People close to Cory and I know that when it came to severe illnesses, 2011 was an unfortunate year for our family. On Facebook I've mentioned we have had three family members who were struck with cancer. On Facebook I've spoken of my youngest and sweetest, sister-in-law who we lost to cancer in June of 2011. And I've spoken of my niece who lost an eye to cancer in September.
However I've never mentioned the third individual. Mostly out of respect for the incredibly trying time they were going through. Family and close friends have read their story unfold for over nine months, as it was chronicled in a private journal hosted at CaringBridge.org. (By the way I highly recommend this site)
While they are still going through challenges, they are also strengthened by what has happened to them. So much so that they want to share their story; they want to prevent this to happening to others, they want to motivate others to get involved and most importantly to take action to make a difference.
I would like to introduce you to Shawn and Susan Morgan.
Shawn is Cory's cousin. I often refer to Shawn as the "perfect Morgan". On the Morgan side of the family there are a LOT of men. They are all unique in their own odd ways. Shawn however stands out on several fronts. He is a successful business man. He is a devoted father. He is a caring husband. He is active in the community at large. He is a non-smoker, rarely drinks and was physically fit. One might say he is very "together" and life was grand on all fronts; until last year.
Susan is Shawn's wife. Susan is very much like Shawn. She is equally successful, healthy and fit. She is an amazing mom to their two boys. Of course, she is also incredibly beautiful to boot. ;) Among the Morgan wives we often joke that we are some of the strongest women in the world. (You really have to know to some of these guys to fully appreciate that statement). Over the past nine months Susan has proven that she, between all of us, is by far the strongest. By a long shot.
I invite you to have a glimpse into their world as they now know it; the following was written by Susan.
My husband Shawn Morgan was diagnosed with Oropharynegeal Cancer August 17, 2011. Stage IV. His cancer is the result HPV. They found a tumour at the base of his tongue (also common with HPV cancer) and the cancer cells metastasized to his lymph nodes. He is 43 years old and has never been sick. He actually was the picture of health – worked out daily – coached our boys’ sports teams – ate well – social drinker.
Now our lives have been completely changed by this cancer. Shawn endured 7.5 weeks of treatment chemo and radiation. For this type of cancer the radiation is all in your mouth. For 35 days your mouth is essentially burned. These patients have open sores in their mouth, on their tongues; some lose the ability to properly swallow. Most end up on a feeding tube because they cannot endure the pain of eating. Most patients lose 20 – 50 lbs. Once done treatment they slowly have to try and eat again – however they now have thick mucus in their mouth that they constantly gag on when they try to swallow food and they have no salvia.
Currently my husband is slowly recovering – what are his side effects: no taste buds, no salvia, no appetite, a constant sore throat and thick mucus in his mouth. He forces himself to eat and one meal can take up to 90 minutes. Without salvia you have to chew your food very fine before you can swallow it. They cannot tell Shawn how much better he will get so at 43 he is left to wonder is this as good as it gets... eating is a form of torture.
When I realized Shawn’s cancer was the result of HPV - I could be a carrier – can be transmitted skin to skin – or touch not just sexual activity I was ASTOUNDED!! Then when I was told girls get the vaccination in grade 5 but not boys I was angry....... I want to make a difference I want to put a face – a family to HPV so the general public understands what it can cause and why vaccinating boys is so important.
This year I want to spread the news about HPV vaccinations and why the provincial government needs to vaccinate boys. The cost factor does not make sense... if you think about how much money the Tom Baker Centre spent treating Shawn and several others in his group who had HPV – the cost of their treatment has to be harder on the health care system than direct the cost of vaccination program. Then there is the basic truth you will save young men from suffering a horrific cancer – seems very straight forward to me!
I know over the next several years we are going to see more cancers related to this virus and I do not want any families to go thru what we have. I WILL NOT STOP until my story is heard, told many times over and MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
I know the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization will be meeting shortly to review the HPV vaccination program for boys and I want to make sure Dr. Corriveau remembers my story. I want to make sure Dr. Corriveau our Chief Medical Officer for Alberta does what is right and supports the public interest. 70% of the population are carriers of HPV the majority of us fight off the virus and nothing happens. Those whose immune system cannot fight the virus get cancer. My husband, Shawn Morgan was one of those unlucky few and I will not stop telling our story until someone listens.
Susan and Shawn Morgan
I want to thank Susan for sharing and for having the strength to go public with their story. If it resonates with you this is what you can do.
Email Dr. Corriveau: firstname.lastname@example.org
CC: Health Minister Fred Horne: email@example.com
In the subject line put:
It’s okay for boys to get cancer. THE HPV VACCINATION PROGRAM DISCRIMINATES
In the content put:
The HPV vaccination program should not discriminate. Both boys and girls are HPV carriers and both can get cancer. Do what is right!
We want the HPV vaccination program provincially funded for boys. Shawn and Susan and their boys have suffered and still continue to suffer as many others do as a result of HPV cancer. I do not want that to happen to my family. The Provincial government should stop discriminating and support a HPV vaccination program for boys.
You can also email your own MLA, you can find contact info here.