Symptoms of Throat Cancer may not always be obvious! I don’t say that to scare anyone, but in my case they weren’t.
There is a wonderful happy ending here, so keep reading.
It’s hard to show exactly how good things can be without telling about the rough times.
I’m sharing because I know there are so many who have similar stories. I know I liked to hear that I wasn’t alone and that there was hope for a bright future.
I’m so glad that we caught my cancer when we did and that I got the treatment.
For those of you who have symptoms of throat cancer, or mouth cancer, maybe some of this will be good information for you. For those of us who have made it through – Well Done!! Read on for some other encouragements!!!
Cancer sucks! There’s no doubt about it.
Hi, I’m Tina. I’m a cancer survivor. I want to tell you a little bit about my story so you will see why I am so determined to help others who have similar issues.
My Symptoms of Throat Cancer:
Just 6 weeks after giving birth to my third child, I went to my post -natal check up. I had been doing great, but it was January and the stuffy nose and sniffles were common. I had them too.
As my doctor did his check-up he asked about my cold. I said it was just a stuffy nose and that I felt fine. He checked my neck and felt a slight swelling the lymph node on the right side of my neck. He was not really worried because that is part of what lymph nodes are supposed to do – catch the germs. So, he made another appointment for me to come back in a few weeks just to see if the cold was getting better.
When I went back my doctor got a little more concerned. They lymph node had not gotten any smaller. It was slightly larger. This time I got the antibiotics to help me fight off this germ. And another follow-up appointment in a couple of weeks.
The follow-up appointment this time made my doctor’s eyes get a little darker with concern. The lymph node was not responding right. It seemed that I was not getting better.
So, now my doctor sent me to a surgeon for his opinion. The surgeon checked it out, wasn’t terribly concerned, but put me on a different antibiotic and made another follow-up appointment.
This time there was a problem. The lymph node had gotten larger and a lymph node in the left side of my neck was swollen as well. Now it’s time for a biopsy of the right side lymph node.
Result – I had cancer. It was strange to hear. I didn’t have much for symptoms of throat cancer. There was no pain. I was not having trouble swallowing or talking. I went completely numb trying to take in all of the information.
Nasopharyngeal Cancer Stage IV.
According to the National Cancer Institute – “Nasopharyngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the nasopharynx” (see image below). Here’s some information from the National Cancer Institute to help explain what nasopharyngeal cancer is:
Stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer is divided into stages IVA, IVB, and IVC.
- Stage IVA: Cancer has spread beyond the nasopharynx and may have spread to the cranial nerves, the hypopharynx (bottom part of the throat), areas in and around the side of the skull or jawbone, and/or the bone around the eye. Cancer may also have spread to one or more lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck and/or to lymph nodes behind the pharynx. The affected lymph nodes are 6 centimeters or smaller.
- Stage IVB: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes between the collarbone and the top of the shoulder and/or the affected lymph nodes are larger than 6 centimeters.
- Stage IVC: Cancer has spread beyond nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.
Click here to see the rest of the Article about Nasopharyngeal cancer from the National Cancer Institute
“You’re going to make it…”
I was told it was a very rare form of cancer for me, “a 35 year old white female who never smoked or did woodworking”.
It began in the scar tissue where my adenoids and tonsils were removed when I was young, and it had spread through my squamous cells and lymph nodes. I would have to have 39 radiation treatment and lots of chemo therapy. The doctors told me that it was quite advanced. I remember them saying “You’re going to live through this, but you will go through hell to get there.”
I had full radiation and chemo treatments, and many hospital stays. I had a g-peg feeding tube for several months because my throat was so burned and swollen that I could not swallow. My vocal chords were burned which took my voice for a while.
It was not a fun year of treatments. I figured out what the doctors meant by their statement of “going through hell to get there”. Many times I was very sick. I spent week long “visits” to the hospital. One night I almost died and my husband received that dreaded phone call of, “She’s gone non-responsive. Get here NOW!”
So many helped my husband care for our three young children and for me. I am so grateful to God that he blessed me with such wonderful doctors and nurses who helped me through treatments that took this terrible cancer away. I had so much support from my family, church, and all of my friends, and…the cancer was gone.
I was taught that I should expect recovery to be slow. Over the years I met many specialists. Some helped me get my voice back, at least to a certain extent.
I also began to tolerate eating ice cream. Who knew you can live on ice cream for years?!
I was thrilled when I was able to swallow some other foods again too!
Unfortunately, things began to go downhill again. The cancer was still gone but I started aspirating a lot. I had pneumonia so many times.
Swallow studies showed that my esophagus was too burned and my swallow process was extremely damaged. It was acting like a funnel, channeling everything down into my lungs instead of down to my stomach. I had throat dilatations (stretching) every 4 months, but the swallowing kept getting worse.
Many years later:
Eventually my doctors shared that they could do no more. They gently but firmly told me there was nothing more to be done. I would no longer be able to swallow anything. The g-peg became my sole source of intake.
M voice was also getting worse again. I went back to my specialists and we tried all kinds of vocal treatments and exercises. Nothing worked. I had only a hoarse whisper. When I tried to talk my throat would get tense. My neck muscles would swell and I began to have trouble breathing.
I woke up one Tuesday in a CCU at a hospital an hour away from home. I had a breathing tube, all sorts of IVs and was restrained so that I could not accidentally move any of my tubes or lines. The last thing I remembered was Sunday afternoon with my family. My husband later told me that Sunday afternoon I was sitting on our couch and fell asleep. When he tried to wake me I would not respond. I had developed an intense infection in my lungs and bronchial tubes.
It was a very long recovery time in the hospital and then time at home. That was a few years ago.
I survived cancer but what do I do now?
First, I celebrate! Seventeen years later the cancer is still gone.
Now I have a trachea to ensure breathing, my g-peg for my food, and no voice other than a whisper.
I have had a couple of issues with pneumonia, once I had to be in ICU for two days, but recovered once again. I “pop” a fever fairly often and with care, my body has been able to fight back. This seems to happen about every few weeks or so. Sometimes farther apart. Sometimes more often. It wipes me out for a couple of days and then I’m good to go again.
I had to resign from my full time job due to health issues keeping me from fulfilling the requirements of the position. I am grateful for the understanding and supportive boss and administration during the 13 years
I need to have a job where I don’t have to talk and where I can work from home. I need to make money. I pray that it will come.
A Happy Ending:
I don’t want to sound like life is impossible, or bring anyone down. Mine really is a success story. My doctor found the hidden symptoms of throat cancer in a regular check-up. That’s why doctors do those exams. They are pretty neat people! I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of those angels from God known as doctors and nurses! I’ve been blessed by the love of family and friends, and I’m with my children as they grow and move on with their lives.
My husband and I are adjusting to a different kind of “busy” with our children all out of high school now. New adventures.
I’m having a great time developing websites and writing the posts. I hope you get something from them as well.
I’d love to hear from you, so please take a minute to send me a comment.
Make sure you look at the other pages on this website to see more of what you can do, and for some support in your struggles.
Also come visit my fun drawing website!