Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Update: my mouth and I

Okay, so... tomorrow is the two week anniversary of my surgery. My oral thrush is gone. Pain is receptive to meds, which I'm trying to use pretty conservatively. I can speak pretty much normally, but unless I make an effort to hyperarticulate, my voice is marked by a bit of a wet lisp, with sibilants especially mushing up in my mouth. I don't really care for how it sounds, but
it should continue to improve - my tongue still has healing to do, and seems to have changed its orientation in my mouth a little, so some retraining may be required - I might be making some follow ups with a speech therapist after my next check in with my oncologist, on the 14th.

As for eating, I can eat pretty much a normal diet now, but I have to be selective: my tongue - and to a lesser extent my jaw - still hurt when I chew, so I am better to sticking to things that only require a LITTLE chewing before I swallow them. Pasta. Scrambled eggs. Bananas, but not apples. A bit of meat - turkey bacon with breakfast, tender roast pork - but nothing so firm as a steak or a drumstick. No beef jerky, thank you, either. And even soft things - breads and such - run a risk of gumming up into the roof of my mouth, requiring movements I didn't used to have to make, to literally force the food between my teeth with the tongue (which is still a bit over-sized where the surgery took place, swollen and maybe stretched a bit in the mouth to make up for material they removed, so that I have to be careful not to BITE my tongue while chewing).

This is all okay with me; I'm adjusting, and as I say, it should get better still. My main worry is that there might be cancer left. For the first week after recovery, I was concerned about what felt like a lump in my throat, since subsided and forgotten. Now I am more concerned with a tingly patch on the top front of my tongue. It could be from the surgery - but it seems to be somewhere they didn't operate, and it feels much the same discomfort as before the operation, sort of like part of the top of my tongue got stuck to the roof of my mouth and peeled away.  Maybe it is a patch of cancer that wasn't so visible two weeks ago - an area they missed when they operated. Maybe it's growing anew, with added urgency since it might feel itself to be under attack? (Does cancer reason? Feel threatened? Act to protect itself?) ...I stick my tongue out at the bathroom mirror and look. Is that a bump? Is that the start of a lesion? Will worrying about it make it worse? Should I just put the fear out of my mind, or should I be making a pain in the ass of myself, asking to be reassured yet again that everything is okay?

I mean, I have already seen four doctors since I left the hospital: my dentist, to check in on dental health; my GP, to keep him in the loop and give him a look at my mouth as it heals; an ER doctor when a swab I dabbed at a particularly sore area under my tongue came out bloody, causing me to worry I might have an abcess or infection (I don't); and my oncologist, for a quick follow up, asking him to reassure me that everything was healing normally and that the antibiotic rinse my dentist suggested was okay. I am in no great rush for more medical attention - I don't really want to go under the knife again, nor do I want to have to take a course of chemo or radiation, which I gather can more or less permanently alter your sense of taste. I'm already worried that certain foods don't taste quite as good as they once did, and I've still got 90% of my tongue, maybe...

Anyhow, I guess I will elect to be patient. So far the nerves have been worse than the actual cancer; I should try to keep them in check. Meantime, at the lab, I gather that they're examining my tongue-chunk to see if any of the material removed "trails off" the edge, suggesting something got missed. Maybe they'll declare that I am cancer free. Maybe I am. I suspect I will be a bit freaked out that I am not for a long time to come.

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