A few observations for those facing irradiation of the throat.

  • Don’t wait too long with your decision to get a gastric tube put in.
  • Get started with a high calorie regimen early. By week 3 of 6, swallowing suddenly became very painful.
  • Beware the constipating drugs.  For me it has been the anti-nausea drugs and the narcotic pain killers. It is very easy to get behind the curve on this. Find a parallel bowel control regimen and stick with it.
  • Some meds that promote bowel movement are too strong. For me it is Dulcolax.
  • Mucositis is more than just a nuisance. Viscous mucus it produces will trigger gagging and vomiting. Pumping acidic vomit through a raw throat is exactly as fun as it sounds. Mucinex (aka guaifenesin) goes a long way towards keeping this in check. Out of about 20 nurses and docs I’ve had contact with, only one nurse seemed to know this trick.
  • The so called magic mouthwash, Benedryl/Lidocaine/liquid antacid was too viscous for the mucositis.
  • After 63 Gy of therapeutic  x-rays and what I’ll estimate as ca 450 mGy from 35 CT x-rays, a surgical scar will be very sunburned if it was in the beam. It is important to keep it moisturized and covered.  The pharmacy can compound  an ointment composed of 2 % lidocaine in Aquaphore. This works very well.

It is important to let go of some of the independence and allow people to help you. The people around you want to help but feel unable to do anything substantial. Let them drive you around or bring food even if you can’t eat it. They’ll tell you about others they know who have had cancer and perhaps died of it. Even though it may not really be comforting to you, they are reaching out the best way they know how. You have to allow them this because they are under stress as well.