Things have been a bit quiet here on the blog and on my social media accounts the last few weeks, and that's because I have had a lot going on in my personal life.
Back in February I found a lump on the left side of my neck, in conjunction with a sore throat, and thought that maybe I just had “swollen glands”. But a few weeks later after the sore throat was long gone… that lump remained. I paid a visit to my internist who thought that it was likely nothing, but decided to send me for an ultrasound of the lump “just to be sure”. And the doctor who read the ultrasound results didn't like what she saw- so she scheduled me for a needle biopsy on my lymph node- a visit that took a few weeks to coordinate due to conflicting spring break vacations (my family's and the doctor's). The needle biopsy would reveal that indeed there was some nasty stuff hanging out there in my lymph node- a carcinoma. But that wasn't where my “problem” was originating. The cancer cells were being drained into my lymph nodes from somewhere else… and we needed to figure out the source.
Next came dozens of appointments- time to form an entire team of doctors to help me figure out what was going on and how we would deal with it. And also lots of scans- a PET scan which detects cancer throughout the body, a head and neck MRI, a spinal MRI, and about a million vials of blood.
And what we learned is that I had a tumor in my throat- hanging out right on top of my left tonsil- and he was the “bad boy” causing me all of these problems. He was the primary tumor that was draining into my lymph nodes. And the weird thing? I hardly even noticed it as there- and I felt completely fine! (Except for my back…. along the way we also learned that I have a totally unrelated herniated disc too!)
Luckily- I live in an area of the country where there are incredible doctors and research facilities doing great work on new types of cancers- like the kind that I have. My local oncologist knew exactly who I should see down at Mt Sinai hospital, and her office even secured me an appointment with “the guy” in a matter of days.
The good news- is that the type of head and neck cancer I have is “highly treatable” with very “favorable outcomes”. That means that once I am done with all of my treatments- I should be fine. And cancer free. That being said- the road to get there can be tough.
Dr Genden scheduled me for transoral robotic surgery of the throat to remove the tumor, as well as “neck dissections” to remove the lymph nodes in both sides of my neck. That surgery actually took place on May 8th- the Friday before Mother's Day. I was in the hospital recovering for three days before they sent me home to spend a week lying on my couch watching bad daytime TV while enjoying a liquid diet of protein shakes and chicken broth bookended by pain meds. Aside from binge-watching “House of Cards” on Netflix, I didn't do a whole lot last week- and it was the first time I feel like I've totally unplugged from the world…. since having babies!
This week I am feeling a whole lot better- I'm even back to driving the kids to all of their activities and making dinner and doing laundry, and trying to live a somewhat “normal life”. I went back to the doctor for my post-op check up, and they were impressed with how well I am healing and how great I look.
And then they called me yesterday with the pathology results. And while it wasn't what I had hoped to hear (“Mrs Rowley- we got it all out in surgery and you are now cancer free.”), it was what I had expected to hear, “Mrs Rowley- the tumor in your throat was removed completely with negative margins all around and that looks great. But some of those lymph nodes on your left side proved to be a problem, and that's what we need to address. With radiation and chemo.”
THAT'S going to screw up my summer.
So after spending a few minutes taking it all in… I got busy with what I do best. Making a plan and tackling the situation head on. I made multiple appointments with radiation and chemo oncologists to determine how much, how long, where, and when. I started letting all of the amazing supportive people in my life know what's going on- my family and my friends who have been so incredibly wonderful with all of their kind words, prayers, and offers to help. And my kids- who have been beyond understanding, and kind, and loving, and who know with all of their hearts- that this is just a moment. That our family will beat this cancer together, and then be done with it and move on to so many other awesome things.
Because this is what I know…. I didn't choose this path. For some reason, head and neck cancer chose me. But what I can choose is how I deal with it. Head on- with firm intention to do whatever I need to do to address these nasty cells, get rid of them, and then move on. Will it be a roller coaster ride with good days and bad days? Of course (Or more likely good hours and bad hours in all of the days). Will I need help from those around me? You bet I will. And I will learn to accept that help with grace and gratitude instead of feeling like that help is “taking away my normal”. (Because cancer is what is taking away my normal!) Will it be brutal? Perhaps. I will be tired and sick and probably lose my hair (And I will be shopping for my “vanity wig” soon! Because hello…. hair!). And that will suck. But it is just a moment of time in my life. A few months of feeling sick, tired, and not myself. And then each day I will start to feel better. And then a new kind of normal will return. One that will still include a lot of follow up doctors appointments and scans and stuff- but I'll be back to a regular life. Just like I am this week after surgery. It's in my future- I just have to get from here to there.
I don't want to be a cancer blogger…. but I suppose I am now a blogger with cancer. I don't intend to chronicle my cancer journey here- perhaps I will do that elsewhere at some point. The type of cancer that I have is “new-ish” and there is not a lot of information online of how a person has handled their diagnosis and treatment- and maybe I can be that person when I am ready. This site- MomOf6 is meant to be a place to share ideas to help Moms become more organized and manage a busy life all while celebrating all of the good stuff that life in a family brings- and I am still passionate about that message! I have tons of post ideas that I am excited to write and I plan to get back to that really soon!
But you are part of my supportive community and I wanted to let you know about what is going on with me.