Random Thoughts

The Devil: squamous cell cancer

... it just travels.

by Ed Boyd

Several years ago I was sent to MGH for Mohís surgery. This is the procedure where they slice
you up, wait until they can see if they got it all, if they did you get patched up and sent
home. I saw a dermatologist ever after.

A dermatologist I was seeing discovered a lump in my neck and referred me to a vascular surgeon.
Dr. H. operated on me, said it was a very aggressive squamous cancer and I was referred to Dr.
M. for radiation. (This is what Mohís surgery was supposed to do. Get all the cancer out of my
system and it did not work.)

Dr. M. provided 30 sessions of radiation. I remember lying on the table with my head taped so I
would not move my head. The radiation did not take very long, only a few minutes. Still, I felt
very apprehensive having my head taped down feeling very confined. It occurred to me that I had been a signalman in the Navy several years ago. We used Morse code with the signal lights to talk with ships nearby. I imagined my granddaughter who was about to make her first communion.

Being strapped down as I was, I began sending Morse code to my granddaughter, Courtney:
C-.-.O-.-U.-R.-.T-N-.E.Y-.-- I went through a sentence or two like this and that is how I dealt
with my fright. My hope was that the radiation killed the squamous cancer left in me.   

A lump showed up, again, in my neck 6-10 months later. The radiation had not worked. I went to
Dr. M. and he referred me to Dr. B. Dr. B. said I needed a neck dissection for the tumor in my
neck. I was only in my forties at that time and was playing golf several times a week. As my
family responsibilities began to fade somewhat, I developed a passion for golf.

I asked Dr. B. how his proposed operation would affect my golf swing. Dr. B. gave me the name of
a person who was a golfer too, that I might contact to see what his results were by Dr. B.'s
operation. I did just that. I called this person (whose name I canít remember), asked if his
golf game was affected by his operation. He said he could drive about 230 and about 230 after
the operation. I was encouraged by this and agreed to have the operation.

Meanwhile, as Dr. B. had sent me to MGH for examination, another lump was discovered in my lung.
With Catherineís help (she was a surgical nurse at MGH for many years) I was able to get Dr. W.,
a thoracic surgeon, to remove the cancer from my lung. Once this aggressive squamous cancer
makes its way into your body it may travel anywhere. I remember following Dr. W.ís operation; I
was alone on the 14th floor of MGH, looking out the window on the 4th of July. This was
devastatingly lonely making me get in touch with things that had been visited upon me. Now, all
I had to look forward to Dr. B.ís dissection of my neck.

About a month later after I had recovered from my chest operation, a blockage in my left carotid
artery was discovered. Dr. H. and Dr. B. talked it over and decided that Dr. H. would do a
repair of my clogged artery followed by Dr. B. who would then do my neck dissection. This meant that I would have to be only knocked out only once though both operations took about five hours. Good news, I suppose.  

Both operations were done at the Melrose-Wakefield hospital. My oldest, Ellen. came to see me,
and burst into tears when she took a look at me. I donít really remember what I looked like, I
can only imagine.



November 1, 2013


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