First of all, lots of very warm thanks for the support I got on my last blog post about cancer. And huge thanks to everyone at Google (more about this in my next post), they’ve also been extremely nice and supportive. Thanks to all of you, guys.
This post gives a few more details, but in short: although nothing is certain obviously, it looks like I’ve won the battle against cancer after about 6 months; there are less than two weeks of treatment to go. Soon back to normal life, woohoo!
So, all of this is nearly over. It is most likely that the cancer didn’t resist to 1) chemotherapy, 2) surgery and 3) radiotherapy. I still have 7 courses of radiotherapy to go (until the end of next week), but things are going pretty well and I can now see the end of the treatment and start planning a normal life again.
Of course, this is not a mere cold I got here, and one can never know if bad cells remain or not, but thanks to my young age (26) and overall good health, the treatment could be pretty aggressive and all signs until now seem to show that it has been really successful. After examining the bit of tongue that was removed, it appeared that there was no real one-piece tumor left, only sparse regions of cancerous cells; this means that I responded very well to chemotherapy (much more than 50% — good thing those 3 months were useful ’cause they weren’t easy!). The surgeon removed all the neck ganglions (around 90 of them, whoa — it turned out 3 of them were infected but there was no further appearant “leakage” of the cancer), along with about half of the mobile tongue and replaced the removed bit with muscle from inside the neck. All this (huh, relative) good news allowed the radiotherapist to not have to burn me with too much radiation (56 Gy = 28 courses of 2 Gy each, which means about 6 weeks of treatment, it could have been 8 or 9).
If I understood well, the doctors’ philosophy is to make the treatment quite a bit more aggressive than needed in theory to increase the chances of success (in other words, you can never know at which point the treatment is sufficient because very small amounts of cancerous cells are undetectable, so the only way is to “over-treat”). For example, in theory, neither the removal of the left neck ganglions (tumor was on the right side) nor even radiotherapy were really compulsory, but they maximize the chances of success. Of course there are side effects, but they’re nothing compared to the possibility of the cancer coming back (not a good thing for this type of tumor).
So, about long term side effects (short or middle term side effects are also a pain, but they’ll be gone in a few weeks/months now): 1) for the moment I have difficulties pronouncing certain sounds (‘S’ especially), but this will get better over time and I have no problem making myself understood in French, English or Chinese (lots of people have these elocution troubles since birth and are fine with that), 2) saliva doesn’t have all the good properties (and is extremely thick for the moment — radiotherapy burns the salivatory glands) and maybe lacking a bit in the future, but it could have been much worse should radiotherapy have lasted longer. A few other minor side effects are some stiffness of the neck and shoulders (will get better), some difficulties to chew stuff (will also get better, although I’m not sure how much), and of course a neat, huuuuge scar on the neck 🙂
I’ll still need a few weeks in Paris to recover from all this, have some more exams to make sure there’s nothing bad left in my body, remove the implantable catheter system that was placed under my skin a few months ago (for chemo injections not to ruin my arm veins) and I’ll be going back to work! Once again, thanks to everyone for your support, and I’m especially thankful to my family, they’ve all been besides me in the past few months (my wife slept on a foldable bed in my room every single night when I stayed in hospital after surgery — that’s 3 weeks, and her job is on the other side of the city), as well as to everyone at Google for their support (more about my experience in this great company soon!).