news while waiting for my flight back from San Diego that the mass in my neck is a return of the cancerous tumor, and not the fanciful bon bon we’d thought it might be. Looking at my old CT scan from last August, I suspect that the tumor never actually went away…it just got a lot smaller. What everyone thought was post-radiation necrosis and cyst, was really the tumor lurking and ready to pounce. In December, it pounced, growing large enough to start affecting my swallowing.

Now, it is as big or bigger than it originally was. This time around, it seems my options are limited to surgery, which will involve the complete removal of my larynx. No more breathing through my mouth or nose. I have two pre-surgical appointments this coming week (one with the primary surgeon and one with a reconstructive surgeon), then I expect surgery to be scheduled for the following week.

Functionally, my throat has degraded quite a bit in the last couple of weeks. Seems I had the g-tube put in just in time, as just a week later I got to where I was completely unable to swallow without major aspiration risks. Well, those risks are mitigated by having almost no airway, but still too much to risk. So, I am on 100% g-tube feeding. I can only inhale through my trach tube. If I cap it, I can just barely pull in some air, but not enough to call it breathing. I can exhale with a lot of force, but it isn’t comfortable, so I’m mainly leaving the trach tube open.

In San Diego I was slated to give 3 or 4 one- to two-hour training sessions on using radio scanners at remote locations for logging and monitoring. In attendance were multiple federal, state, and local agencies…primarily public safety and Homeland Security. I took with me one of my primary beta testers, Joe, so that he could fill in if/when my voice gave out, and I am really glad that I did that.

The first session, I did nearly 100% of the talking. Oh, and I can talk by capping the t-tube either with my finger or using a 1-way valve (lets me breath in normally but closes when I exhale so that air goes up to my mouth…I can squeeze out words by tightening my throat). At the end of that session, I was hurting a bit. That night I was coughing up my normal mucus but found that it had little threads of blood (not major hemorrhage, just noticeable threads). I also had to resort to taking a 10mg Vicodin to get to sleep. The agent who organized the conference had attended and asked afterword if I had overdone it. I replied without hesitation “Absolutely.” Went back to my hotel room to “work.” Actually slept for 3 hours.

Day 2 I spoke less, but still quite a bit. I just can’t seem to shut up. Also, while I had a PowerPoint outline of the material, a lot was in my head and not on paper. Joe covered it all quite well, but I still felt the need to interject thoughts now and then. I would have probably talked more, but it did get to where I just couldn’t get any sound out, so relented. As this presentation was in the afternoon, I had gotten my nap in in the morning. But, by the time I got back to the room, got my nutrition, and settled in, I was ready to make an early night of it.

Day 3 we had 2 morning sessions scheduled. And, my boss (America Division President) had also flown in to check out the event. So, I pretty much did the intro, but then turned 90% over to Joe. This ended up being more of the hard-core technical users, so we had quite a few suggestions coming in. Gave my work email address to the main interrogators so that they could organize their suggestions and send by email. Just no way for me to properly consider and respond in the time frame we had (even with a voice). My boss was quite impressed with the exposure we got from this event…even though it was only 30-50 agents/officers/techs, these guys are hugely influential in terms of what decisions multiple federal, state, and local agencies spend their money on for communications gear. Despite the physical discomfort/drain, I am very glad that I was able to direct and participate in the event.

All week though, I had awaited word on the biopsy results (really already knowing unofficially what they would be). Got the call from my surgeon (on his day off) while I was in the airport waiting area near my departure gate. Immediately sent emails to cancel my trip to Pennsylvania next week. Also cancelled my appointments at MD Anderson. The MD Anderson trip was predicated on the mass being a non-cancerous post-radiation cyst. Being cancer, that premise was blown. And, surgery is the only option.

ISo, I’m looking ahead to several (3-4) weeks in the hospital followed by a 1-2 month home convalescence (holy cow, I spelled that correctly first try). I’ve had my hospital bag packed for a couple of weeks, knowing that this day was coming. Also got my quiet guitar, some study material, and of course my Android Slate so I can read, surf, and whatnot without having to pull out my laptop (which I’ll also take).

Above, I said “looking ahead” because I’m definitely not looking forward to this. At the same time, I want it done as soon as possible. The longer it is left to itself, the bigger it gets (and the bigger the complications become. If they could schedule it tomorrow, I’d go.

My June trip to Nashville will also be a victim of the tumor. Already paid for myself and my guitar buddy to attend. I’ll get part of that back, but I’d much rather be there.

Ok, enough of this, for now. I’ll leave you with a hearty “May the 4th be with you.” Or, maybe my favorite Yoda-ish misquote:

Backwards you too would speak if laid you had not been in 600 years.


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