Life Goes On After Cancer and Chemotherapy

In another month I will be a 15 year cancer survivor. It took me about 10 years to finally decide that I wasn't going to die. Every time I would bang into something hard, or fall down skiing and nothing broke, I was relieved - bones that didn't break easily meant I didn't have cancer in my bones. For the most part, I no longer worried about every random pain. About 8 months ago, my sister called to tell me that she had to have a biopsy on her tongue! She had a lump on her tongue and had it biopsied almost a year previously and they said it was nothing. But it still hadn't gone away, and it was painful and hurt to talk. This lump was in the same place she had a really bad mouth sore from the chemo and she thought it might somehow be related. More... She told me that it would be a week until she got the results, and she would only call if it was bad. She was concerned, but not overly so, after all it had been biopsied before. A week later, as I saw her name on the caller ID, I picked up the phone with dread. "It's cancer." is what she said. The been-there-done-that only made it worse, because we both knew what to expect, and it was not good. This particular beast was squamous cell skin cancer - skin cancer - on her tongue. The doctor told her that chemo was a possibility, but that radiation was pretty much a sure thing. Having been radiated on our breasts, we both knew what it does to tissue, and the thought of this on her mouth was overwhelming. She was too freaked out to even go and read about this on the internet, but I had to. It was very depressing. I couldn't bear the thought of her having to go through this. The radiation kills all the taste buds, there is a high probability that your teeth fall out and it can disintegrate the jaw bone. I wanted to jump on a plane and go be with her, but she knew I couldn't be away from my business too long, and said she'd prefer I wait and come when she had to do the radiaiton. This tumor was on the side of her tongue, and when she had surgery, they removed 1/4 of her tongue. Her doc told her you can loose a lot of tongue and still have a completely functioning mouth, so he took a lot and got clean margins. Of course they have to check the lymph nodes, so they dug 25 of them out of her neck. The surgeon did an excellent job of hiding the 6" long incision for that in a natural crease in the neck. There was a miniscule amount of cancer in 1 lymph node, and since they got good, wide clean margins, the docs felt that she didn't have to go through radiation. If it had been any other place on her body, they would have recommended it as a precaution, but because of the devastating effects on the face/mouth, they felt it wasn't warrented. Big relief!! She couldn't talk at all for almost a month, and for awhile she talked with a lisp, but now she talks normally. Chemo wasn't called for either, so she just has to get checked once a month for a long time.

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