Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Recently a fellow tongue cancer patient from Norway came across my blog and started an email correspondence with me. Last week he wrote to wish me a Happy New Year and remarked that I had not written anything about New Year's resolutions so all must be as I wish it to be.

Well, not quite.

I actually do have some New Year's resolutions. I haven't actually followed through on them yet. They were to start doing the post-treatment home activities that I am supposed to be doing:

  • Do self-massage of my neck to relieve lymphedema
  • Use my fluoride trays to protect my teeth from decay
  • Do swallowing exercises

To understand my resistance we have to go back to the beginning of the story.

Obviously when I was first diagnosed we were very afraid. But as I learned more and realized that I was probably in a lucky group with a relatively very positive prognosis, I came to view my cancer as a something like a flu that happened to have a very crappy treatment.

[When I said that to my friend Connie, her response was, "It's interesting that we live in an age where we can think of cancer like the flu." Indeed!]

So now fast forward to the recovery period when the doctors told me I had homework to do for the rest if my life.

What? No!

I got over the flu and should now be able to just go on with my life as normal!

Actually, I did go to specialized physical therapy for the lymphedema in December. It was interesting. It involved massage that is so light it's hard to even call it massage. It was quite pleasant: I would lay on a table and the therapist would gently stroke my jaw and neck for half an hour. She also gave me an ace bandage that goes around my head (like bandages on people with toothaches in old cartoons) that applies compression to the area under my jaw and helps push out lymphatic fluid.

It turns out that the lymphedema is not dangerous. Some people find it bothersome. Most of the therapist's patients are breast cancer patients who get lymphedema much worse than mine, in their arms. For them the treatment is more necessary because their lymphedema causes them a lot more discomfort.

So, the consequences of not following through on that one are not serious. Although I did notice a difference after a few therapy visits. Maybe I can teach The Progeny to stroke Dad's neck!

The other two, swallowing exercises and fluoride trays, are not very difficult. Each would take me just a few minutes a day. Maybe just writing about them here will shame me into doing them.

I mentioned my new email friend from Norway. He had treatment similar to mine three years ago, but his cancer recurred last year. From what I understand his prognosis is quite poor. I have also recently come into contact with a younger man with advanced esophageal cancer who was just diagnosed at the beginning of January and also apparently has a poor prognosis (his wife has begun a blog). Both of these contacts have given me pause. They have made me think about my confidence in my "cure", for two reasons:

  1. I want to be sensitive to those whose outlook is not as good as I believe mine to be.
  2. I could also experience recurrence, which I'm pretty sure Wonderful Wife and I would find shattering.

I am appreciating my apparent good fortune every day. In that context, those daily tasks are pretty tiny.

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