Jen has had a roller coaster ride the past year with her original diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma, the surgery, and her almost immediate trip to Italy. If you're unfamiliar with how everything progressed last year, Jen wrote about it here.
All seemed to be okay after that surgery. Tests throughout this year were all negative. But in September, the same part of her tongue started to hurt again. We got into the same doctor and he recommended surgery again. Here is a complete breakdown from Jen that she sent to our immediate family.
October 10, 2014 - Update from Jen
About three weeks ago my mouth started hurting in the same place it had been last year. It took a couple days for it to register and when I realized what kind of pain it was, I looked and the lesions were back. I immediately called my doctor.
I went in to see him and he recommended a biopsy, which I had on September 29th. On October 3rd the pathology came back negative, thank god! They're not cancerous. However, since we've been down this road before we are going to be a bit more aggressive than last time. Last time I had two negative biopsies and we left the lesions in because they didn't seem to be harmful. Then the tissue turned cancerous.
So this time we're going right in for surgery. I am scheduled to have an out patient procedure on the morning of October 21st at 10am. I will be put under anesthesia and monitored in the hospital afterward before being sent home that afternoon. The doctor is going to take samples of the tumors and analyze them while I am on the table to make sure he's got clean margins and everything is coming out. If anything that he removes comes back from pathology as cancerous, then my case will most likely go to a tumor board at UCSD and I will most likely have a round of radiation. That, however, is the worst case scenario.
I won't be able to speak for a week or so after the surgery and will be recovering and away from work for a bit. If you guys have any questions please email or text me. Calls are a bit much to deal with at this time, as I'm a bit overwhelmed right now. If you need to talk to someone please give Caleb a call.
On a side note, I have decided at the recommendation of both my doctor and my nutritionist to adhere to a vegan diet for the foreseeable future. There is a lot of research to support the link between animal protein and the development of cancer cells. I only share this part because I know we are visiting some family and friends in the near future and I didn't want you guys to be put off or surprised by that.
I love all you guys! If we hear anything further or if becomes more than just surgery we will keep you in the loop.
Well, she went in for surgery last Tuesday and is now at home recovering, but here is the follow-up note I sent to immediate family. (And this is how sad Pippa is when Jen is in our bedroom resting. They are kind of attached to each other you could say. Pippa always wait for Jen in the morning by her door. Especially once she hears her wake up.)
October 22, 2014 - Update on Jen, from Caleb
Hey Friends and Family,
I just wanted to give an update on Jen after her surgery yesterday.
It was an early day. Leaving by 7am, she got all checked in and ready for surgery quickly. Like she'd been there before. Scared not by the act of surgery, but by what news may come of it. The surgery was on the same side of her tongue as before. A similar process to last December, minus lymph nodes being removed from her neck like last time. Anesthesia, lasers, tests, more lasers, stitches, lots of meds, no solid foods.
There were two main potential outcomes yesterday that we were told to expect.
#1 Best: Analyze the tumors during surgery, results negative. Only one round of incisions. Quick surgery. Keep an eye on the area with PT and CT scans like we have been.
#2 Not Best: Analyze the tumors during surgery, results positive of cancer cells like last year. Another round of incisions while she was still under. Deeper to make sure they get everything. Doctor recommends radiation.
Sadly, number two is what happened. They found cancer cells just like last time. They think they got them all out, but to make sure that they don't come back again or that they didn't miss anything that has already spread more, they recommend that Jen undergoes radiation therapy. Probably five days a week, for six weeks. Soonish. Start in a couple weeks probably.
Our doctor says that radiation responds well to squamous cell carcinoma, which is the kind of cells these are. (I trust him. The last science class I took was 10 years ago and it was in a planetarium.) So he is hopeful that after the radiation, she'll be "done" with treatments and she'll just need to keep an eye on everything. No chemo.
The doctor told Jen's parents and I before I was able to see her. We asked a lot of questions. Jen will be seeing a radiation specialist, maybe get a second opinion, etc.
When I was able to see her, see was awake. She had spoken to the doctor. Still drowsy from the meds and anesthesia, but coherent. I kissed her forehead. She grabbed a piece of paper and wrote one word. Radiation. And started crying. She is so strong. She just didn't want this outcome.
Jen is home now. Resting. On strong meds. Trying to sleep as much as possible. And recover enough for the next phase.
We love you all. She read through all the Facebook, Instagram, texts, and emails she received from you and others last night. She said she wanted encouragement.
I'll share more news as we get it. Feel free to forward this. I've bcc'd everyone we have emails for to save your inboxes.
If I don't call or reply quickly, please forgive me. Jen and I do read and listen to every message though.
There are a lot of things to come. Meetings with doctors, most likely radiation, and more. We are going to take them in stride and Jen is one tough girl, so I know she'll do great with whatever will be thrown at her.