Uncategorized

Physical and psychological effects of Head and neck cancers


Your face

Facial palsy from tongue and cancer.
My initial facial palsy
Face after cancer. Head and neck cancer. Tongue Cancer.

Your face is who you are – and if this changes, which is often the case in head and neck cancers,  you’re left with not feeling like yourself – you feel unable to identify with the person looking back at you from the mirror. For me the worst was that I felt people saw me differently. I knew that when i looked in the mirror that my face was *wonky* and even once this had gone (85% gone) I feel sure that people can see this. I also have lymphoedema in my face, again quite common in H&N cancers, it is where the lymphatic system cannot drain effectively and it causes swelling on the side of the face and neck, it is visible when I am tired, or unwell. That said the lymphodema clinic at Florence Nightingale Hospice were AMAZING and I was taught techniques to help the selling go down, it’s a bit hit and miss but could be worse!

Speech

Speech is a very big part of who you are, its how you introduce yourself how you get across your point of view its how communicate with the world. My speech – I HATE how I sound now- I genuinely loathe my voice and the way I sound, if Im honest some days this consumes me. I used to have “news reader voice” I pronounced every syllable and often got called “posh” and if Im honest I loved it – I had a wicked laugh too. Now I have a much deeper voice that’s gravelly and I loose it often. I also have a speech impediments which means I cannot pronounce “th” or “st” well any t, or s.  I’m aware I sound “not normal” . I’m aware that when I speak my mouth/face doesn’t look like it use to or like others, I see people looking and trying to work out what is going on. I don’t blame them as  I cant say I wouldn’t look if I saw something that was a little bit off and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. My family and friends say – they don’t notice but I don’t know how …. then theres the people who say “you sounds better/ clearer that ever”  EVERYTIME you see them, even when i know im having a crap speevh day. Honestly it just feels demeaning, at pat on the head!!! well done !!grrrrrrrrr (moving on..). The last thing I want to mention ref speech and voice is *on the phone* first off the automated *please say the name of the person or department you need after the beep* Not once have I gotten through to the right person..they don’t get me, which I wouldn’t mind if there was a *press this for a human* option, but often you have to get it wrong 3 or 4 times before your transferred. Then there’s talking to real people, this drives me equally bonkers some days my speech is so unclear no one understands me (other than G, kids and mum), I actually get quite angry about it, probably frustration and resentment but I’m working on it.

Eating and swallowing

Eating for me is a nightmare if im honest – there are so many things that can and do go wrong (things you may never have considered), the best way to describe this to someone whos had no issues with swallowing in foods is that there are about 7 parts to my eating issues

  1. I haven’t many teeth left and what I do have are crumbling
  2. I have limited ability to move things from to left to right or to the back of my mouth pre-swallow
  3. Swallowing…its so hard for me to do – the only way I can make it relatable to anyone would be to ask you to try something, stick your tongue out bite it gently (just enough to secure whilst doing it swallow (yep you will stupid but it will give you snippet of what its like). I also randomly loose my swallow.
  4. Asperating, as I have half my tongue removed the back bit that essentially closes/ protects the wind/food pipe doesn’t exist therefore food/ fluids (and a dental cap that time the dentist dropped that time) can accidently swallow (not so bad) or asperate (ie food or drink/spit goes into the lungs or windpipes – this not so good and had landed me in hospital very poorly a few times)
  5. Choking this is very common and can  literally be daily, and the frequency doesn’t  take away the real and ever present danger, it scares that crap out of me and G. G is now proficient in back slaps to dislodge the thing that’s stuck.
  6. food also goes UP rather than down, so up my nose. It’s a horrible sensation, occasionally it will *fall down* into throat (got to be careful I don’t asperate it) or I spend 5 minutes blowing my nose till it comes flying out….. I’m just so sexy right ? Lol
  7. Hypersensitivity to flavours, for example a cream of chicken soup… smells amazing… but I end up in the fridge sucking on a bit of cuecumber… it has a minute pinch of pepper. My mouths on fire, tears streaming. I still like to cook when I can, but I cannot taste the food. I’ve cooked ***as my tastebuds only really taste salt (I crave salt) and sweet. So I do it by smell and my previous knowledge. I do get G to taste occasionally but he eats everything and tends to just say *yep, nice* but I need more…. but we make it work.

Eating….its EVERYWHERE …. its first thing, last thing, and everything in between its first dates, it going to the cinema, its lunch hour.
If your left with dysphasia (swallowing issues) you may, like me, have a PEG, a feeding tube permanently to your stomach where you pump or syringe a prescribed gloop, which just looks like odd coloured milk. When you have your feed you don’t get the feeling of satisfaction you do when you finish a meal-, actually all I feel is a bit sick and burpy. Think about how may parts of your day or week invoves food, each one is a reminder to me that I had cancer – its a reminder im different now and I know this is my *new now*(that said I would never suggest anyone change what theyre doing or hide things from me, its just something that I hope in time will diminish. like anything I have good and bad days.)

TMJ and Trimus plus fibrosis

Trimus is essentially jaw pain and reduced jaw opening, this is something that effects me every day, cleaning my teeth is soo painful – I even have a “baby” toothbrush to enable me to reach my back teeth.

TMJ is characterised by pain and dysfunction of the TMJ muscles also so cracking click and clunks – for me trying to eat is very painful and talking can become painful and it can even become a struggle to move my mouth to shape the sounds.
**Radiation damage to the TMJ and contiguous structures causes scarring and fibrosis of the muscles and ligaments leading to gradual reduction in opening post-treatment. Trismus is usually seen as a late effect of radiotherapy due to the relatively slow turnover of the affected cells.**

Now before you go, please know that although I’ve outlined many many issues I’m still happy (most of The time) I’m still smiling and I’m a very proud wife and mummy to my amazing kiddo’s.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Triple therapy and update!


My goodness it’s been so long since I’ve updated and I’ve done quite a lot where to start. As you may know I’ve moved again and I’m now based in Aylesbury which means a new doctor. I had to find a new Mr Moss let’s find someone I can trust and someone who would look after me, thankfully I have! there is absolutely fabulous doc he’s a black Mr moss if I’m allowed to say that, Mr Fasamade. I’m only seeing him every 6 months or if I’ve got a problem which is fine with me. Although we do have a small hiccup at the moment, due to radiotherapy damage I need to have two teeth extracted and unfortunately when you’ve had radiotherapy your bones in the area of radiotherapy do not heal they are notoriously difficult and so it’s not something that we’re taking lightly. I’ve been put on something called triple therapy, which is a cocktail of drugs to try and prevent something called osteoradionecrosis and which can be very dangerous and so we have to keep everything crossed that its not going to happen. The extraction is on the 17th of September, I may have that wrong but about then. So if you could keep your fingers crossed I’d really appreciate that because I am going into it pretty nervous. Its obviously going to be more difficult because of the radiotherapy but also my mouth is still very very sore and tender and having someone extracting your tooth is my stuff of nightmares, but it needs to happen. Here is a picture of the medication I’m on I have to be on it for seven weeks before my surgery and 5 weeks after ive healed from surgery.

Now you might have seen my post regarding me hoping to be peg free in 12 months! This is something I’ve wanted for for a long time and I’ve wished for and hoped for. Unfortunately realistically it may never happen I still have to rely on it for extra fluids and my medication at the very least, there are days that my mouth is so sore I can’t eat food so I need to top up with special drinks and formula. But I’m no longer pump feeding overnight which in itself is a huge milestone. Being hooked up to a pump overnight was not only and nuisance but it made my bed a hospital bed it made me feel like a patient.

I’ve been keeping pretty well recently I’ve been out of hospital most of the time with only a few little hiccups to do with my feeding tube and I had a bout of abdominal pain which we think was down to the feeling tube. So overall I think I’m getting stronger I feel stronger I’m even crafting making and sewing again now and I’ll pop a few pictures of the things I’ve made recently just show off.

The pendants have forget-me-not flowers in that have been dried in them, they are my absolute favourite.

Anyways I’m going to sign off for now ttfn

As always feel free to message me xx

Uncategorized

Triple therapy and update!


My goodness it’s been so long since I’ve updated and I’ve done quite a lot where to start. As you may know I’ve moved again and I’m now based in Aylesbury which means a new doctor. I had to find a new Mr Moss let’s find someone I can trust and someone who would look after me, thankfully I have! there is absolutely fabulous doc he’s a black Mr moss if I’m allowed to say that, Mr Fasamade. I’m only seeing him every 6 months or if I’ve got a problem which is fine with me. Although we do have a small hiccup at the moment, due to radiotherapy damage I need to have two teeth extracted and unfortunately when you’ve had radiotherapy your bones in the area of radiotherapy do not heal they are notoriously difficult and so it’s not something that we’re taking lightly. I’ve been put on something called triple therapy, which is a cocktail of drugs to try and prevent something called osteoradionecrosis and which can be very dangerous and so we have to keep everything crossed that its not going to happen. The extraction is on the 17th of September, I may have that wrong but about then. So if you could keep your fingers crossed I’d really appreciate that because I am going into it pretty nervous. Its obviously going to be more difficult because of the radiotherapy but also my mouth is still very very sore and tender and having someone extracting your tooth is my stuff of nightmares, but it needs to happen. Here is a picture of the medication I’m on I have to be on it for seven weeks before my surgery and 5 weeks after ive healed from surgery.

Now you might have seen my post regarding me hoping to be peg free in 12 months! This is something I’ve wanted for for a long time and I’ve wished for and hoped for. Unfortunately realistically it may never happen I still have to rely on it for extra fluids and my medication at the very least, there are days that my mouth is so sore I can’t eat food so I need to top up with special drinks and formula. But I’m no longer pump feeding overnight which in itself is a huge milestone. Being hooked up to a pump overnight was not only and nuisance but it made my bed a hospital bed it made me feel like a patient.

I’ve been keeping pretty well recently I’ve been out of hospital most of the time with only a few little hiccups to do with my feeding tube and I had a bout of abdominal pain which we think was down to the feeling tube. So overall I think I’m getting stronger I feel stronger I’m even crafting making and sewing again now and I’ll pop a few pictures of the things I’ve made recently just show off.

The pendants have forget-me-not flowers in that have been dried in them, they are my absolute favourite.

Anyways I’m going to sign off for now ttfn

As always feel free to message me xx

Uncategorized

It’s been a while


I’m still here plodding on, I’ve been struggling with my depression and a few infections but otherwise good.

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading about head and neck cancers, the one I had along with others including melanoma as I have a friend who has terminal cancer. Knowledge is power right?!!

I’ve obviously seen the *eat this berry and it will cure cancer* blurb and the *it’s the pharmaceutical companies causing cancer so they can make money*. I give those theories as much credit as I do the *drink your own urine to turn you into a unicorn who poo’s rainbows and skittles* . My next post will be more about what I’ve been reading.

There’s something many people don’t realise, once you have had cancer you’re a ‘cancer patient’ for life, if you were to go to hospital for something completely unrelated you will have to explain about your cancer and treatment. You will see your oncologist/ specialist every 4 weeks for a year then 6 weeks for a year then 8 weeks and so on, although I’m sure it would be different for different cancers and treatments etc. I guess what I’m saying is, moving on, forgetting about it. Not that you can forget.

Like many head and neck cancer patients I have lost a lot. I used to enjoy eating (I was fat) and loved date night with my hubby – we used to love a Indonesian restaurant.  I used to laugh, I used to have friends (this should not be taken as a “I must see Steph now coz I had forgotten she existed before”. I know I’m guilty of pushing people away. I struggle with anxiety and what people may think, and hate adding stress to people, that’s something I worry about. For example if I see on Facebook that someone’s struggling with tiredness or stress at home, I wouldn’t dream of asking them to do something even if they offer.  I would far rather offer to help them. That’s obviously a theoretical but you get the idea.

I still haven’t had my new peg fitted I still have my stupidly small tube that blocks all the time, it’s daft really but G has got his funny way of doing one of my meds that blocks all the time, it makes me giggle because he pulls his concentration face .

I did have a call from speech therapy but it’s not been returned as I need a break. I feel like a child at speech therapy,  it’s just so uncomfortable for me. The only one I ever got on with was in Peterborough but she is more post surgery rather than 2 years, and my speech is good most of the time, my swallow is the same the only change is my ultra sexy new skill, if I’m drinking and look downwards my drink comes out my nose lol the kids can’t help but laugh:)☺. But in the grand scheme of things it’s no biggy.

That reminds me 13th of Feb will be the 2 year mark , since diagnosis.  I’m not sure how i feel about that, the first feeling to surface when thinking about it is anger.  Perhaps this date shouldn’t be marked but the date of my last radiotherapy ie cancer free should be. Hummmm I will have a think.

**I have  just had a thought I’ve had a UTI for 4 weeks or more perhaps that is what’s kicking my arse atm. I’m on antibiotics again but maybe it’s that and I’ve woken up today feeling sooo much more awake. (I wrote most of this a 2 pm and I’m just finishing off now)

Any who’s I hope this isn’t too negative for my first post in a while, but as usual I just write what I’m thinking and feeling at the time i write it.

I’m still smiling 🙂 ☺

I hope that by writing this blog I can help others in similar situations take comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Please help me reach more people with my blog by sharing my posts on Twitter and Facebook. If you would like to follow my story, please sign up to the mailing list so that you can be notified as my blog is updated. Should you wish to get in touch please feel free to use the ‘Contact Me’ page to fill in your details and I will respond to you as soon I am able. Thank you, Stephanie x