by Bunny Kennedy
Just before Christmas in 2018, I discovered a non-painful lump on the right side of my neck. After noticing it wasn’t going away within a few weeks, I went to see my provider. She decided I should fly down to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary to get it checked out in the Maxillofacial Department. Two weeks after giving me a PET scan and biopsies, I flew back for my results.
I was given the devastating news that I had oropharyngeal cancer.
HPV Cancers are Difficult to Treat
My consultant said that it was HPV positive, and due to it being still quite localized, it was potentially treatable. He and his team of experts worked out a treatment plan. It involved removal of the base of my tongue, tonsils and all of my molars to start with. Once my mouth healed I then had to move to Aberdeen for six weeks to start a course of chemotherapy and daily radiotherapy. I had to stay at a hostel for people who were having treatment far from home. It was heartbreaking being there with so many sad and scared people going through the same thing as me.
The first full day of Cisplatin chemotherapy was soul destroying. I felt desperately ill–very weak and very dizzy. For the daily radiotherapy, a fiberglass mask was molded tightly to my face and shoulders and was marked with where my tumors were located so they could be targeted. Every day for six weeks, I was bolted down by my customized mask to the table of the radiation machine unable to move and literally burnt with radiation.
Bunny in recovery from treatment.
My husband flew down from our home in Orkney and was shocked at how brutal the treatment was and how disheartened I was. It had become difficult to eat, I felt totally exhausted, I was constantly dizzy and disorientated and frightened, and I felt like giving up. He went home, packed up the house, and found us somewhere to live near to the hospital. He gave me the fighting spirit to carry on.
It was such a relief to finish the treatment. However, two days after my last radiotherapy session, the radiation burns I suffered put me into hospital for some weeks.
HPV Cancers are Almost Completely Avoidable
I still could not eat, so I had a feeding tube and mainly lived on liquids. I lost 57lbs in total, and even now I struggle to eat as I have very limited saliva and no taste buds.
It was a devastating time for me and all my family. If there had been the HPV vaccine available to me when I was young, then I’d not have gone through this terrible cancer.
Bunny four months after treatment.
If not caught early, HPV can be a death sentence. Sadly I have two friends who are terminal with HPV-caused cancers. My oncologist told me that if all schoolchildren were vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, this cancer would no longer exist by the time our next generation grows up. How fantastic to be able to totally stop HPV cancer just by having a quick and simple vaccination!
I am in remission, and–fingers crossed–I will stay so. Please, please say yes to the vaccine.
Bunny and her husband Tim, this past summer.
Bunny Kennedy is married with two grown sons. She is racing towards 60 and lives in Scotland. Bunny’s post, like all others on this blog, was a voluntary submission. If you want to help make a difference, submit your own post by emailing Noah at [email protected]. We depend on real people like you sharing experience to protect others from misinformation.