This past week was one of doctor visits. Started off with the Speech and Swallowing Specialist. Since she is a PHD, as with most PHD’s, it involved lost of questionnaires. Those guys love compiling scads of data. Anyway, she sees that I’ve gone backwards due to the surgery and Brachy and is concerned about possible aspirating so she highly recommends a Barium Swallow Test for the next day.
This test is nothing more than standing in front of an x-ray machine as she feeds me different sample sizes of liquid barium and then barium pudding — which can be easily seen being swallowed through the live x-ray. The result is that yes, I’m aspirating (which means a little is going down the wrong pathway), and she gives me some exercises to do. Next week is a follow up appointment.
Then later in the week I see the surgeon for the first post-op visit. He looks at the trachea hole and says that it hasn’t been taped shut correctly. I say that this is how they showed me to bandage it. He says he’s got to re-instruct his “crack pot” residency team at the hospital how it’s done correctly. I want to go back to the hospital and punch the crack pots in the head. He and his nurse pull the hole close and tape it shut and he tells me it should be closed within the week. Let’s see.
About the sharp left ear aches, especially after eating, he says it’s relatively normal. He looks in my ear and says everything indeed looks normal. What happens he says, is that the nerve endings for the ear and tongue are so closely woven together and end up at the same location in the brain. Because of this, many times a pain in the tongue will be “referred” to the ear. He calls it “referred” pain. Hence, many people can have problems with their tongues but it’s manifested through an ear pain.
That tricky tongue. By the time its pain arrives to the brain, it’s figured out how deflect blame and say “it’s not me” and points to the ear. Maybe many of our politicians simply had “referred” affairs.
I’ve also got to start doing neck exercises now, full range of motion for the head so that the neck doesn’t heal stiff. He likes the incision he made (sure he would), but I think it’s ugly. He says it will fade with time. Now though, he wants me on the one month visit schedule for the first year, trading off visits between him and Dr. Rad.
After this visit we go downstairs and wait two hours for the appointment with Dr. Rad. He scopes my throat and tells me I still have a low-lying yeast infection in my throat — so has his nurse write a script for an antibiotic. He can also see that my tongue and throat are raw, but this is normal. There is a 10 day delay for radiation effect after radiation and then the effects are felt for about two weeks. I’m smack in the middle of the two weeks. In fact, today I’m finishing week one. By the end of week two, I should be feeling better he says.
He also says that I’ve got to really start neck stretching and lifts my chin up so high I almost cried out. I tell him I just got the trachea hole bandaged shut and he’s pulling it apart. So he says that I’ve got to do this stretching after the hole closes. If I don’t, then things harden stiff. He tells me I should think of Yoga and getting neck massages.
Before I leave I ask him just how large the tumor was, being that he used a large number of catheters in the Brachy. He just says it was very large. Large enough he says, that if surgery was the option, they would have had to cut out my entire tongue. That comment sobered up my slightly cocky ass. My tongue hurts right now, and swallowing is a chore, but I don’t have room to complain as long as Señor Tumor left, and left me my tongue.
But that thought also makes me think of slightly less than one year ago, when I went to a recommended ENT specialist because of a chronic sore throat. After scoping my throat, she very confidently said that I didn’t have any thing to worry about, no tumors, no cancer, only an acid reflux problem. Had I caught the problem at that point, the tumor would have been much earlier in the stage game. She simply mis read the scope or didn’t know what to look for. Beach.
Until the hole in my neck closes, I’m continuing to conduct meetings with my hand on my throat. The explanation that I just had some mouth wiring thankfully seems to keep additional questions at bay.
And in the meantime, trying to keep my chin up, literally and emotionally. To say that these last couple of weeks hasn’t been a challenge is a huge understatement. Now it’s just getting through the next couple.