The good news is that my hearing is normal, my mouth is okay, though my uvula (that little dangly-down thing at the back) is purple for some reason, and my left sinus is clear. The not-fun news is not fun.
The tumor (heretofore known as Cap'n Lumpy) has vascular (blood vessel) and nerve involvement. In the doc's opinion, that means that it's likely a higher grade (read: nastier) and more likely to metastasize or recur than your average, every-day, extremely rare freaking tumor.
Plus, I have a lymph node that looks suspicious.
So. In addition to the MRI that I have to have (because my CT yesterday showed exactly nothing except a possibly suspicious lymph node), I will have to have an ultrasound-guided biopsy of the lymph node with a pathology read right then and there, and then have a PET scan. For you non-medical types, neither of these is as scary as they sound. An ultrasound-guided anything merely means that somebody will be sticking a little wand up to my neck and locating the lymph node by echolocation, like a bat does, so that the dude sticking the needle into my neck gets a sample of lymph node and not just some random tissue.
A PET scan is not what my animals do every morning to see if I'm indeed awake. Instead, it's a kinda-cool whole-body scan that uses radioactive sugar water to see if the cancer's spread. See, cancer cells multiply at a much higher rate than normal cells, so they use more sugar, which is the basic fuel of every cell in your body. I'll be injected with radioactive hummingbird food and scanned from head to foot. When you do a PET scan of cancerous tissue, it lights up like New York City on New Year's Eve. Normal tissue looks vaguely glow-y and drops into the background.
I'm no dummy: I know that a PET scan is not the usual MO when faced with this type of cancer.
Now, then: On to surgery.
Surgery is scheduled for October 20th.
It will take anywhere between two and four hours and will be, thank God, a transoral (through the mouth) approach. There is a chance I'll have to have my neck dissected, to get out the lymph nodes, but I won't have to have a breathing tube placed in my neck or a feeding tube placed in my stomach, thank God. I could've done all of this just fine, but a tracheostomy (breathing tube) would be freakin' pushing it.
I'll stay in the hospital for a couple of days, long enough to get good pain control and be able to take fluids. I'll be fitted with something called an obdurator, which will be placed during surgery and cover up the very big hole that the surgery will leave in the top of my mouth.
Now, then, as to the obdurator: (Medical folks can skip this; you already know all this stuff.) This surgery will take most of my soft palate and a portion of my hard palate on the right side. It might also take some teeth, but that's a minor concern.
The reason this is important is that your soft palate keeps you from either choking on food or squirting it out through your nose every time you swallow. With a big hole there, things tend to go wrong fairly quickly. Hence, the obdurator: it looks a bit like the top of a retainer, minus the wires, and covers up the big hole. Hi presto, and I won't have liquids squirting through my sinuses! I will wear the obdurator for a year, then have reconstructive surgery if I wish.
Meanwhile, there's the whole radiation angle. I won't lie to you: head and neck radiation is nasty. It's nastier than the surgery itself, and has a lot of really huge downsides. Unfortunately, tight-beam radiation or implants are not an option in this case, as there'll need to be a good "scatter"--in other words, I can't have targeted radiation because it might miss some cancerous cells. Instead, I'll have classical external-beam radiation that will screw me up for a good while--probably at least six to eight weeks.
Thankfully, I'm already forty pounds overweight. This means that any weight loss--and there'll be some, so don't be surprised if you see me looking skinny--won't be the desperate situation it would be in somebody of more normal weight. There will be lifelong side effects of the radiation to deal with, but that's a bridge I'll cross later.
So: October 20th, two to four hours, two-day stay in the hospital (probably on the fifth or seventh floors, my home turf at Sunnydale). Obdurator, which will be a pain in the tuckus and probably make me lisp, for one year after. Undetermined amounts of radiation to follow surgery. MRI, PET and lymph node biopsy between now and October 20th.