Dad’s Cancer Journal

Many of you may know that my cross-country trip was cut short a couple weeks ago with the news that my dad was diagnosed with cancer of his tonsils and the lymph nodes in his neck. What I want to do here is document his progress and talk about the tough decisions we are, and will be, making regarding holistic versus traditional treatment.

The final prognosis was stage 4a, poorly-differentiated squamous cell carcinoma of the oropharynx, which has spread from its initial location in the tonsils to the lymph nodes in his neck. Prognosis and treatment recommendations were given by the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, at MD Anderson Cancer Center.  His particular type of cancer was given an 80% survival rate after 5 years.

Recommended treatment from the MD Anderson team consists of seven weeks of radiation five times/week in conjunction with three separated chemotherapy treatments in this period.

The largest downside of this treatment is the likelihood of significant, and life altering, side effects from intensive radiation.  A few of the side effects include needing a temporary or permanent feeding tube, loss of teeth, hospital born infection, loss of hearing, loss of vision, damage to larynx and/or voice box, damage to salivatory glands and/or processes, damage to jawbone, and on and on and on. These potential serious side effects go on for nearly three pages and each carry their own relatively significant likelihood. The likelihood of these side effects and subsequent long term decline of quality of life are the main factors deterring my dad from choosing this conventional treatment. The decision to decline this treatment has not been completely made at this point, but he has decided to hold off on the treatment and simply have his condition monitored while working to fight the cancer’s progress using a holistic treatment approach. I will go into the details of his alternative treatment in subsequent posts.

 

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