Saturday, June 6, 2009

Throat Cancer Advice

Here is a repost of some advice I left a cancer patient named Clifto on several years ago. I found it while checking something else. I am reposting it on the off chance it will help someone somewhere who is about to undergo radiotherapy cancer treatment of the head and neck.

clifto wrote:
> Chris Ness wrote:
>> I had 35 [sic. actually 37] bouts with the mask. It bothered me less than the Amifostine
>> session at the chemo [clinic] before each treatment and its side effects;

> Please tell me about that. Considering how the story changed about my
> chemo treatments to come, I'd like to braced for this in case they
> throw that in too.

I've posted about Amifostine a few times. It was developed to prevent
radiation sickness in Air Force pilots I'm told. Amifostine is dripped 15
to 30 minutes prior to Radiation to prevent damage to to gums, teeth roots
and parotid glands. It's side effects for me were a blood pressure of
90/50. Lightheadedness, dizziness, sometimes nausea and vomiting. I am told
that many people don't tolerate the treatment and don't complete it. I want
to keep my teeth, so I was going to tolerate it no matter what. Another
problem or another solution I don't know which was that since I had a drip
everyday, They would leave the line in my arm for three days at the first
of the week and two at the end. It beat everyday sticks, but it was
uncomfortable. It couldn't be done at the Radiotherapists, it had to be
done at the Chemo clinic up the street. When I would arrive at the RT, I
would be moved to the front of the line and treated almost immediately.
Because of the side effects, there was no way I could drive. But for me it
was all worth it if I can keep my teeth.

>> Clifto though seems to have claustrophobia.

> To extremes. Even panicked out of an "open" MRI. Made it through the PET
> with eyes closed and lots of xanax.
The Mask

>> And about the mask fit don't discount the
>> psychological element here either. You are fighting it. Get control of
>> yourself. You are the key.

I am going to stick with my original advice. I don't/didn't like needles and
treatments any more than anyone else. But I know that others have survived
the treatments and I will too. And you will too. It is a question of
selling yourself on being calm. Remember why you are there and why this is
necessary. Breathe deeply and calmly for a start. Think calm and patient.

> I have no idea where to start. I appear to be as much a wuss as a
> claustrophobe. Just the appearance of my nurse is enough to start the
> withdrawal into myself.

Maybe the withdrawl is your way of meditating?

>> In the grand scheme of things, these treatments
>> are short. Even the radiations effects last much longer and they go
>> anyway eventually too.

To me, in many ways, the two months after the treatments ended were worse
than the treatments themselves. Especialy the first three weeks. The body
is still reacting to the treatments, But you are by yourself. Nothing to do
but slough off the dead tissue, half-way sleep, and heal. No more star of
the treatments and nurses and family interest. Just slogging through
healing. During the treatments you have work. Appointments to keep and
business to attend to. During the healing you have Maury Povich.

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