My cancer was caused by the HPV virus. I hadn’t drunk alcohol or smoked for over 30 years.
The treatment from my multidisciplinary team sent the stage IV cancer in my tonsils, throat and tongue into remission.
For a month I had chemotherapy once a week and radiation therapy 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.
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 20 kg in 6–8 weeks. I lost the capacity to talk for quite a few weeks, and used an iPad to communicate.
But the result made the rigours of treatment absolutely worth the effort. I can talk and 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.
My dentist suspected I had a tumour in my oral cavity during a check-up for a painful wisdom tooth in my lower left jaw. A biopsy confirmed a squamous cell carcinoma. An x-ray, CT scan, ultrasound and PET scan showed the cancer had spread to my lower left jaw bone and the lymph nodes in my upper left neck.
I had surgery to remove the tumour, the affected jaw bone and lymph nodes. Later my jaw was reconstructed with bone from my leg.
I also had radiation therapy to my lower jaw and neck for six weeks. I recovered well. My only ongoing side effect is a dry mouth.
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