Updated: Oct 30, 2019
Its name is SCC (Squamous Cell Carcinoma). The most aggressive and
prevalent of oropharyngeal cancers.
It started back in May/June, when SM’s jaw locked in the slightly-open position, with a maximum opening of 11mm. This meant no solid food, and SM joked that even his sandwiches needed to be ironed flat!
It got worse after that, and visits to an Acupuncturist, physiotherapist, and to the GP only resulted in an X-ray to SM’s skull, which showed no cancer, as it was in hard, not soft, tissue.
We then went to France from mid-July until early September, when we went to see a French GP (who declared it a “mystery”), a series of blood tests which showed up nothing, as well as a visit to a Hypnotherapist, who noted that I felt most at peace sailing on a quiet lake, with me at the helm! (Well, I knew that!)
When we got back to the UK, the jaw had got no better, and my tongue was beginning to take over my mouth, making me sound as though I had a cleft palette, so we arranged in mid-September to visit Gloucester Hospital maxilla-facial Department, and they have been superb!
We saw a Referral Doctor on Day One, and by the next day, I was having a biopsy of my tongue and cheek taken, immediately followed by an Appointment for an MRI Scan, which took place on the Saturday afternoon: On Monday at 10.00, the phone rang, and we were called in to a meeting the next day at the Maxillo-Facial Department (and that shows how seriously they were taking it) At that meeting, it was made clear that I had severe Squamus Cancer of the left cheek, and tongue, and it was too far advanced for surgery. They would however, adopt a programme of aggressive Radiotherapy, in order to attack the cancer, shrink it and hopefully stop it in its tracks. SM noted, however, that even after this session, it would perhaps or probably still be necessary for surgery to both clear away sufficient tongue for the mouth to close, and also, in the other direction, to “ease” jaw muscle, so that it unlocks the jaw, and it can open as usual. The programme here forward is incremental, and relies on each test being useful and important. For example, SM had a CT PET Scan on 2nd October, and a programme of Radio Therapy was provisionally fixed, being 20/30 minutes per day (starting on Monday, 15th October, for five days per week, for six weeks). It was also necessary to have a stomach feeding tube fitted, and this became a problem, because the access required by the tube through the throat is 14mm, and SM’s jaw will only open up to 11mm. Presumably, there is no reason why access has to be by the throat, and could just be by a stomach puncture.
An Appointment has been fixed for 10.00am on Wednesday, 23rd October for the measuring and fitting of a facial mesh mask for the Radio-Therapy treatment, and it has been confirmed that, at that appointment, the Hospital should be able to give S & I the definite timetable for the Radio-Therapy, which could now only start on Monday, 28th October at the earliest.