August 19th – September 4th

Hey guys welcome back.  Over the next couple of days I am going to catch you up on the diagnosis process then will go live  when treatment starts.

The hardest part of this so far, has been the telling of the story to those in my inner circle.  And there are so many people that I still need to tell. There is no easy way to say, “I have cancer.”  The good news is that my cancer is very curable, we caught it in an early stage and the suggested treatments are difficult but tolerable.  I don’t hurt and the only real symptom is feeling tired.  Since the pneumonia, being up until 10pm is a little know luxury and my Saturday and Sunday mornings don’t seem to start until about 10 or 10:30 largely because Kat gets up, sneaks out and closes the door to let me rest.  So, you start the conversation with “I have cancer, but before you freak out listen to me!” and about 80% do – THANK GOD.  Then you get to tell the story again – hit play and blurt out the details until the love, caring, and support begin to flow back.  Maybe that is an idea!  I could just record it on my phone and when I get to that part – HIT PLAY!  Seriously, I have cried more tears of joy with the memories of what each person means to me, what we have gone through and how we came into each other’s lives.  It hurts to know that the news will worry them to the point that sometimes I wallow in my selfishness not wanting to share, but in the end, I know how mad and hurt I would be if they didn’t come to me with their troubles.  I am so blessed to have such a wonderful circle of friends who come together to help each other when the time comes without thought of burden, only love and caring.

So, the 19th of August we got the PET scan done and Dr. Levinson confirmed that it showed the cancer in 3 of the lymph nodes on the left side of the neck, but no point of origin was seen.  I was referred to Dr. John Vu, Medical Oncologist at MD. Anderson Jacksonville and Dr. Julie Greenwalt, Radiation    Oncologist and had appointments to see them on August 30th and 31st.  It was surreal, I really didn’t know what to think.  You know that you have cancer, you think it’s treatable, you found it early enough that the point of origin didn’t show on the pet scan, you know because of the P16 marker that it is probably in your sinuses, mouth, throat, or tongue.  Will I lose my vocal cords, would I be disfigured, can I do it? What is the lesson?  What does God have planned, can I work, will I die?….. Dr. Levinson reminded me that of course I was going to die, but assured me it probably wouldn’t be from cancer – whew!

I started to share my diagnosis and fears with the inner circle.  Kat and I had some uncomfortable discussions but she assured me that we could do this.  We had been through Sally’s lupus and her mother’s colon cancer in preparation for this next journey and besides God always takes care of us if we let him. And we had Jan to help us through the low spots.  Another dear friend and yoga buddy, Jeannie Theriault, had been through breast cancer and with her concern and desire to help; mentioned me to Mitchell Terk of Terk Oncology.  What a special group of people!  Dr. Terk reached out to me and offered guidance and education through his partner Jamie Ceasaretti, Radiation Oncologist.  They worked me in in 3 days and got all my records so that Jamie could see what I had.  What an amazing guy, Jan, Kat and I ended up in his personal office looking at treatment options, the cancer itself, and a general idea of what we could expect.  Half my questions were answered!  It was going to be okay!  Then came the reality of the meeting the MD Anderson team.  On the 30th and 31st we found out that from Dr. Vu that the cancer could be cured, the treatment would probably include chemo and a port for 7 weeks then to Dr. Greenwalt, who after having me snort some foul cherry stuff so she could stick a camera up my nose to look at my sinuses, throat and vocal cords, let me know that I would probably have radiation 5 days a week for 7 weeks, that I would probably have to use fluoride every morning for the rest of my life, that I would probably lose my salivary glands and need to carry water, that I would lose my voice but we would get it back with speech therapy, forget how to swallow again rectified through therapy, and may have to insert a feeding tube because my throat was going to swell and hurt.  Oh, and by the way, I needed a CT scan with contrast the next day to see if we could find the point of origin and see Dr. Moy, an ENT Specialist, to schedule an exam of my head and neck under anesthesia. Dr. Moy, part of the Baptist ENT group, who again numbed by throat and sinuses, thankfully this time with a mist instead of the cherry crap!, and he again went through my sinuses explored around then dropped down into my throat to look at the tongue, larynx, and throat walls for signs of the point of origin that the CT scan was in my tonsil base of tongue area.  It was pretty cool because he filmed the exam and took the time to show us the scan and assure us that the cancer was not in the larynx, sinuses or upper throat. The next step was to schedule a surgical procedure examine the area and to biopsy the base of the tongue and left tonsil through the mouth.

That weekend was Labor Day and we spent the weekend beginning to expand the circle of people who knew and hiding in the shop for 3 days relaxing in the shop and letting the whole situation sink in.

LESSON OF THE DAY – Humble yourself and let your friends love you.   

Author: Don

Hi my name is Don Penny I am a professional woodturner in Jacksonville, FL. I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic squamous cell carcinoma in 3 lymph nodes and the base of the tongue and this is my story of day to day life while fighting cancer.

2 thoughts on “August 19th – September 4th”

  1. Wow Don! So well done. Thank you for this update. I so admire your strength, your courage and your caring to share this journey of yours with all of us who know, love you and care so much for you dear friend. I am with you each and every step of the journey in any way that I can be of help. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers each and every day, hugs are being sent your way . One step at a time, One day at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time dear friend. It is a journey and you CAN DO THIS!

    Like

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