My adventure with Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma, HNSCC, soon enters a third phase.  A week from this writing I’ll don my custom prepared plastic mesh mask and they’ll strap me onto an x-ray machine. Oh yes, one other thing. There’ll be a weekly dose of cis-platin coincident with irradiation. Turns out that there is a synergistic effect with radiation and platinum poisoning cis-platin chemotherapy. No doubt it is related to the fact that platinum is a heavy atom with a lot of electron density ripe for scattering. Platinum ligated to DNA during irradiation is a bonus as well I suppose. Your own DNA as a ligand for platinum. A funny thought for someone in the catalyst business.

The first phase was the identification of a swollen lymph node and its subsequent removal from its cozy perch on my right carotid artery. Here I learned first hand why cancer is destructive. Mutant squamous cells from some molecular-genetic train wreck are washed away from their birthplace to lodge in distant locations. In my case, the aloof cells got hung up in a lymph node. There, they invaded the node and proliferated to the point where much of the lymphatic tissue became necrotic, likely from blood starvation. The node was not especially painful. Well, until the biopsy needle went in. Then it became very, very angry. But I digress.

The second phase, post surgery, was the adventure of finding suitable oncologists. This is a little bewildering. It is easy to get overwhelmed by information. I went for a second opinion and soon thereafter chose the Anschutz Cancer Center at the University of Colorado in Aurora. I’ve already had medical students and residents sitting in on consultations and exams.  The medical oncologist is a research professor specializing in head and neck cancer. He sees patients on Fridays too. The radiation oncologist sees a lot of HNSCC and seems knowledgeable and confident.

More to follow.