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.
My 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.