The head of NLGJA has died, Michael Triplett

Michael Triplett, the head of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, has died.  He was only 48.

Triplette had an HPV-related oral cancer – the same virus that causes cervical cancer in women.  There’s growing concern about an increase in cancers of the mouth, throat, tongue, and genital cancers in men and women, related to HPV transmitted via sex.  The HPV vaccine, if you take it at a young enough age, can prevent this.

I got my shots, but they’re expensive and insurance won’t cover them, at least not for men (I don’t know if insurance will cover girls).  The shots are something on the order of $180 a shot, as I recall – and you need three over a six month period.  Then again, the trade-off is possibly dying.

Triplett wrote about his treatment a while back. It’s a great column, rather funny in parts.

Triplett_Michael_0My cancer is part of a growing “epidemic” of oral cancer unrelated to smoking and drinking. Instead, there is an increase—primarily in middle-aged, white men—of tongue and other mouth cancers connected to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV has traditionally been connected to cervical cancer in women, but there is growing evidence of the virus being a major risk factor for getting head and neck cancer.

I’ve never smoked and never been more than a social drinker. I’ve never even performed oral sex on a woman, which has been a working hypothesis behind the rise in oral cancers for men.  While it’s nice to be special and unique, the only real comfort comes from knowing that HPV-related oral cancer is more responsive to treatment and that the prognosis is better than other oral cancers.

At this moment, I’m doing OK.  I was the brave cancer patient through my first round of surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy. I stayed optimistic and tried to focus on being “cured.”  I was lucky that I recovered quickly from the surgeries and that my radiation/chemo regime went remarkably well. My doctors said I had an amazing tolerance for pain and was at the top of the bell curve in terms of how well I responded.

Trying to take advantage of my weight loss, I started seeing a personal trainer after I was done with my treatments. I took a 10 day vacation to Amsterdam with my boyfriend just two months after finishing everything. Things were going so well.

That optimism and bravery ended in December when a spot that had appeared in one of my initial scans after surgery did not disappear after treatment. The decision was made to remove more of my tongue, and then later decided to do a round of high-tech radiation called Cyberknife, as well as three more rounds of chemotherapy. It was the lowest point of my year with cancer, and that recovery was the hardest I experienced.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • AnitaMann

    John, you’re saying if an adult has been exposed to hpv it’s too late to be vaccinated? I could look this up but too lazy right now…

  • Freday63

    Alarming…My dentist does a regular screening for high blood pressure and a complete oral cancer screening…

  • Hue-Man

    “The committee’s [Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization] report also noted that the number of annual cases (and average annual incidence per 100 000) of penile cancer among men in Canada is 127.4 (1.0 per 100 000), while the rate for cancer of the anus is 208.2 (1.6), oral cavity 853.1 (6.5) and oropharynx 84.3 (0.64). The estimated portion of those cancers that are attributable to HPV is 63% for penal cancer, 92% for anal cancer and 89% for both oral cavity and orapharygeal cancer.” http://www.cmaj.ca/content/184/5/E250.full

    In B.C., Grade 6 girls receive free Gardasil shots but not boys (the linked Canadian Medical Association Journal article ignores men having sex with men and assumes that vaccinating girls will protect boys from HPV.) Provinces are doing the cost/benefit analysis and concluding that the low incidence and high cost make it unattractive for public funding. (The incidence rate of 1 per 100,000 is low compared to, say, lung cancer in males of 62 or diabetes of 680.)

  • OtterQueen

    It is transmitted man-to-woman and can cause cervical cancer, so I imagine it can also be transmitted man-to-man. I’ve always wondered why they recommend vaccination for girls but not for boys.

  • AnitaMann

    Whaaa? I was a member of nlgja for years. He was a great leader. Shit.

    Is this hpv something that’s transmitted sexually, man-to-man? Between this and the new strain of ghonorrea not responsive to treatment… gad.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Sad, too young. Always an additional and greater loss when we lose leaders.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-De-Salvio/1187769019 John De Salvio

    I was a friend of Leroy Aarons, who founded NLGJA. He died in 2004. Was Michael his successor?

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