Sunday, November 30, 2014

Health update - 6 months

The road goes ever on
At the end of April I was admitted for surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  Over a delicate seven-hour operation, surgeons Kofi Boahene and Jeremy Richmon removed two tumors from the head and neck region.  One of them (Dr Richmon's) turned out to be cancerous, so after a month to get my strength back we returned to Hopkins in June (six months ago) for five weeks of intensive radiation treatment (Dr Harry Kwon) with supportive chemotherapy (Dr Christine Chung).
  The end of treatment (just after the Fourth of July) was a day to celebrate, but with that intensity of radiation the effects keep coming at you for some weeks after treatment has stopped.  It was not until the beginning of August that I started feeling - very tentatively - a little better.   But this fall I have definitely been improving in health and energy, taking long hikes with Liane and fulfilling a long held desire by getting back to Seneca Rocks to climb in time for the annual chili cookoff, held in mid October.  Getting back on the sharp end of the rope required some focused not-listening to those voices in my head the night before that wanted to tell me I was now too sick (or too old!) to be leading - but, once I put fingers to rock again, those voices might as well never have been.  "Purity of heart is to will one thing", said Kierkegaard, and such is the meditative beauty of climbing: no room for noise, simply the joy of balance and movement.

I've been back a couple of times to the hospital and my next set of check-ups is scheduled for February.  Scans are good - no sign of recurrence - but of course there are some issues that I have to deal with after intense treatment like that.  I had quite severe hearing loss on my right side, caused by fluid buildup in the middle ear - but I've now had a tiny drain inserted (like a kid with an ear infection might) and that is helping enormously.   Perhaps related to that, I have been dealing with a recurrent sinus infection (antibiotics seem to have it under control).  A longer-term issue is the loss of movement in the jaw muscles caused by surgical and radiation damage.  I'm working with a physical therapist to increase flexibility here.  I've been a regular visitor to the PT department over the years but this is the first time I am not there for a climbing injury!

So all in all the news is good.  Thanks to all my friends who have sent their prayers and support over the last year's roller-coaster ride.  I'll try to keep you updated.  Hugs to all.   Having cancer has definitely made me a huggier person (as one of my former graduate students was startled to discover recently!)  Hug a friend today! (You can blame me if you like...)

Photo: author


Dr. Regina E. Schulte-Ladbeck said...

Hugging is always welcome!

I enjoyed reading about your Seneca experience.


Everblue said...

You almost certainly will not remember me, but you tried to teach me the not-so-fine points of analysis and topology at Jesus College between 1996 and 1998. So sorry to hear about your illness, but glad to hear that the outcome appears to be so positive.

Best wishes