Mike's Journey - Our Prime Years

Spring 2001 - The Discovery

The next visit found the swelling larger and suddenly Mike was scheduled for surgery the next day to have the lymph node removed. It was now March 30th. The journey had begun in earnest. The surgery was to have been approximately an hour but ended up well over two. The lymph node was much larger inside the neck - about the size of a golf ball - and was wrapped around the carotid artery. We waited for pathology results...

The initial results were cancer but they local lab was unable to determine if it was lymphoma or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). They sent it off to another lab in Pittsburgh for further analysis. While we waited, Mike visited both the surgeon and his oncologist once more. Based on the law of averages, they both felt it would be SCC and offered us the choice of a referral to either Pittsburgh or Buffalo, NY.

Based on proximity, we chose Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, about a two hour drive from home. Here the search would start for the primary cancer site. The initial meeting with the ENT Surgical Oncologist laid out the plan of attack. After conferring with their pathology lab, we found out it was SCC. So the next step would be a panendoscopy (a laryngoscopy, bronchoscopy, and esophagoscopy) to hopefully determine the primary cancer site. This was scheduled for April 26th.

The primary site turned out to be the uvula (yup, that little dangly thing in the back of the throat) with spread into the left tonsil and surrounding area. Surgery would consist of a palatectomy, partial pharyngectomy and a modified radical left neck dissection and was scheduled for May 23rd. Also scheduled were a visit to the cardiologist, to be sure there would be no problems during the 5-8 hour surgery, the dental prosthedontist and the thoracic surgeon, who would review an earlier CT scan that showed something suspicious in the lungs.

May 22nd Mike saw the cardiologist who assured him he had the heart of a 30 year old (at least SOME good news). Next came the dental prosthedontist who showed us some sample prosthetic devices. Some of our fears were alleviated -- we had no idea what they might entail. Last was the appointment with the thoracic surgeon and the not so good news. He was very concerned about the spots in Mike's lungs and after meeting with our ENT surgeon, they decided it was in Mike's best interest to postpone the surgery. So we set up an appointment for a follow-up CT scan for 6 weeks and went back home.

>> Summer 2001 - The Surgery