Saturday, June 1, 2013


In 2005 my friend Paul was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer that had spread to his esophagus. Although the survival rate for his combination of diagnosis and stage was quite low, Paul beat the odds and is a healthy dad of three young boys today. Since I figured Paul endured the same types of treatment as I will receive, especially radiation to the neck and mouth, I gave him a call to learn from his experience. In combination with what Big Sister had told me I'm getting a clearer picture of what's coming.

The first two weeks of treatment it sounds I'll feel fairly normal with just some increasing fatigue.

During the middle portion of treatment it sounds like my throat will start to become fairly sore and I may begin to have difficulty eating. It sounds like I will have a feeding tube installed in my torso fairly early in the process so that I can maintain nutrition when I can't swallow. The chemo may start to give me mouth sores.

In the latter portion of treatment I will almost certainly not be able to swallow food during some periods. Paul told me that the mouth sores heal pretty quickly. He had periods when he used the feeding tube interspersed with periods during which he could eat. Ravenously.

Both Paul and Big Sister told me that anti-emetics (anti-nausea drugs) are very good these days if taken according to instructions. So nausea and vomiting should not be a serious issue. That was what I was dreading most: the prospect of vomiting through a destroyed throat.

Paul also said that during his three-week chemo cycles he had a medium week, a bad week, and then a week in which he felt super -energetic and was actually productive.

Both Big Sister and Paul encouraged me to take it one day at a time. Just deal with the challenges I have today - don't worry about what might happen tomorrow or next week.

Big Sister also pointed out that the majority of cancer patients are already physically compromised in one or more ways: lifelong smokers or drinkers, obese, elderly, diabetic, etc. Since I am going into this in a quite healthy condition I may experience less severe side effects.

Both have also put the process in perspective. I will have one bad month and then begin to recover. Over time, that month will fade into memory.

Just get through it and move on.

Editor: Hey, I thought this blog was supposed to be funny? Where's the humor lately?

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