Licking Cancer – new blog

The voices of head and neck cancer survivors are small in number but courageous in spirit.  This new voice is from a new blogger, and Englishman being treated in France.  Donald is just starting to tell his story, and an interesting perspective it is. Licking Cancer

How do you react when you are diagnosed?  What goes through your mind? Here’s my diary entry from the day after diagnosis:


Cancer.  I was diagnosed yesterday.  I don’t know what to say right now.  I found a lump on the left side of my neck about two months ago, went to the doctor six weeks ago and now I know.  I felt a sinking emptiness when Dr S, the ENT man at Pontivy hospital told me and it didn’t begin to register (if it really has) until I was making notes and wrote the word down; cancer.

I feel that my world has changed irrevocably but I also feel a fraud.  The cancer is apparently very localised in the neck and whilst I shall have both bronchial and gastric fibroscopies to check for it elsewhere I don’t think the doctor sees it existing other than the neck.  So, it is a small cancer and assuming it hasn’t ‘travelled’ I shall have it cut out next month and all will be well.  In addition to the fibroscopies I shall have a CT scan and, prior to the surgery on 12.05 a consultation with the anaesthetist.  The French have been very efficient, from the initial visit to the GP and his arrangement for echographie to the ENT consultation.  Yesterday, all my appointments were arranged right there and then, from the checks and consultations to the surgery itself.

There is no knowing whether my state of dreamlike low depression and emptiness is because of the news or that it was so unexpected.  I was warned of course, but the nature of the lump, the lack of pain and the attitude of Dr. S lead me to think it would just be a lump similar to the one I had when I was about seventeen on the right side – tested, biopsied, and dismissed.

It seems like such a mix of emotions there, doesn’t it? The way I talk about feeling a fraud because it is a small cancer, like I’m going to say, “challenge accepted” but I know now there are no small cancers, not really, not ever.  I remember sitting in Dr S’s office when he told me.  I went blank, he talked options and appointments and I sat there like a stunned mullet.  Because I had no idea.  I was truly expecting him to say it was benign, we’ll whip it out and you can go on with your life.

I cycled home with no clue to the traffic, the turnings.  Yes, I cycled there and back, on my own.  Phylly was due to work that day.  I know Phylly feels guilty about not being there when I got the news but when you are expecting benign you don’t worry about who’s there.  The oddest part of the day was arriving back and meeting Jeff and Jeannette, who own the holiday home across from us.  They asked about the cats and I had to explain that Clem had died.  All the while I’m screaming Cancer! in my head, over and over. Cancer! Cancer! Cancer!  I thought of myself as terribly British, stiff upper lip at that point but then how do you improve someone’s holiday by telling them you have cancer?

Anyway, not to worry, a few tests, a confirmation that it’s nowhere else and then 12.05 and we have it whipped out, right?

from: Licking Cancer


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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