On December 4, 2009, my entire life changed forever in a way that I never dreamed. I was a school teacher for 32 years, having retired in June of 2009. I looked forward to retirement and all that went with it. Instead, my oncologist at Vanderbilt Hospital diagnosed me with Adenocarcinoma and Squamous-cell carcinoma of the salivary gland. In the removal of the salivary gland, I would lose half of my tongue, my salivary gland, and a lymph node; the result of which would be my inability to eat or drink because I was unable to swallow. Numbed by this massive prognosis, my major thought was, “Would I be able to live through it.”
Byline: Barbara Blades
The last time I can remember eating normally was January 2005. My birthday is on January 5th and I had already planned on eating someplace special. On January 4th I had a biopsy, and following my birthday on the 7th I learned I had stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma. It was in the lymph nodes of my neck and in the base of my tongue.
by Stephen Alan Boyar
[NFOSD note. Join author Steve Boyar on his journey through an intense ten-day swallowing boot camp at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Experience with him his hope, determination, reality, and reflection on the drive to regain what most people take for granted, an ability to enjoy a meal, coffee, or drinks with family and friends. A journey update will be posted daily over the next eleven days.]
After a long career as an advertising copywriter and marketing executive, Steve is reinventing himself as a writer of stories for children. He recently earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from The New School, and is working on a picture book and middle grade novel. He also tutors kids in writing and English. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2013 Stephen Alan Boyar
Byline: Lisa Ingrassia
I have always been a “daddy’s girl”, so when my father was diagnosed with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer in late December of 2008 my entire life changed. The days following my Dad’s diagnosis are forever etched in my brain. Our family prepared for the fight of our lives. I quickly learned that when a cancer patient said he was “battling” cancer, he certainly was. The weeks of my Dad’s intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments were grueling and often times testing.
[Editors note. The NFOSD published Jack Eadon’s story in mid-November. He has a website, www.jacksgettingback.com where he has chronicled his medical and personal journey. On January 14, 2013 he began an intensive two week “Boot Camp” to try and regain his swallowing ability. As President of the NFOSD, I communicate with a lot of people suffering from dysphagia. One of the pleasures of this position is meeting other people, like Jack, who are determined and committed to do what they need to succeed. The NFOSD wishes Jack the best and hopes this intensive approach to therapy opens a new avenue in our arsenal for fighting dysphagia.]