One Gay Man's Battle Against Oral Cancer
Michael Triplett is a vice president of the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association and their most prolific blogger. He's also just reached the first anniversary in his battle against HPV-related oral cancer, about which he's just written for the Good Men Project. An excerpt:
In the past year, I’ve had: three surgeries, 42 days of traditional radiation treatment, five rounds of chemotherapy, and five days of advanced radiation treatment. My medical bills have surpassed the $600,000 mark—thank God for my employer’s great insurance plan. I’ve lost over 50 pounds and all my facial hair, had almost half of my tongue removed, undergone two high-tech robotic procedures, used up over 70 percent of my accumulated sick leave, and had my 76-year old mother living with me for about 12 weeks to assist in my care. From this birthday forward, my gifts better be pretty damn spectacular.Read the entire essay.
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.