21st April 2020
I meet my next specialist – and I guess who will become the most important person for me for a while. I’m now firmly under the care and attention of the Oncologist who will be leading the team taking care of me. Although at that time I didn’t realise what an amazing team it is.
Anyway – he introduces himself – Dr Warren Grant.
Another Wozzer I thought, that’s an amazing great omen 🙂 I’m sure he felt the same about his new patient…
He has the confident but calming style of confirming what is what. ‘You know you have throat cancer Warren, and the good news is there’s no spread away from the throat. There were some patches seen on a lung but the MRI scan confirmed they are nothing to worry about – although nothing will be left to chance and we’ll keep an eye on that going forward’.
And so, it’s down to work. No messing or waffling. The treatment is fairly aggressive he says – six weeks of radiotherapy x 5 days a week and additionally two cycles of chemotherapy on weeks 1 and 4.
Honestly that left me reeling a bit. I was expecting radio only and had already researched some that reckon it’s enough on its own.
There’s good reason though. He continues… ‘This particular type of cancer has a good possibility of eradication, with a human survival rate of around 75% after 5 years. Of course I’ll take that – and try and increase the percentage.
The cancer has an official name: Squamous cell carcinoma, left oropharynx, with TNM staging of T3 N2 M0 HPV16 positive.
The explainer below is courtesy of Cancer Research UK
TNM stands for Tumour, Node, Metastasis. This system describes the size of the initial cancer (the primary tumour), whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, and whether it has spread to a different part of the body (metastasised). The system uses letters and numbers to describe the cancer:
• T refers to the size of the cancer and how far it has spread into nearby tissue – it can be 1, 2, 3 or 4, with 1 being small and 4 large
• N refers to whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes – it can be between 0 (no lymph nodes containing cancer cells) and 3 (lots of lymph nodes containing cancer cells)
• M refers to whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body – it can either be 0 (the cancer hasn’t spread) or 1 (the cancer has spread)
From this it’s clear the cancer has been developing for a while (T3), but it’s never given me any indication, save the mild sore throat on and off over a couple of months. The main thing Vicki advised me later is M0 means no spread to other areas of the body.
Dr Grant continues… ‘We’ll being treatment in around 3 weeks, say mid-June and finish at the end of July. On average expect the treatment to intensify as it progresses and then some months of discomfort, but hopefully feeling better towards the autumn time’.
Before treatment begins, there’s more to be done and more of the team assigned to me, make initial contact:
Speech Therapist; Dietician; Radiology team for Mask making and Endoscopy team for inserting a feeding tube. And Lead Nurse Vicky is never far away.
Just amazing – and I don’t know half of it yet, except this Gloucestershire NHS Foundation Trust is an extremely well-oiled Rolls Royce of a machine. Every single person I’ve been in contact with – or staff that have phoned me are not just professional, but very personable – without exception.
It’s easy to say this, but I really mean it that I’m feeling pretty good about my condition – because I have total faith in this highly experienced team, who seem to give me the impression that I’m their only patient 🙂
And lets not forget we’re in the middle of a pandemic, causing the UK’s greatest ever drain on NHS resources right now.