Hello all. Welcome back to the Stardust Life. Remember the health scare that we talked about in our first post? Well, it’s safe to say, that detour in our life turned out to be a pretty major one, one that we were not sure we would ever be able to come back from. We’ve been pretty quiet on all social media platforms up until this point about what has been going on, since it has taken all this time for us to have a real grasp on what is, and has, been going on. But we feel that if we are going to be truly sharing our lives with you on this blog, then this is a crucial part that must be talked about.
About a year ago, David discovered a small lump in his neck. At first, it seemed like it was nothing to be worried about. However, over time the lump continued to grow—as did our concern for David’s health. In March of 2019 we knew we had to take it seriously, so we started down the path of diagnosis. After spending 4 months consulting different doctors, undergoing every imaginable test, and getting many different opinions, David was diagnosed with cancer in the very back of his tongue. The cancer also caused his neck lymph node to grow as a reactive result. The official name for the cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which sounds intimidating when you say it out loud. To a singer, the news that you have ANY kind of mouth or throat cancer is terrifying, to say the least. Not only that, there was the possibility that David’s speech may be permanently altered after the necessary multiple surgeries to remove the cancer. On the bright side, it turns out that this particular breed of cancer wasn’t as aggressive in David’s case and had been contained to a pretty small area. However, when comparing the surgical options with the alternatives of radiation and chemotherapy, we decided to take the risk and go for the option of surgical removal. In total, David had 2 different major operations, where he had his tonsils, the reactive lymph node, and 20% of the back of his tongue removed to take out the primary cancer site. For weeks after the surgeries David couldn’t eat solid foods, talk or swallow normally. The recovery was intense, and it was about a month and a half before David was feeling back to even a part of his normal self again. We are immensely grateful that David was able to receive such top notch health care from some of the best doctors in the world. Thank you to USC Cancer Hospital, Tarzana Hospital, as well the physicians, nurses and staff who have become our friends and heroes. It is thanks to these amazing people that David is now completely cancer free, and, as of now, does not need any more treatment for the cancer.
Going through this diagnosis over the last year was probably the hardest thing either one of us has ever had to do. It was a crazy ride, with some extreme ups and downs. With all of this happening only a few months before our wedding, our emotions seemed locked in a never-ending roller coaster, leaving us unsure of what our future was going to look like. David fully immersed himself in the process of gathering all the education available to be a part of his diagnosis. Facing the truth and not running from it was one of the hardest things to practice in reality. The gravity of some of the potential outcomes as they unfolded has altered our life view. We are very happy to report that David’s recovery has been terrific, and there is NO permanent change in his voice and speech. All that remains of the whole process is a scar on the side of David’s neck where the lump used to be, a scar that fades a little more every day.
Without a doubt, the biggest change that has come out of this whole thing is inside us. Both of us have changed the way we live day to day. It really is true that when you undergo a life or death experience such as this, you begin to look at things differently than before. Some goals become clearer, more defined, and as important as ever—while some lose their importance altogether and fade into the background. We’ve also come to realize the importance of sharing this story with others, in the hope of offering empathy and support for anyone going through a similar experience. We would be happy to share more specific details of the diagnosis process and the actual procedures with anyone who is going through this themselves or with a loved one or friend. Knowledge is so important, as is combating the fear and societal perceptions of what it means to have any type of cancer and become a survivor.
Though this post was a heavy one, it has a happy ending. David and I had our wedding in August. We will be writing about that and much more as we define our new reality after this cancer chapter. David is in great shape, his speech having completely returned to normal and all the residual pain from the surgery has subsided. He is feeling better than ever! We will be getting back to work soon on singing, music, travel and all that is Stardust Life. We believe now, more than ever, that there is no time like the present to pursue all the things you have ever wanted in life. We are charging into the future with full force and not waiting for anything anymore. The whole world is out there waiting for us, and we’re coming for it.
With endless love and hope for the future,
Ashley and David