My Father's Throat Cancer Story- His Warning Signs Were Overlooked: Symptoms and What You Need to Know
Dad Fighting Cancer of the Throat
Smoking and Drinking Caused His Throat Cancer
My father-in-law had a couple of faults, God rest his soul—he was a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker. He woke up in the morning with a beer in his hand and a cigarette in his mouth; he went to bed the same way. My dad wasn't even a hard liquor or whiskey drinker. He would occasionally have some vodka or Jack; not every day, however. Please understand that I am not judging anyone, so please don't think I am. I my self smoke, yes, I know—but when you mix the two together, over the years, you are asking for trouble.
My Father's Early Signs of Throat Cancer
My father's first symptoms, from what I remember, started off when he would cough; a little bit of bright red blood would trickle out and down his lips and chin. I remember a few times where just clearing his throat would cause blood droplets on his tongue. He coughed a lot so our very first thought was that maybe he broke a couple vessels in his throat. After about a month of the bleeding getting more and more frequent—and thicker—a few other symptoms started as well, such as:
- Heavy coughing, his voice would get so hoarse it was hard to understand him.
- He had trouble swallowing (even his own saliva). He already had a raspy voice for many years because of his smoking so we really didn't even give it a second thought.
- Felt like there was a lump in his throat or said he thought he had a bad cold coming on.
No Improvement of Symptoms
After a few weeks, my father started complaining his sore throat was getting worse and when he spoke, It was very raspy and deep sounding. I would say it was roughly within another month or so that he started to literally cough up blood, not trickling any longer. He did make a couple trips to the family doctor for the bleeding and hoarseness, but they just passed it off as a man who drank and smoked a lot and had a sore throat. The spitting and coughing up blood was either bright red or dark. As a couple more weeks passed, you could see that he was starting to get extremely worried.
He would then start his journey of really searching for answers at the family doctor again. We had no reason to think that these were even that it could be cancer. The family doctor said he wanted to send him up to the VA clinic because he needed further testing. They diagnosed him with strep throat, gave him some Chloraseptic throat spray and sent him home. I think they even gave him an antibiotic.
It was less than a week after coming back from the clinic before all it took was for him to be sitting there, and blood would just start oozing from his lips as it came up and out his mouth and onto the floor; sometimes landing on his feet. We were in total shock at this point—we didn't know what to do or where to go. The blood would continue to trickle down his chin even when he was sleeping. We would hurry up and go get clean wet wash towels to clean the blood off his lips, mouth, and chin—it was gut-wrenching. We felt so helpless, and not having any answers, did not help.
Throat Problems Getting Worse
I did the best I could to help my mom and hear her stories every day of what was going on. I had a young child at home and it was hard for us to go over there and try to help with a sick man and a young baby running around.
After about a few days, the blood continued to just drip out of his mouth and then started to drip out of his nose. We would call the VA clinic and my mother would cry. That's when I do remember the several trips we took back and forth to the VA. He would try to tell them he couldn't breathe, he couldn't get any air, etc. but it was always; try this, try that, etc. It was basically as the old saying goes, "If at first you don't succeed, try again." After several trips to this Dr. and that Dr., at the Clinic, he was finally diagnosed him with throat cancer.
Treating Throat Cancer
Let me tell you that never in my life have I ever seen a more horrible situation. I have seen my share of people dying with cancer and horrible things, but this was over the top. He had radiation to help shrink the tumor so he could breathe. The tumor was so large it blocked his airways. The radiation would not save his life, but let him live a little while longer and he had a little bit of hope. After all, never give up hope, that's all we have in life.
Until the tumor shrunk down enough, he had to have a trachea tube put in. The tumor was too large to operate on until the radiation shrank it.
When they removed the tumor in his throat, they had to cut him from ear to ear underneath his chin. His face was so swollen that he literally looked like a monkey. It was the worst thing I ever had to witness in my life. After they took out the tumor, my mother would have to help him do everything on a daily basis; I mean everything.
Dad had to have a feeding tube because that was the only way he could eat. The tube hung from a pole and it was inserted into his abdomen. The TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) would drip down into the long hose directly into his stomach. That is how he had to eat from here on out. He didn't have to suffer for very long as in about less than 2 months time from diagnosis, he passed away.
Please remember that this was a man who was in his early 60's. He had these symptoms for a while before the official diagnosis. The reason I am telling you that, is because I don't want you to think that just because you have throat cancer that it's a death sentence. You have to get to the right Dr. and continue until you get an answer. I have stated this several times in my other articles, and I will continue to think and say this. You know your own body and your body will let you know if something isn't quite right. Listen to it and keep fighting for your health.
When it comes to the prognosis of throat cancer, you can't go by statistics or percentages of other cancer patients. Do not let that be your outlook. It's not like comparing apples to apples, it's like comparing apples to a chair. Each is different and no two outcomes are the same. There are different types of cancer, the way it spreads, etc.
I do not want this article to scare you if you are having issues right now with lung or throat cancer. No one's outcome is the same and each person is different either in:
- Type of Cancer
- Past medical history
- Heath , etc.
Of course there a lot of other factors as well, but these are a few of the top ones.
Lung and Throat Cancer
Now—God forbid any of you that read this has cancer; I don't mean to give you such a grim outlook. My father's cancer was too far gone for them to give him a chance at all. Not all throat cancers are metastasized from the lung as his was.
According to statistics, because of his unfortunate habits, throat or lung cancer would seem to be almost inevitable. I don't drink, but that doesn't make me any safer or less invincible. I think this story is important; if you smoke, quit. If you smoke and drink, you are increasing your chances of getting cancer, especially throat or lung cancer.
A Personal Story From A Physician
I read this book to see if there was a way we can find clarity on what to expect. We wanted to try and find hope and answers. Getting the book and knowing it was written from a physician, gave us a sense of surety.
Cancer is just not anything you can ever be prepared for no matter how hard you try. You almost feel like you have already given up hope before any treatments or anything has started.
Warning Signs Of Throat Cancer
Remember, these are warning signs only and doesn't mean you have cancer
A sore throat
Lump in the throat that doesn't heal
Coughing up blood
Changes in your voice (ie., hoarseness)
If you would like to see the links I provided, they would be more helpful than I am, I am simply providing you information and some inside information that I personally experienced.
Will You Stop Smoking
Just Curious to see who may stop smoking and/or drinking after reading this:
Dedication To My Father-in-Law
I am dedicated this story to my father-in-law. I shared his story to hopefully save someone else from having to go through what he did. Throat cancer symptoms are often similar to strep throat. It's important for you to be aware of the warning signs or symptoms of this disease. My dad's cancer wasn't detected early enough; therefore, he had no chance. I hope to help someone with telling of his journey.