Before and after our son’s diagnosis and surgery we have all had a lot of people ask exactly what was going to happen, or what did happen. It is so hard to explain it in a way that doesn’t scare people or have them thinking it is far worse (don’t get me wrong, it is bad – just not like what you can allow your head to imagine – believe me, I know because we did let our heads wander – and we never told any of the others!). After a while our family becomes exhausted trying to not only explain, but then to keep our minds focused on not breaking down each time.
All of that to say, I thought I would try to put it all in one post in semi-layman’s terms. I will put the medical jargon in as well if you want to Google it for more information.
When they started the surgery they did a full endoscopy (camera all the way down the throat and esophagus) to make certain there was no anomalies or tumors down there. Once the endoscopy was completed they started on the tumor in his tongue. This is called a partial glossectomy. The photo below is my fantastic rendering of a human tongue! When Dr. Hu (I was so tempted to ask where the Tardis was!?) got in there the tumor was bigger than he thought it was going to be. So, In order to get clean margins he used a CO2 Laser to remove a 4cm by 5cm piece – this removed the tumor and allows for a 1cm margin around. They did not have to cut into the root of the tongue which is a HUGE praise as that is the area that really works to push your food down your throat.
Now, clearly that is a large portion that is gone and it will affect a lot…but his speech is AMAZING!!!! Even with the swelling that will linger for a while, he mostly sounds like he has a super bad case of strep throat. It is still very sore, and will be for a bit. The doctor said that healing wise, the incision should be pretty well healing within 2 weeks of surgery. He also said that the right side will pick up the slack and start doing things for both sides…kinda cool how the body works – must have had a great Designer! Apparently the tongue is one of the fastest organs to heal (which makes no sense to me at all). He will need to see a speech therapist to fine tune a few things – but we anticipate there may not be many sessions required.
Aside from the tongue surgery, the doctor took most of his lymph nodes on that side, from the chin line almost to the collar bone – this is called a neck dissection. That took a 6” incision in his neck that goes from just under his ear to almost the front of his chin…all just below the jaw line. It is pretty gnarly, but it seems to be healing well and once the staples come out (maybe tomorrow) he will probably feel much better.
Again, we are waiting on the final pathology reports that will dictate how he will proceed, but the initial path report was all negative…and so we pray.
I can’t begin to tell of the miracles our family has be witness to over the last 6 weeks. Speaking for myself, I am overwhelmed at what the Father has done for us through His people here on earth. I have been keeping a running note book with my thoughts over seeing and feeling all of the stuff and I will write about it someday – just not yet. I’m so thankful for all of the prayer coverage, the sweet cards, emails and Facebook posts…the love of Christ walking among us!