Throat Cancer

Your cancer doesn’t stand a chance

Ron Holloway gave up smoking and drinking alcohol to better his chances of beating throat cancer.

 

At 65 years old, I was reasonably concerned with my health. I say “reasonably” because I had smoked a pipe for 40 years (cigarettes for five years before that), and I enjoyed four to six beers daily. However, I always closely monitored changes in my body, so when I noticed a small growth on the roof of my mouth and developed a minor sore throat that persisted for two months, I made an appointment with my doctor.

During the examination, my doctor discovered a lesion in the back of my throat in addition to the growth I had noticed, and he decided to take a biopsy of both. My wife drove me home afterward, and during that ride I decided to quit smoking. I first tried cutting back slowly, but after two weeks I decided enough was enough and went cold turkey. I haven’t smoked since.

A couple weeks later, my biopsy results showed that I had squamous cell carcinoma of the throat. My doctor said smoking and drinking alcohol are causes and/or irritants of the cancer, so in addition to quitting smoking, I decided to stop drinking as well.

After the diagnosis, I had a chest X-ray, a PET scan and a CT scan, as well as a full blood workup. The tests showed that my cancer had not yet spread beyond my throat, so my doctor said a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy would be the best course of treatment. He warned me that the treatments would be tough, but I told him they wouldn’t be nearly as tough as me. My cancer didn’t stand a chance.

I had two teeth removed before I started treatment, which was devastating because they were the last two I had on the bottom. Their removal meant I’d need a full lower plate, which I’d been avoiding for years. I also had a feeding tube placed in my stomach. For about two months, I was only able to eat soup by mouth; the rest of my food had to go through the tube. I was ecstatic when I could begin slowly incorporating solid foods back into my diet. And just 3 ½ months after I began treatment, I was able to go out to eat with my wife for our 25th wedding anniversary. About six months later my feeding tube was removed, and the hole healed within three days.

During treatment I experienced constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, sore throat, dry mouth, fever, skin rash (due to an allergy to the chemo) and weight loss, but my treatment team helped me deal with each of these side effects as they developed. Also, because the radiation killed a large number of my salivary glands, my taste buds are still extremely sensitive to spices, so I have to be careful about what I eat.

A few months after I finished my last treatment session, I went in for some follow-up tests. Thankfully, everything looked okay. The cancer was gone! I continued going in for checkups and scans – at increasingly longer intervals – for the next several years until I reached the five-year mark. Then for the next five years, I switched to one-year visits, and I now just go in every two years. Since my initial throat cancer diagnosis and treatment, I’ve had one spot of basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose, but all of the other tests have come back clear.

When battling cancer, the support of others is very important, but the most important part is your attitude. With the proper “I will win” attitude, your cancer doesn’t stand a chance.

 

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