Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cancer, huh?

Some of you have probably heard already and some of you maybe not.  But as I live in a small town now everyone out here pretty much knew after I had told about 5 people as I guess news like that spreads like wildfire in a smaller town.  With that came a lot of akward interactions as after a few people heard I could just see the dread in their face.  I stopped telling people after awhile as it just got to be a bit much for me to handle.

The quick version is that the week after the Ironman I noticed a sore under my tongue and assumed it was a canker sore, although to this point I had never had one so was prob not in a position to be determining that.  It didn't go away so it was mid January when I called the dentist to get it looked at and have my teeth cleaned.  A week later I was getting it biopsied by an oral surgeon and 3 days later I got the call.  The call where the doctor told me I had cancer and needed to call x, y, z people asap along with lots of other info that I just didn't absorbed.  That was Feb 3rd and the rest of that day was a blur as I spent it calling doctors to get appointments.  In the end the diagnosis was well differentiated squamous cell carcinoma on the left-posterolateral tongue.  In terms of staging T1N0M0, stage 1.  While I noticed the sore after the ironman the reality is the cancer cells were multiplying there for awhile before I noticed them and I noticed them about as early as you can notice something like this so my doing the ironman did not cause cancer ...

After a few visits to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix I was set for surgery March 2 to have a partial glossectomy (removal of tumor and some margins from the tongue), and neck dissection on the left side of my neck in case the cancer had spread.  Now I really didn't want to have surgery I mean there are risks with every surgery but as the doctor said it's really that small risk versus death.  So some how I was supposed to be less anxious about the surgery because if there were any complications as long as they weren't death I would be better off, I did not like that mentality.  Except for comparing my odds to death I really liked my doctor and I realize he was trying to make me less nervous but saying slurred speech, uneven smile, shoulder twitch, or death just wasn't making things better in my head.

I'm now just short of a week post surgery and as they say I did well.  I still don't understand why doctors say that as I did nothing except sign a consent form.  My doctor did great, surgery was 2-3 hours and went smoothly, they took out part of my tongue and for the most part I'm talking normally and it's still somewhat swollen.  The lymph nodes came out and there was no nerve damage associated with that.  Post surgery was rough as I had what I would call a migraine (felt like someone was driving a railroad spike into my left eyesocket), nausea from the anesthesia and morphine they were giving me.  There was a lot of dry heaving (thankfully not vomit as with my tongue as swollen as it was I feel it would have just gotten stuck in my throat) and all around misery for a few hours.  Once I was switched to percocet things got much better.  It wasn't till Sunday afternoon that I was released from the hospital so I was going insane as it was so boring there and I was able to walk around freely as they were just waiting for my neck drains to slow down.

My neck/face are still pretty swollen, I can't move my head freely so it's always stiff/sore.  In another week I should be able to run so all things considered I feel very lucky.  Lucky to have caught this so early, have a great doctor, and a great support team.  Thanks to everyone for the care packages, flowers, and good thoughts they were very helpful in this not so fun time in my life.  Hopefully the worst of it is behind me and the next 5 years of checkups will go without a hitch.  Just remember sometimes cancer strikes for no reason so if something seems odd go get it checked out by a doctor.

http://www.handlebarsandwich.com/03/07/2011/heavy-shit   (if you want some pictures of my hospital stay, neck drains, etc, nathan has some posted on his blog)

In other news, looks like Ryan Hall will be talking to our team run flagstaff tomorrow night to answer questions and sign copies of his new book.  Any questions I should ask him?

1 comment:

  1. Claire bear! Thanks for the update and so pumped to hear you're doing well. Keep on plugging and get those running shoes on soon. Jen and I are so excited to come out there and see you.

    Ask Ryan Hall who would win a race: Jesus or Fergie?