Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Celebrations were a bit premature

Last I left you, I had half my thyroid removed and no cancer was found.
Just four days later I received a call a phone call from my ENT surgeon.
(In my experience, when I've had good or neutral news coming my way, then a member of the doctor's administrative staff or perhaps a nurse would call me. When it was bad news, then the call would come from the doctor himself.)

The ENT told me that although they were initially unable to find any malignancy in the tissue they removed during my surgery, after further examination, the pathologist was able to indeed find thyroid cancer present. The recommended solution was further surgery to remove the remaining lobe of the thyroid.

Bonus cancer!

This was pretty discouraging news to say the least. I had been given odds of cancer being found of only 15-25%, so when none was discovered during the initial tissue review, I easily forgot about the doc's caution against celebrating too early. Given the year I've had, I figured that I deserved a relatively easy win. This of course goes against my usually cautious, skeptical nature.

In order to prevent issues due to scarring, surgery was quickly scheduled for last Thursday (just one week after the initial procedure). Everything went quite smoothly, and I recovered rapidly enough to go back to work the next day. The only disturbing side effect was numbness and tingling in the hands and feet which is likely due to the inability to process/regulate calcium. This can be caused by the parathyroid glands (four small glands that rest behind the thyroid itself) functioning improperly or the glands having been removed. I'm still waiting to hear back from my surgeon as whether any of them were even removed, but fortunately the numbness has reduced significantly. In the meantime, I'm taking significant amounts of supplemental calcium.

Of course, the calcium may just be temporary. I will be taking, however, some form of synthetic thyroid hormone for the rest of my life (currently prescribed Liothyronine). The thyroid naturally regulates metabolism, so I'll be playing a life-long game of keeping my levels steady and possibly coping with a host of various side-effects of being either hyper- or hypothyrodic. From my research, it's a "your mileage may vary" situation, so I'll hope for a best-case scenario while preparing for a pain in the ass.

Speaking of inconveniences, I've also been informed that a regimen of radioactive iodine will be in my future (in perhaps a month or two). The I-131 isotope will be used to wipe out any remaining traces of thyroid cells that may be lingering. I won't exactly be a weapon of mass destruction, but I will technically be dangerous to those around me for a few days. I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes.

In the mean time, life goes on. When I look back at my experiences so far this year, I've been in much worse shape morale-wise, but I'm not exactly over-the-moon these days either. Two forms of cancer this year...and it's still only September. I won't be upset if some of you start pools to guess what I'll get hit with next. Just be sure that I get a cut, too, because all these insurance copays are seriously cutting into my fun money.

1 comment:

  1. Chin up big man!
    My Dad went through the thyroid cancer thing a couple of years ago.

    It took about a year for him to get the medicine right but he kept fooling around with the dosage against doctor's orders. I'm betting you probably follow instruction a little better than my father.