I HAD CANCER: The Cause and The Prognosis – NPC

Well, in continuance to my earlier poster on the test, CT-Scan and biopsy done, it took me two weeks after to find time to visit my ENT Specialist. The results was out a week after the tests, but I was occupied with other things and was waiting for my husband to be onshore from the offshore platform and was not worried because there was no pain at all. The lump on the neck, the cough, the losing voice, the bleeding nose didn’t bother me much, though my sister in law, being a GP herself, was worried.

The Diagnosis

Less that I knew, the appointment with the Specialist was a brief ten minutes meet-up before he sent me elsewhere. He told us that the biopsy result confirmed that the lump on my neck was due to malignant cells describing a cancer’s growth or spread. I was lost with words then (and surprisingly, at times writing this post too). The next thing that I remembered that we were sent to the Oncology Department, just across the ENT Clinics. We met the oncologist, Dr Azrif which then explained on the findings with details. 

I was diagnosed with stage Stage III nasopharyngeal cancer, abbreviated as NPC. What’s a Stage III?

Stages in cancer differs from the type of cancer to another. As for NPC, the stages are categorized based on the growth of the tumor (T), the node (N) and whether the cancer has spread or in cancer term ‘metastasis'(M) to other places. A stage III NPC was a category whereby  my tumor has extended in the area behind the nose, and has spread to both the lymph nodes on the neck area around 5mm or less in sizes. Fortunately, the cancer has not spread to other parts.  

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The Cause

What cause the cancer? I doubt that there’s no definite answer to that questions. Cancer is always a mystery. You heard about it way too often, but, it time has always been running out when you found out about it. Based on the http://www.cancer.net summary, tobacco and alcohol play the major culprit that caused NPC. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. But, I’m not ruling out me being a secondhand smoker. 

Other risk factor as stated in the cancer.net include hereditary, which none of my close-knit family had cancer before, but I knew my great distance aunts and uncles did. Chinese men are more likely to get NPC. I’ve got nothing to do with Chinese clan besides married to a man whose mom is a Chinese. Exposure to pstein-Barr virus (EBV) plays a role in causing NPC. Not that I’m aware of. Older person (above 55 years old) is having higher risk, but I was 36 when I was diagnosed. And I do no drug. 

But what might triggered NPC within me were my environmental exposure and eating habit. When my son went to the primary school, I had to send him off early and would reached the office an hour earlier than others.  I had developed a bad habit, taking a nap in my car on a closed basement parking lot, for at least an hour, every morning. There’s a teeny weeny possibilities that I’ve been breathing the uncleaned unventilated carbon monoxides from other cars consistently for two years then, that caused the cells to develop. Well, it’s a theory, maybe. And I have a very bad eating habit. My drinks would always be Coke or other soda drinks and I love instant noodles very much. I ate the sour tomyam soups like nobody business just because I love sour stuff.  That was my own conclusion, nothing got to do with professional advice!

I definitely learned my lesson, the hard way.

The Prognosis

The statistic stated that an NPC patient would have a 5-year survival rate of 70%. That means, 70 out 100 NPC survived throughout their life without cancer recurrence 5 years or more after the treatment.

I wasn’t listening much when the oncologist explain, and my husband was doing all the info-gathering back then. With my current condition, I had to be treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy, with no surgery available. The oncologist was proposing a 3 full cycle of Cisplatin and Xeloda, and a 6 x 1/2 dosage of Cisplatin after that. I was also due to go through 33 rigorous cycles of tomography, the radiotherapy machine that was accurate enough to tackle the isolated cancer cells behind my nose. 

Preparation Before The Treatment

I was asked to visit the Dentist to check on any dental issues. The check-up was a requirement for the head and neck cancer patients as the radiotherapy would caused tooth decays and my gums would bleed and has no ability to heal like a normal healthy person due to the therapy. According to my dentist, it might take more than a decade for a head and neck cancer patient to be able to extract their tooth after the treatment as the gum bleeding would always be a concern. 

I was informed that I should also expect issues with my saliva gland, losing balance and hearing and running nose after the treatment and burnt neck, tongue and area around the head and neck due to the radiotherapy treatment. Lethargy and easily infected with virus and bacterial were also common due to the side effect of the chemotherapy.  

Despite of my oncologist proposing to start the treatment immediately, I requested for a two-weeks delay as I was planning for my eldest son’s 8th birthday party then. 

My first treatment was on the 3rd December 2014. And the journey began.

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