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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Raising Awareness: Head and Neck Cancer

Early during the month of December in 2013, my father was at a Christmas carol sing and was happily caroling away, until suddenly his voice was gone.  There was warning signs prior that something evil was brewing , but no one paid much attention to it.  His voice had become hoarse and raspy over the previous months, but was dismissed as simply getting an "old man voice".  However, the sudden loss of voice prompted him to seek attention at his general practitioner.

By Christmas 2013, he was being told that he had a tumor in this throat and to be prepared for some treatments to begin in the new year.

It was a shock to all of the family.  We had been relatively untouched by the disease until this point.   But, we were about to have a rude awakening.

Head and Neck is the sixth most common cancer worldwide

My Dad underwent seven weeks of radiation treatment and two chemotherapy treatments.  He was supposed to take three rounds of chemo but was not able to withstand three.  Before they began treatment they first removed all of his remaining teeth.  He still doesn't have any teeth as he says he's apprehensive to put that kind of money into something that he might not be here long to enjoy.    We don't know the cause of his throat cancer for sure, but he was a smoker for many years, and it was also offered that spending his working career as a teacher may of been a contributor.  (over-use of his voice)  There is no solid connection between using your voice and the risk of throat cancer, but it was a possible suggestion.

My Dad took his treatments at the London Regional Cancer Center.  Sadly, every day we were in there it proved to be one very busy place.  He received and is continuing to receiving (on-going) exceptional care.  Even though it is a very busy place, he never felt rushed through his appointment and if he had questions, there was always someone available to point him in the right direction.  We found that the Canadian Cancer Society to be an awesome resource, too.

Signs and Symptoms of laryngeal cancer

We didn't realize that the persistent hoarseness of his voice was a sign that something was wrong, yet, now if his voice suddenly goes hoarse, we take note and tell him to keep a close eye on it.

  • hoarseness lasting longer than a few weeks
  • changes in the voice or weakness of the voice
  • sore throat lasting longer than a few weeks
  • feeling that something is stuck in the throat
  • difficult or painful swallowing
  • cough
  • ear pain
Thanks to modern technology and treatments  my Dad is currently considered cancer-free in his throat.  He is followed closely by his medical team and knows to carefully feel is throat daily for any sign of the tumor re-growth.  He is defiantly one of the lucky ones,  as this type of cancer has a 50% survival rate.

He has not been left unscathed by head and  neck cancer.  In addition not to having teeth, he is also living with hearing loss, especially on the side he took the radiation.  They also withstood the financial burden of having to undergo cancer treatments, which is difficult to those who live on fixed incomes.  

Grow a beard: grow awareness

During the month of January, participants are growing a beard to raise awareness and funds for Head and Neck cancer.  Find out more by checking them out on facebook.

Find out more about Head and Neck cancer by visiting the Canadian Cancer Society

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