There and Back Again



I have never smoked, never worked in asbestos, and wasn’t of oriental heritage. So when my ENT told me I had a large tumor in my sinus it was like winning the lottery, in the worst possible sense. Like every other cancer victim I was shocked. I searched the Internet and asked every professional for my odds. 40percent? 50 percent? It was like betting with the devil in a poker game orchestrated by Steven King.


Then a got a call from an old friend. Oscar had been there and back again. Despite the fact that he was a few decades older, he had gone through the rigorous treatment I was facing, and was about to celebrate his fifth year of remission. He told me it would be rough—but to just hold on. He’ll never know what he did for me with that call.


So together, my wife and I took one step, then the next, to my cure. Here are a few of the steps we took so that others can follow.


First, find not one good doctor but three—an ENT (a surgeon for a biopsy and ongoing support), a radiation oncologist and a hematologist.  It’s very important that you trust these people completely so it’s worth the effort to check around. My friend had suggested we research M.D. Anderson in Texas. We did, and then found out that the radiation oncologist five minutes away was in partnership with the two principal researchers at Anderson. The hematologist was young and brilliant, willing to go back to the research to check a point, and to check on me one more time after a long day. We were satisfied with the team.


Then you have to find a good machine. As odd as it sounds, this is probably one of the few situations in life when your survival is going to depend on the quality of a piece of equipment. Let me explain: A tumor as big as mine was (over 4 cm, at the back of the sinus) is for all practical purposes inoperable. (My ENT joked he could “take half my head off if he wanted…”)  Even if it could be removed, that’s not the path to survival since research shows that the surgery increases the chance of metastasis.


So you need one of the most advanced pieces of medical equipment in the country, a radiation machine that can deliver a 3-dimensional dose of radiation to the exact location of your tumor. It must enter from all angles, since you can’t burn the other tissues as badly as you’ll be burning the tumor. Ideally, it must also be able to watch the tumor shrink (X-ray and CT scan) at the same time. I found that one of the newest was close to home. When our radiation guy bragged about “my machine” we laughed at first, then (lovingly) named him “Ming the Merciless” after the old Flash Gordon villain.


Finally, you need to eat…and eat…and eat before you begin treatment. I was probably 20 pounds overweight. The doctor said, “Eat anyway. You’ll lose a great deal of weight during the treatment, and there’s a guy down the hall just waiting to fit you with a J tube (for feeding directly into the stomach).”



The Gory Details:

Ø      Radiation

Ø      Chemotherapy

Ø      Natural Therapies

Ø     Remission

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