A cousin with a cause.

In many ways 2011 was simply not a good year in my family particularly when it came to cancer. Jane and I lost a sister-in-law to lung cancer (she never smoked a day in her life), a niece lost an eye to cancer and my cousin Shawn went through a gruelling ordeal and treatment for oropharynegeal cancer from which he is still recovering. Cancer is such a horrible disease and it effects everybody and every family eventually.

In 2009 I was found to have a tumour on my submandibular salivary gland. While it turned out the be benign, the waiting through multiple tests and the fear was life changing. I wrote on it here.   I still have that mass under my jaw but it still is not causing problems thankfully so we can continue to defer it’s removal.

 I still am not a health nut but I still don’t smoke. While cancer can be unavoidable, there are many life practices and other things that can be changed or done to reduce our chances of getting hit. There is no sense inviting this terrible disease into our lives.

 This brings us back to my cousin Shawn. HPV is a virus that we really are only beginning to learn about as a modern society. It has been known for some time that it can cause cervical cancer in girls and a vaccine has been developed. Currently only girls are covered for vaccination though as proven by Shawn’s battle the virus can cause horrific damage to men as well. Shawn and his family are recovering. Shawn’s wife Susan however is not stopping at simply their own recovery. She is now working to help fight preventable cancers through increasing the scope of HPV vaccination.

 Below is the story and plea from Susan. Please take it under serious consideration:


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 saliva.

Currently my husband is slowly recovering – what are his side effects: no taste buds, no saliva, 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 saliva 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 then 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 HPVthe 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


Please email Dr. Corriveau directly:  andre.corriveau@gov.ab.ca


CC: our Health Minister Fred Horne: health.minister@gov.ab.ca


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.



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