It’s been 5 months since my last radiation treatment. I wouldn’t say I’m one hundred percent but I’m closer to one hundred percent than I thought I’d ever be just a few months ago, so that’s great. I’ve been back to work for 7 weeks and started lifting in the gym for the first time in 3 years. My taste is steadily improving and the throat pain is gone. I still have dry mouth but ACT lozenges and my ever present bottle of water help with that.
About 10 days ago I noticed a hard lump on the left side of my neck. It felt similar to the lymph node that started this whole ordeal 10 months ago. I already had a visit with the ENT Dr. Huang scheduled for today so I figured I’d just wait and ask him about it when I saw him.
Over the past week I’ve constantly been checking the new intruder to see if I could detect any changes. It appeared to be getting smaller. Also when I first noticed it, it was painful. It is no longer painful and got noticeably smaller which was encouraging.
At my checkup today I asked Dr. Huang about it. He checked it out and said it was actually swelling in my carotid artery. He was certain it’s not a return of cancer and said it’s nothing to be concerned about. He felt that it was probably caused by my constantly self checking my neck. I’m always checking my neck for anything unusual since the original diagnosis of cancer in the lymph node. Apparently I’ve developed a habit of feeling my neck which has irritated it and caused the lump. His advice to me was simply “Stop playing with it”, which got a juvenile chuckle out of me.
I guess for a while it will be normal to expect the worst every time there’s a lump, unexplained cough or anything else out of the ordinary. I was never concerned about these things back when I thought “It can’t happen to me”. Now that I realize it can, everything appears to be a threat. Hopefully this will ease up over time but for right now, it’s all still pretty fresh in my mind and hard to ignore.
Everything went well at my visit with Dr. Huang and I’m still cancer free.
It has been 10 weeks since my last radiation treatment. I guess it was overly optimistic of me to think that I’d be back to normal by now. I do feel much better and have more energy and fewer episodes of fatigue. I’m also maintaining my weight with the help of a feeding tube, although I’m 20 lbs lighter than when I started treatments. Things are definitely improving but at a much slower pace than I had hoped.
I have much of my taste back but textures of foods feel all wrong. My throat gets very irritated if I try to swallow any food. It’s also very difficult to get anything other than liquids down. It feels like my throat has shrunk and it takes a lot of water to help it down due to lack of saliva production. I’m starting to eat more but the throat pain limits my intake.
I need to be able to eat enough to maintain my weight without supplementing with the feeding tube so I can finally have it removed. It’s strange how some things taste exactly like they did before but now are not enjoyable at all. I don’t have cravings for anything anymore. I can’t wait to start enjoying food again, eat full time and lose the tube.
When this started I was strongly opposed to getting a feeding tube. Now I realize I couldn’t have made it through this without it. It allowed me to pump in all of my calories and nutrition which made healing possible. It really hasn’t negatively impacted my daily activities. As long as I tape it down good, so it doesn’t get snagged on anything, it doesn’t get in the way.
I saw the ENT last week who said that everything looks good and is healing normally. I’m scheduled for a PET scan on November 14th. This will be at 12 weeks post treatment. Hoping all goes well with that! I’m really looking forward to getting back to work. I’m so lucky to work for a great company. The management and my fellow employees at Frye-Williamson have been super supportive. I can’t thank them enough.
I feel like I’ve turned a corner. The burns on my neck are starting to heal but still there, my throat is not as sore as it was but still uncomfortable. I feel much better than last week. I have good days followed by bad ones which is weird. It’s more of a two step forward one step back type of progression. It is slow. The improvement from one day to the next isn’t noticeable but week to week it is.
last week I put salt in my mouth to see if I could taste it. I followed that with sugar. I couldn’t taste either of them. They both tasted like I had sand in my mouth. I did it again today and the taste was very faint but I could definitely tell the difference between them. This is really exciting. The sooner I can start eating, the sooner I can get rid of the feeding tube and start getting back to normal.
Treatments are over but the burns seem to be getting worse along with the way I feel. I’m told I just need to tough it out for a couple of weeks and I’ll turn the corner and notice some improvement. It can’t come fast enough.
Officially on a liquid diet consisting of Ensure and water. I haven’t eaten anything since the hotdog on July 4th. Everything tastes awful. Even water tastes like it’s full of rust. The nausea has been intense. Keeping anything down aside from water or Ensure has been impossible.
I read about something called Miracle Fruit or Miracle Berries. They are berries that enhance your tastebuds. There are reports that they have been helpful to cancer patients taking chemo and radiation. People say they temporarily mask the metallic taste and enhance foods natural flavors. This helps patients eat while going through treatments. I was encouraged by this and ordered some. They arrived today and I couldn’t wait to try them.
I noticed a slight change in the taste but all in all it didn’t work for me. The improvement was not nearly enough for me to eat more than half a bite of anything. I’m not saying it doesn’t work but it definitely didn’t work for me.
Chemo went pretty well today until I got finished and threw up in the parking lot for 20 minutes. I only have 2 left which gives me something to look forward to.
The radiation is already doing some damage. I feel like there is a huge lump in my throat. When I swallow it feels like I’m swallowing a Globstopper. It’s getting pretty painful and I’m not yet half way through. I can’t imagine how bad it will get after 18 more treatments.
I never realized how much I took the sense of taste for granted until I lost it. I crave things, remembering what they used to taste like but knowing it would taste horrible if I tried to eat it. I loved settling in on the couch on a Saturday evening with a plate of Mays’ homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven and a tall glass of milk. Chocolate now tastes awful. I can only hope that over the coming months and years my taste comes back so I can enjoy these simple pleasures again.