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Meet Will

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It's time to meet another member from our community. We are pleased to introduce Will Dove and we thank him for sharing his powerful message.

After a family vacation in Mexico in early February of this year my wife and I both developed pain and pressure in one ear shortly following our return. As it turns out, my wife had an ear infection while I had HPV throat cancer.

 
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I received my diagnosis in April and began treatment in early June. I received 33 consecutive daily radiation treatments with concurrent chemotherapy. Surgery was not an option as the tumor was deep in the base of my tongue. I lost 30 pounds in 5 weeks, ended up with a feeding tube and a prescription for morphine.

 
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This is not the first time cancer has struck my family. Five years ago my wife was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. Our kids were 7 and 9 when we had to tell them that mom had cancer. They knew that cancer was a disease that sometimes kills people so they asked, “Is Mom going to die?”
We were honest, but diplomatic. “It’s possible,” we said, “but not very likely”. Fortunately, this was the truth. With stage 1 cancer my wife had a 98% survival prognosis. I’m happy to say that today she is alive and well.


Then, this past spring, we had to sit the kids down again and tell them that now Dad had cancer. After my wife’s treatment we had her tested for the genetic marker for breast cancer as her grandmother had died at 36 from it, and we were concerned that if she had the marker she would have passed it on to our daughter. Fortunately, she tested negative. However, this experience taught my kids that sometimes when mom or dad get cancer it can mean a greater chance that they themselves will someday get cancer. When we told the kids about my cancer diagnosis, I could see the look of concern on my 12 year old son’s face. He was worried that this meant he might get it too. In addition, we had to tell the kids that my prognosis, while not terrible, wasn’t as good as mom’s had been. There was about a 1 in 6 chance that I would not survive.


As I write this, I am 3 months post treatment. Physically, I have largely recovered. As a lifelong fitness nut I pushed myself to return to the gym just 4 weeks after treatment and as a result I have regained my normal energy levels and am back to work full time.

 
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However, as with all people who go through treatment for throat cancer there are lasting side effects. I have almost no sense of taste. I suffer from extreme dry mouth. My teeth are very sensitive to temperature and many foods burn my mouth as though they are covered in hot sauce, even though they are not at all spicy. It will be many months yet before there is any significant improvement and it is very unlikely that I will ever regain 100% of normal function.


In addition, while the original tumor has been destroyed, there is still an 18% chance of recurrence in the next few years. If that happens there will be little or nothing the doctors can do and I will almost certainly die.


For my son, though, I don’t have to worry. When he found out about my cancer and was worried that he might get it too I was able to tell him that he was safe. Three years ago, both of my kids were vaccinated against HPV.


I was privileged to be asked to be a spokesperson for the Cancer Society this year. While I am not one of those who believe that everything happens for a reason, sometimes life does hand us the opportunity to turn a negative in to a positive. The spokesperson position was a chance to participate in spreading the message about HPV vaccination and how it can protect our kids from cancer later in life. My interview with Global National is attached below.


 

While we now know that HPV cancer is as likely to strike men as women, at the time of this writing British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and all 3 Territories do not offer HPV vaccination for boys in their schools. If you live in any of those provinces you can still take your son to the doctor for the vaccine. In addition, you can lobby your provincial government to get these programs in place. It is very important to vaccinate your kids before they become sexually active and most kids are vaccinated in grade 5.


HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease. Because an HPV infection is usually asymptomatic, exact numbers of infected are difficult to be sure of, however educated estimates run as high as 90 percent of the adult population. All it takes to be at risk for HPV cancer is to be infected with the wrong strain. The vaccines we are using are proven effective against both strains 16 and 18, which between them account for about 90% of all HPV cancers.

Please, get your kids vaccinated.




Comments

Hi Will thanks for this ..perhaps eventually everyone will get vaccinated regardless of their age ..I think we are headed in that direction ..... reminds me so much of the AIDs epidemic when it first started in the 1980s ..but this time we have a vaccine right from the start .....
  • Posted Sat 05 Nov 2016 08:45 PM EDT

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