What effects does the cancer have? How does it feel?
The direct effects of the cancer are sometimes a little difficult to distinguish from side-effects of the treatment, however, there are a few clear symptoms of the cancer itself.
The first one to appear and which ultimately led me to getting the scan that discovered the growth was that I lost my voice back in October. At first, I had put this down to stress from a number of sources, but after a couple of months, I thought it was time to get it checked out. My voice had almost entirely disappeared within a week and then gradually came (partially) back. By having a tube stuck up my nose and down my throat (nasal endoscopy), it was discovered that my left vocal cord is paralysed in the 'off' position. In order to make a noise, my right cord has learned to compensate somewhat and so I do have a small voice. Importantly, I am not damaging my voice when I speak, so please don't feel guilty about making me talk. Furthermore, the growth is not in my throat, it is in my chest.* The effect on my voice is because the growth compresses (or has possibly taken over) the nerve that controls one of my vocal cords. This effect may well be permanent, since the radiotherapy is likely to destroy whatever might be left of that nerve. However, with speech therapy I may be able to recover some more voice than I presently have. Unfortunately, I don't think I will ever sing again as I once did. This is one of the saddest things about the whole affair so far. Please pray for my patience in expressing myself with less noise and ease than I once had.
*There seems to be quite some confusion over this, with many people asking me about my throat cancer.
A second symptom of the growth itself was that since it had partially grown into my left bronchial tube (near the base of my windpipe/trachea), less air was getting into my left lung. When combined with some mucus build-up around the site of the growth, this would leave me quite short of breath upon even mild exercise (walking up a few stairs, walking above a dawdle) and often coughing quite vigorously. This symptom did not really develop until a week or two after diagnosis on 4th December, though by the end of December when I started treatment, I would often wake up at night to discover that I was only breathing on one lung. It was the severity of this effect that led to my chemotherapy treatment being started a week earlier than originally planned. Sometimes, the coughing would also lead to coughing up small quantities of blood as the tumour would get irritated by all the air movement. Since beginning treatment, my breathing has rapidly improved and now I notice almost no difficulty breathing. I still cough up quite a bit of mucus, but this is more due to side-effects of chemotherapy attacking the lining of my trachea than to the tumour itself. Praise God for the rapid effectiveness of the treament on this particular symptom!
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