A New Threat: a Second Cancer?
Last updated: June 2023
Sometimes life throws curveballs, such as when a second cancer strikes after undergoing treatment for the first cancer. I was not expecting a second devastating blow after being diagnosed with advanced metastatic prostate cancer stage 4.
My heart started to race
In 2014, however, I began experiencing vocal problems. Suddenly, the dulcet tones I had become accustomed to became croaky and barely audible. An endoscopy procedure was performed under the guidance of an ENT consultant. The test revealed that my right vocal cord had become lazy and was not responding as it should. Cancer of the thyroid was diagnosed, and I faced another threat on the horizon. A new cancer is termed a second cancer or a second primary cancer and not a recurrence.
This was completely different from the first cancer (prostate cancer). A cough or hoarse voice that does not go away. These were the symptoms I experienced. My heart started to race, and I thought, "did I hear him wrong?" Maybe he said, "You don’t have cancer."
However, the diagnosis was revealed to me in my wife's presence on this occasion. Tears rolled down her cheeks as her eyes widened, and I knew then that I had not heard incorrectly. The expression on my wife's face suggested that her husband shouldn't have to suffer from a second cancer diagnosis; what has he done to deserve this? In my opinion, it felt like a cruel encore after surviving a plane crash and now facing a serious train derailment.
Had my luck run out?
This was the second time hearing the word "cancer" as it relates to me. It felt worse than the first time, making my stomach sink. "Hadn't I paid my dues?" I said to myself. My wife and family had suffered for two years already. It stirred up so many emotions, from fear to frustration and anger.
As you progress in life, curveballs can be thrown at you at any time, especially in cancer. In the midst of living with an initial cancer diagnosis, another devastating blow struck – again unexpectedly. Fear crept back into my mind as I became more tense. I would have appreciated more detailed advice about what could come up unexpectedly or unforeseen. As I held my wife's trembling hands, she lay her head on my shoulder.
It felt like she was putting her world of worries on my shoulder at that moment. At the same time, I knew I had to inform my family, something I was not looking forward to, a daunting task. However, strangely enough, on this occasion, there were no tears or hysteria on their part. Again I was facing an uncertain future. Had my luck run out? I wondered.
Still something unresolved
There was, however, one unclear issue. My goitre position was hidden from the endoscope device view. This further posed issues for the medical team involved in confirming that it was thyroid cancer, other than the changed voice. But there was a savior at hand: my oncologist did not believe it was thyroid cancer.
At my next consultation with him, he requested that the ENT medical team at the other hospital fax over my previous set of test results taken almost 18 months prior. They wanted to review the diagnosis and validity of the test. Now I have to say elation shuddered through my body at the thought of an incorrect diagnosis.
Shortly after, medical reports arrived, showing results dating back 18 months. Was it possible after all that I did not have thyroid cancer? Did these ENT consultants get it wrong? The urge to jump up and down at this seemed appropriate, but caution prevailed.
Finally, a break
My oncologist was not an ENT specialist nor privy to all medical information pertinent to my case history. Though he worked on throat cancer, he was still not a specialist. However, he gave us hope. In the end, the surgery worked well, and the biopsy of the goitre, which had been surgically removed, proved benign.
We were all spared and given a much-needed physical and mental break from the threat of another cancer diagnosis and the exhaustive process it would have meant. I now know the drill. I have learned how to put my head before my heart, focus on the fight, and cry later.
Furthermore, I even learned how to expect some friends to show up and others to disappear. I've been there, done that, and worn the T-Shirt.
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