Finding faith, hope and healing during sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma treatment
Before my husband, David, was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the nasal cavity called sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC), he had a sinus infection, congestion, and sinus pain and pressure. He thought it was allergies, but when the symptoms did not go away with antibiotics and steroids, he had a CT scan. The ENT suggested that David have surgery to remove the polyp blocking the entrance to his sinus cavity.
On Nov. 20, 2020, David underwent surgery to remove what turned out to be a tumor in his sinuses. After surgery, his ENT recommended David see skull base tumor specialist Ehab Hanna, M.D., at MD Anderson, who specializes in treating patients with sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma. We were told he was the best of the best, which turned out to be 110% accurate!
MD Anderson coordinated all his appointments and treatments, which was very helpful since we were coming in from out of town and did not know what to do first. MD Anderson guided us through the process with ease. This took the burden off our family.
Finding compassion and sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma expertise at MD Anderson
The doctors, nurses and staff at MD Anderson were amazing. David saw them almost every day for seven weeks. They became his family. From the greeter to the screener to the receptionist to the radiation therapists to the nurses in the infusion room, he loved them all. The doctors were wonderful and guided this symphony of cancer treatment.
David and I are from a small town in Texas called Gunter. We have a farm and were both working at the time of his diagnosis. Juggling cancer and our regular life was a thousand times better with the support of MD Anderson.
In January 2021, we moved to Houston and stayed in an apartment for two months. David started radiation and chemotherapy in the same week. We arranged for caregivers to handle the farm while we were gone. Our daily lives changed drastically.
David spent most of his time at MD Anderson and the rest of the time recovering and resting. He lost his smell and taste, and his salivary glands went on strike. His skin, from the neck up, would burn and crust. His sinus mucosal lining was irritated to rid him of the nasal cancer. He lost some of his hair on his face and head, and experienced nausea and fatigue.
David’s doctors treated these side effects to keep him comfortable. Fortunately, these were temporary, and soon after treatment his smell and taste mostly recovered, and the skin irritations on his skin and nose healed.
We learned what it was like to live with cancer treatment becoming the focus of our life. To help me manage my emotions, I blogged about our cancer experience. Together, David and I learned to accept this new season. We realized that every day is a gift.
Dealing with my own cancer diagnosis
I, too, am a cancer patient. I have a type of blood cancer called polycythemia vera. It’s a blood disorder where the body produces too many red blood cells. It can be managed with medicine and frequent blood draws.
When David became a patient at MD Anderson, I became a patient at MD Anderson as well. I began having my regular monthly checkups under the care of the magical Srdan Verstovsek, M.D. It was a blessing to be able to continue my normal routine of monthly labs.
Finding joy in everyday life
On Feb. 24, 2021, we returned home to Gunter. After David's cancer treatments, our life back on the farm is wonderful. As we travel this journey of cancer together, we do so along with millions of others doing the same.
Our best words of wisdom would be to remain positive. If you stay rooted in your being and don’t get lost in your mind, cancer is easier. The recipe we used is a serving of hope and faith, with a pinch of humor.
We know that cancer is only a part of our life. Cancer can come along for the ride with David and me, but it doesn't get to ride shotgun. Cancer sits in the backseat!