Three Years Out

It’s been approximately three years since I’d been diagnosed with Head and Neck Cancer, or Squamos Cell Carcinoma due to HPV of the head and neck. I had one of many follow-ups with my ENT a couple weeks ago and we’re now going to move on to a four month check up schedule instead of a three month schedule. Likewise, I had my blood and radiation oncologist visits back in September, and we’re now on a yearly check-up rate with them.

How have things been?

Good question, that’s the problem with memory, most people don’t tend to think about things, even when they’re in the forefront, such as how things taste. After I was able to eat again some things didn’t taste right. For instance, candy tasted horrible, very fake. Which isn’t a big shocker if anyone has looked at the ingredients of candy lately. However, like with most things, eventually that weird taste went away, or maybe I started to accept it for the taste that it was, I dunno.

Likewise, the taste of alcohol. I have several nice bottles of bourbon/whiskey/whisky/scotch that I can’t really enjoy any more. However, some things, like Louis XIII de Rémy Martin are quite enjoyable. I also really enjoy the taste of IPAs over other types of beers as well. Although Guinness is still good in my book too.

The above really just covers taste, which is part of it, after all, your face is blasted with radiation, your taste buds get killed off and they have to start anew.  I work with a guy whose wife had something similar, same radiation to the face, and she wasn’t able to enjoy the super spicy foods that she use to once enjoy.  From what he told me it took a while for her to build up her tolerance to it, and I would say it’s the same with me…although I’m not racing to the forefront to get that tolerance back, but I enjoy some not-so-super spicy things still, but when they get really spicy, I’ll tend to bow out.  What this means is no Chicken Vindaloo for me 🙁

It’s more than just taste though, and this is something that none of my oncologists, ENTs, nurses, physical therapists told me.  I get short term cramps in my neck/jaw area.  I can usually feel them coming on, they don’t stay around for long, I attempt to flex the area that they’re in to help them move along but it’s not always successful.  I really makes me worry that it’s degenerative in nature, and will only get worse as time goes on.  Maybe I need to get a Neck Machine that I won’t end up using like my other machines/weights.  There’s also the issue of my jaw and my mouth.  I can’t open it as wide, and going to the dentist can be a bit of a pain.

My ENT has mentioned that the muscles around that area are …. I can’t recall the word he used, it’s not quite ossified, but essentially hard and not pliant like muscle usually is.  I do stretch out my neck, I don’t have a routine or anything, just when I’m thinking about it.  But it does make me worry a bit for what the future may hold, having had thoughts of needing a neck brace to hold up my giant head, etc.

Really, at this point, other than the neck/jaw cramps on occasion, I don’t really notice any differences.  The doctors have all agreed that I’ve responded especially well.  ENT has mentioned my saliva looks good, even if I do think I run dry every now and again after doing a lot of speaking, but he meant more in the generation of saliva.  I do use a Fluoride based toothpaste, 1.1% fluoride. Other than that, not much is different for me, three years out, than it was before I had the treatment.

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