On Monday, I had an appointment with my plastics team. Since going back into the hospital for an infection at my surgical site, I have been scheduled for weekly visits to check how the wound is closing. I am pretty sure the weekly visits are because I am getting close to starting radiation, so they want to make sure the site is healed enough to tolerate the procedures. The radiation kills off cells, which will make it harder for my wound to heal if it's not almost closed.
On Wednesday, I had an appointment with my dental team for the follow up on my radiation stent. They make a custom stent, which is a mouthpiece, that I have to wear during radiation. The stent keeps my mouth in the same position each time for the radiation. Last time, they did the molding for the stent, so this time was to do the first fitting of the stent. This will not be my final stent, they had to make a few adjustments, and now it fits well. I had to use it in my radiation simulation.
Before anyone gets grossed out, the droplets at the bottom are water. This is not DROOL! LOL
After my appointment with dental, I headed to my radiation simulation. When I arrived, they took me to the room where I would be doing my simulation. My oncologist had to come to inspect my neck to see if he wanted to proceed as scheduled or reschedule my radiation. After looking at my neck, he decided that he would like to push the start of my radiation back 2 weeks to allow my neck to heal more. As much as I would like to get started in order to get it done with, I am glad they are taking every precaution to make sure they don't interfere with my overall healing.
We started the simulation, which was all new to me, and obviously I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked in. They had me take my shirt off and lie on the table with my head closest to the CT scan and feet towards their "viewing glass." Lol I don't really know what else to call it. I had to put my stent in my mouth and arms to my side. I don't know what the medical term is for it, but they said that they were going to get the mesh plaster for my head. Say what?!! The tech said this will be very warm so keep your eyes closed until we say to open them. We did test runs where they sent me through the CT scan to make sure everything was lined up for the radiation beam. They will have me in this same position every time that I go, so I have red marks on my sides and chest covered in tape. This way the red marks don't wash off.
Below is a picture of my mesh plaster, which shall be know henceforth as D Burch II. The resemblance of its handsome owner is unbelievable! Lol
I will wear this each time I do my radiation treatments. They have me in this plaster mesh and mouth stent because if I move at all during the treatment, then the beam will treat an area that it didn't need to. That could throw my treatment off so they make sure that I will be still for the 15 minutes of radiation each session. I will have radiation Monday-Friday for 6 weeks, which will probably seem like an eternity. I am ready to get this started so that I get to be closer to finishing and putting this behind me as much as possible.
On Thursday, I had an appointment with my speech therapist. My speech therapist will handle issues with my speaking and swallowing. The last time I saw my speech therapist was right before my surgery. She was surprised about how much I am able to speak because most aren't this far along. I believe a lot has to do with my age, but I push myself as well. She thinks with the progress that I have made so far that I will potentially be close to where I was before. Things will never be back to the way they were, but I will get close.
My eating has improved as well. I have been able to eat a little bit of chicken and steak, which have to be cut in very small pieces. I have come to a point where I don't want to shy away from an item because I think it may be too hard to eat. I want to challenge myself so that I know for sure if I can or can't eat it. Eating still takes a tremendous amount of time, which is typically about an hour or longer. My plate has portion sizes that are about the size of a fist, which is why it is frustrating that it takes so long. I usually have 2 or 3 meals that I actually eat and the other two are smoothies with protein powder mixed in.
Another aspect I have noticed after the surgery is that I can't take a bite from a piece of food that isn't by a fork. When I open my mouth, the bottom right side of my lip curls over the bottom of my teeth so if I bite down, then I will bite my lip. I am praying that this goes back to normal along with my crooked smile. lol
I have also consented to be in a study for speech therapy. There will be different groups created, which will be randomly selected. I made sure to read through the study and ask questions because I wanted to make sure that anything done from this trial wouldn't hinder my healing or growth. There was no harm to me in any group that I would be put in because, at the end of the day, they will be monitoring us throughout the study itself and will change up treatment if they see a need for it.
For me, through this whole experience, I try to push myself. These small goals that I push myself to reach for the normal person may seem insignificant, but for me are like climbing to the top of a mountain. These goals are what keeps the motivation to continue getting better and overcoming challenges. I want my kids to look at me down the line and think my dad kicked cancer's ass, so I know that I can overcome whatever challenge is put in my way. There isn't anything that can hold them back, but themselves if they allow it. I am trying to show them that you can push through those feelings. I think the understanding of that will come at a later age because right now I am still plain old dad, which I wouldn't have any other way.
I could just lie in bed all day and not do anything except feel pity for myself. What does that do for myself or anybody else? At the start of this whole journey, I let cancer defeat me before even giving myself a chance. I will never ever let myself feel defeated before even trying to overcome what's in front of me. That isn't a feeling that you ever want to have and I will never let myself feel that way again.