UPDATE JULY 2012 – They found a nodule on my Thyroid which they say is “compromised” but benign. Another word doctors used was “atrophied”, To me either word means “dead” so I will have my Thyroid with it’s “suspicious, hairy, football shaped nodule” removed in late August after returning from my mother Phyllis’ 90th birthday gathering of family.
I spent the better part of my photographic career in the dark room. (Mister Mushroom – they keep you in the dark and feed you shit -so I must be a Mushroom) If you count the time I was learning to print and develop my own film and color prints then produce photo murals professionally for 25 years, total was about 40 years.
In the mid 1960’s when first learning how to develop and print B&W photographs, we used a device called a “StaticMaster” (one and three inch models shown above) which was a camel’s hair brush that came with a strip of polonium covered by an aluminum “protective shield”.
The purpose of the strip being to reduce the static charges that attract dust to film and the glass carriers we used to hold the film flat in custom photo enlarging equipment.
We also used a different, yet equally dangerous technology attached to an electro-statically charged, highly pressurized air brush. I think perhaps either or both used simultaneously, might have released tiny charged micro-particle(s) of polonium or dust into the air. I might have inhaled some dust that came in contact with the strip while prepping negatives or transparencies to be printed (enlarged).
I’m sure there were warnings about not breathing or touching the polonium strip. Adding additional high air pressure and blasting dust (spray offset powder), airborne probably didn’t really help.
Quite possibly these energized radioactive particles were then trapped by the lymph node on the right side of my neck right under my jaw.
I can remember having winter colds in Chicago, when that lymph node swelled up. However, it always returned to it’s normal size.
Lying dormant for years, something must have triggered it and the squamous cell cancer started to grow rapidly in the lymph node. Went from nothing to the size of half a baseball in three weeks Perhaps even a visit to a hospital, doctor’s or dentist’s office where radiation was in use set it off, or a close proximity to a leaky microwave oven. I don’t know and neither do my doctors. I do know that I have yet another year of recovery ahead.
My doctors weren’t even sure where the cancer came from in my body and could not pinpoint the primary site. The lymph nodes are like the bodies protective filter. l received a massive targeted dose
of radiation (45 days) to a point near the base of my tongue and tonsils after the ENT Doctor cut out 42 lymph nodes from behind my right ear down to close to my right nipple, slicing open across my neck and up to the back of my ear. It was just supposed to be a “biopsy”. Woke up NINE hours later to find tubes coming out of me all around my head and neck. My Oncologist Oscar Oscarson said it had progressed to stage 4 in that short a time. I had Erbetux chemotherapy, along with the 45 days of radiation, five days a week. Most folks say that the chemo was worse than the radiation. I found that not to be true with this medicine. I actually felt better after each infusion. Towards the end I needed to have intravenous saline hydration as well becuase I wasn’t getting enough fluids or electrolytes with my stomach feedings through a tube.
My throat was completely burned shut and I could not so much as swallow a sip of water for months. I started to show burn lesions the final week of radiation therapy. Dr. Dugan, my radiologist said, “Now we just have to try and keep you alive!”, and I was admitted to the hospital for 32 days. The burns ran from the right half of my face down to my nipple, third degree after a week and I had the burn unit changing my dressings twice daily.
The only thing I could eat was a mixture of vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet one of the nurses told me about. They made it into sort of slurry and I could just swallow that. Then I spent six months in bed, only feeding with a machine through my stomach tube. My taste buds were compromised completely, in that nothing tasted right when I finally tried to eat about 9 months later. The very first thing that tasted right was a Taco Bell Burrito smothered in Hot Sauce.
A year and a half later they found a benign nodule on my Thyroid and discovered I had Hypothyroidism, another by product “compromise” from radiation. Now I have to take Synthroid the rest of my life. And my teeth have taken a beating as well. Several root canals as the nerves and roots died on the right side of my mouth, and many cavities. I probably should have been taking better care of my teeth, wearing the trays filled with fluoride treatment, but being so depressed made doing most anything very difficult for over two years. Spent most of my time isolated, laying in bed watching television.
I rarely wore a protective mask all those years until many years later while mixing photo chemistry. NEVER WORE A MASK WHEN CLEANING FILMS WITH ELECTROSTATIC CHARGED AIR AND A STATIC MASTER BRUSH. We also handled high concentrations of sodium hydroxide, several acids like Hydrochloric, Acetic and Sulphuric with rubber gloves, an apron and supposedly an aspiration mask. I read an article where Sodium Hydroxide exposure was suspected of causing external squamous cell carcinoma on the skin. Guess I should have been more cautious!
In mid April I will have reached the “three year mark” and if my Pet scan is clear then, the doctor says I might be “cured”.
I really hope 2013 is a better year! Le Chaim!
Gained back some of the 160 pounds I lost from being in bed all of that time. But have lost fifteen recently after moving to Speedway, Indiana, near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.