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Venkata (Skin Cancer): Brighter Tomorrow For A Healthy Life

Venkata (Skin Cancer): Brighter Tomorrow For A Healthy Life

a 34-year-old Software Engineer from India, I am Venkata Madugundu, working at Big Blue. Eight months ago, I noticed a small leukoplakic patch on the right lateral border at the bottom of my tongue. After consulting with an oncologist and a dentist, I underwent a biopsy which confirmed it was squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), measuring 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm—fortunately very localized at that time.

The surgery was completed on 10th of June. An MRI showed that my lymph nodes were clear, but my doctor performed a neck dissection removing nine lymph nodes and one submandibular salivary gland, all of which tested negative for metastasis. Post-surgery, I was able to speak, though with a slur, and felt better 20 days later, fully healing but with some numbness. I only lost 3 kgs, which was significant since I am lean.

Post-surgery, the tumor board recommended preventative adjuvant radiotherapy with sensitizing chemo (cisplatin), which I found daunting. After two rounds of chemotherapy, I started experiencing new issues:

  1. Trismus, limiting my mouth opening to a maximum of three cm.
  2. Thick, pungent saliva that turned yellowish if not expelled, causing significant discomfort at night.
  3. A 1 cm by 4 cm ulceration on the left lateral border of my tongue.
  4. Two teeth near the tumor were removed; however, the third molar was left, which irritated the rear edge of my mouth. My dentist advised against extraction for the next six months.
  5. The cisplatin had induced acidity, though it seemed to be diminishing.

For the trismus, I had ordered a Therabite, hoping it would aid in improving mouth mobility. I was grappling with the saliva issue and expected the mouth ulceration to heal eventually.

Now, looking back on the emotional aspects, it felt depressing to endure the trauma of these treatments along with the strong urge to talk to people, return to work, and lead everyday life, whatever the new normal was.

I hope that someday, doctors would come up with a cure, all kinds of medicine that would help our immune system fight it, rather than chemo and radiation, which caused too many side effects that disturbed everyday life. At least, I hoped that in 20 years, some accessible medicine would be developed.

The treatments had taken a significant emotional toll, making me deeply desire to communicate more openly, return to work, and resume a semblance of normal life. I had hoped that future medical advancements would provide treatments that better supported the immune system with fewer side effects. For the time being, I was focusing on a brighter future, enjoying life with my one-year-old daughter, and trying not to dwell too much on what lay ahead. Despite the philosophical turns my thoughts often took, I always remained hopeful that one day everything will get normal and I would be be able to continue my life without any difficulty.

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