Update On Recovery

Three and a half months post radiation therapy for tonsil cancer.

No more feeding tube! It was removed today. It was a very simple and quick procedure. The Nurse sucked the air and liquid out of the balloon through the little orange valve on the tube with a syringe. Then it just slid right out. There was a little sting but not bad at all. The whole process took less than a minute.

Taste

Since the last radiation treatment my taste has improved considerably. I would say it is probably 80%+ from where it was pre radiation treatment. Fruits and juices taste very sour but are improving. Last week I couldn’t drink orange juice but I had a glass this morning. It was a pretty sour but got through it. I ate a plate of shrimp and scallop fettuccine alfredo from a local Italian restaurant two days ago and it was fantastic. It tasted just as I remembered. A couple of months ago I remember thinking this day would never come.

I can eat just about anything I want now. Tonight I had a chili dog which actually tasted better than I remembered.

Throat Pain

The only issue I have with eating has been that after several bites there is some scratchiness in my throat. A month ago it would be too painful to swallow more than a bite or two of anything, but that has improved week by week. The recovery is slower than one would expect but recovery is happening. With a typical illness or injury you can see improvement day by day. I have learned to measure my recovery from cancer treatment by the week.

I started out about a month ago with a scrambled egg. I could only eat 2 small bites before it was too painful to continue. The next week I ate the whole egg but couldn’t do a second one. Now, I can eat a 3 egg omelet with cheese. I still can’t handle meat in it but will continue adding stuff until eventually it’ll be loaded. Tomato sauces and anything acidic irritates my throat but it’s getting better.

Saliva Production

Saliva production is improving. I still have dry mouth and carry water most of the time but if I forget it it’s tolerable. I still can’t eat anything without a drink at the ready. Foods that are wet or have sauces or gravy are the easiest. Steak is very hard to break down. Chewing a bite of steak, even a good tender cut with a gallon of water, seems to take for ever. It feels like I’m burning more calories chewing than I’m taking in. Eventually my jaws get tired and I move on to something else. It’s just not worth the trouble. Maybe in a few weeks or months it will improve. I hope so because who doesn’t love a good steak.

I have eaten honey barbecue chicken wings this week and managed to get 3 down before the sauce burned my throat. It was definitely worth the pain. Baked fish is probably the easiest meat to eat.

Took a Trip to the ER Last Night

reaction to chemotherapy

Yesterday evening I started experiencing some shortness of breath and coughing. I had a massive headache all afternoon and evening since my chemo treatment. I was drinking plenty of water to make sure it wasn’t dehydration. Took a couple of Tylenol but that didn’t help. When I went to bed I was struggling to inhale. Exhaling didn’t seem to be a problem but I had to make an effort to get air in my lungs. At one point I experienced some fluttering in my chest like heart palpitations. At that time I figured the smart thing to do would be to go to the hospital in case I was having a delayed reaction to the Cetuximab treatment.

May drove and we arrived at the hospital at around 11:30pm. They gave me a saline IV, blood test, EKG, chest x-ray, CT scan looking for blood clots. My blood pressure was elevated 149/90. It usually runs 115/65 so it was a little abnormal for me but not dangerous. Everything else was normal. The RN gave me a steroid shot to help with any inflammation. Within 10 minutes after the shot the headache began to subside and my blood pressure normalized. I don’t know if it was the steroid shot or just the fact that the IV fluids had been going for a couple of hours at this point.

They did another EKG and blood test to see if there had been any change since my arrival but everything was normal. I was released and made it home around 4:30am. We still have no idea what happened. A nurse suggested it could be anything from a reaction to the chemo or Benadryl, to simply anxiety. I was really hoping it wasn’t a reaction to the Cetuximab (Erbitux) because that would mean I’d have to stop treatments and start Cisplatin treatments which I’m told has much harsher side effects.

When I called the Oncologist today to tell them about the trip I explained that I may have overreacted by going to the ER. They said “Absolutely not!” and that these symptoms should be checked out immediately. It could have been very bad, but luckily It’s all good! Feeling great today.