The treatment from my multidisciplinary team sent the stage 4 cancer in my tonsils, throat and tongue into remission in 2013. My cancer was caused by the HPV virus. I hadn’t drunk alcohol or smoked for over 30 years.
I have to be honest, the side effects of treatment were tough. My capacity to swallow was limited to liquid food for some time, so I lost 20kg over six to eight weeks. I lost the capacity to talk for quite a few weeks. I used an iPad to communicate.
For a month I had chemotherapy once a week and radiation every day. I had to wear a special mask to keep me totally still while the radiation treatment took place.
It is called an ‘immobilisation mask’. The mask keeps you safe by ensuring the radiation is delivered to the precise locations necessary.
I found this aspect of the treatment challenging. I had never seen a mask like this and I had never heard about their purpose. A combination of listening to music, light sedation and support from a psychologist helped a great deal.
But the result made the rigours of treatment absolutely worth the effort. I can talk, swallow and I am back to work and the joy of daily life.
I really recommend asking for help from speech pathologists, nutritionists, psychologists and senior nurses, as well as the medical team. Find a dentist who understands the effects of treatment and get advice for the health of your teeth long term. Tell your trusted family members and friends what you need and ask directly for help. Do everything you can to survive because life is precious and sweet.