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second opinion

Celebrate with a statue high five. Over here. Don’t leave me hanging.


Cancer cells tend to grow fast, and chemo drugs kill fast-growing cells. But because these drugs travel throughout the body, they can affect normal, healthy cells that are fast-growing, too. Damage to healthy cells causes side effects. Side effects are not always as bad as you might expect, but many people worry about this part of cancer treatment.

The normal cells most likely to be damaged by chemo are :

  • Blood-forming cells in the bone marrow
  • Hair follicles
  • Cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system

Not as bad as you might expect, they say.

Many people worry about this part of cancer treatment, they say.

And they are right. It’s not as bad as you might expect, and too many people worry about this part of cancer treatment.

It’s all true if you meet one condition: YOU’RE NOT THE ONE WITH CANCER.

Otherwise it’s a real bitch’s brew, which answers the question of the Second Opinion.

second opinion

“Why does it feel like the train is leaving without me?” “Because you are late.”

The first doc I saw walked me through the whole chemotherapy process for HPV16 throat cancer.

He lined up three different varieties, one with a pump for the 24/7 chemo driver.

Every word from his mouth drove a deeper dread. Cancer is bad, but his plan of attack aimed to sweep the deck. That’s what I asked.

“Will three chemotherapy drugs sweep the deck, clean the window, mop the floor, wash the…”

“Yes, David. I understand the question. And the answer is yes.”

“Do we start now? I’m ready to roll.”

About that second opinion

As freaky as it sounds listening to a doctor explain things I’ve only heard in movies, or bad television, and they’re talking to me; as bizarre as it feels to jump on the chemo bandwagon with both feet before a second opinion, I was ready to go.

And like you hope any marriage partner would do, mine insisted on a second opinion.

“Hey, the guy’s a doctor, we’re here, what else is there to know? It’s cancer. I’m on fire and he’s a fireman.”

“We’re getting a second opinion. It’s the responsible thing to do. If we still like this guy, then he’s the guy.”

“Here’s a second opinion for you, boss: I like this guy and I’m starting with him.”

“Okay. But after the second opinion. I made an appointment for tomorrow afternoon.”

I flopped around with the idea that cancer treatment is the same no matter where you go. Why wouldn’t it be? This cancer gets this treatment; that cancer gets that treatment.

I was an Army medic. We trained more for sucking chest wounds than cancer, but it’s all lifesaving.

Is this when I put my foot down, stomp my manly hairy hoof, and take a stand of ‘My Cancer, My Plan?’

Listen carefully: DON’T DO IT.

Once more for the back row? DON’T F#CKING DODGE A SECOND OPINION.

At the second opinion

Like I was doing my wife a favor, I went along with her to a regional clinic of the Oregon Health Science University and the Knight Cancer Institute.

The tour of the other oncology clinic was still fresh when I took a seat.

Like a soldier strapped for the dangerous duty of bivouac camp out in Army boot camp I was 90% mind made up.

The numbers changed in a hurry.

Based on the Knight Cancer Institute treatment schedule I would only get one of the three chemo cancer drugs the first doc mentioned.

Don’t short change me, bro? Or, what if one isn’t enough? Or, how can you clean out cancer with one chemo and the other guy needs three for the same cancer?

My approval rating started changing about now:

“Well, David, (I always like it when they say my name instead of asking me what I ‘go by’)

“The evidence in your case points to the treatment mode we are discussing.”

“It seems a little less aggressive than the three chemos and a pump the first guy has me starting on Monday.”

“Aggressive means killing cancer. This is a very aggressive treatment.”

“And no pump?”

“That is correct. A pump is not necessary.”

I was torn between liking the new guy, and feeling like he was leaving a few things out, like the part where the same cancer needs three chemos and a pump, or one chemo and no pump.

“That’s quite a difference, wouldn’t you say, Doctor?”

By now we’ve small talked enough and I told him I’m a former Army medic. He shifts gears a little, maybe because he knows medic training puts a former private on par with every medical specialist. In other words, a potential problem patient.


No, no, no. This is my Army Medic advice after the second opinion.

If you find a lump in your neck that wasn’t there, and if it sticks around more than two weeks, get it checked.

Don’t stop and smell the flowers.

second opinion

In China:


The Philippines:

Kung nakakita ka ng isang bukol sa iyong leeg na hindi doon, at kung ito sticks sa paligid ng higit sa dalawang linggo, kumuha ng mga ito naka-check.


Si vous trouvez une bosse dans le cou qui était pas là, et si elle colle autour de plus de deux semaines, faites-le vérifier.


Wenn Sie einen Knoten in den Hals finden, die nicht da war, und wenn es klebt um mehr als zwei Wochen, um es überprüft.




आप अपनी गर्दन में गांठ है कि वहाँ नहीं था लगता है, और अगर यह चारों ओर दो सप्ताह से अधिक लाठी है, यह जाँच मिलता है।


Если вы нашли кусок в вашей шее, что там не было, и если он прилипает вокруг более чем за две недели, получить его проверили.


Si encuentra un bulto en el cuello que no estaba allí, y si se pega alrededor de más de dos semanas, que lo revisen.


당신이 없었다 당신의 목에 덩어리를 발견하면, 그것은 약 2 주 이상 붙어 있다면, 그것은 확인 얻을.

This is no bullshit.

Neither is the second opinion

One of the cell groups chemo kills is blood-forming cells in the bone marrow?

The Knight Cancer Institute brings an advanced view to treating HPV16 throat cancer.

I didn’t ask directly, but what I heard between the lines was treatment based on tumor size.

This is shocking news every time I hear it. I didn’t have an enlarged lymph gland anymore, not the mumps. It’s a cancerous tumor.

Pardon the outdoor voice:


The first treatment opinion had a ‘difference in philosophy’ with the second.

And the numbers kept changing. Less chemo for the same results?

And my hair won’t fall out?

Call it what it is, but losing hair ought to be further down the list. It wasn’t for me, a hair hoarder.

I started things out by getting the worst haircut ever so losing it would be a good thing. And didn’t lose it.

Finally, chemo affects cells in the mouth, digestive tract, and reproductive system. Twelve simple words we all know and share since third grade health with Mrs. Kraus.

Food in, waste out, and every micro-meter of the way taking one chemo hit, then another, and another.

“For a large tumor we need to shrink it down for radiation to get around. Then we would explore other options.”

“Like a pump and more chemo, but not now?”

“The medical evidence in your case doesn’t call for those measures.”

I could have called it a Super Second Opinion, a Second Opinion Salvation, a ‘Safe At Second’ Opinion.

But I didn’t.

After signing up for treatment with the Knight Cancer Institute, I felt like I signed with Nike.

I celebrated with a high five from Johnny. Over here, Jack. Don’t leave me hanging. Come on, man.

second opinion

About David Gillaspie


  1. Jeff Bellah says:

    Good starts to explaining your experience David. I have a good feeling that your experience is going to help many others. Keep on keeping on Dude!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thank you for coming in JB,

      This is one small part of the healthcare debate, just another guy lining up for the cure. I was lost when my insurance got canceled on the way to chemo, when everything in-network shifted out then back in.

      The era of healthcare adjusting isn’t the right era to get cancer, neither is winter time, but it’s all about controlling what you can, right? I’m in the system like a marked man now. A pre-existing marked man. Luckily I’m a long time blogger with a growing platform.

      Instead of talking about ‘what if’ I’ve earned the distinction, as unfair as they all are, of a smaller cancer with a better cure rate. If you get to it soon enough. If not it goes big cancer with a bad cure rate like Shaq late in his career.

      One side effect: I catch myself looking at necks in a whole new light. The sports analogy of ‘step on their throat and keep your foot there’ carries much more weight. Any place you can add this link, please do.


  1. […] My first doc missed the P16 molecular marker. The second opinion doc didn’t. Get a second opinion and ask about HPV-related throat cancer. […]

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