Focusing On The Positives

Went to my follow-up appointment yesterday with the endocrinologist after my full body scan. I dunno, I guess it was mostly good news, but it wasn’t the “all clear” that of course anyone would prefer to hear. πŸ˜• But honestly, the chances of a doctor saying something like that are probably pretty slim anyway – since the last thing they probably wanna seem like they’re doing is handing out “guarantees” when it comes to something with such serious potential consequences.

The Negative: The scan did show a few tiny areas that lit up, meaning there’s some remaining thyroid cells there – as they had absorbed the iodine radiation and blew their cover during the scan. πŸ”¬πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€βš•οΈΒ Also, there’s no way to determine if those thyroid cells have cancerous cells in them as well… it just confirms that thyroid cells are there, and that we’ll need to periodically keep an eye on them. πŸ˜’

The Positive: The tiny bits that lit up were where they should be, where my thyroid used to be, meaning that none of those cells had migrated to any other locations where they could cause different kinds of trouble. The radiation that made those cells visible to the scan also serves to continue killing and shrinking those cells, so even over the next month or so they should continue to decrease in their already small size.

You can think of the surgery in the same way as someone trying to carve a hunk of fat off the edge of a steak before grilling it. Someone like me, I’d want to get as much of that fat cut off as possible – but at the same time you don’t wanna accidentally cut away good, non-fat, steak meat. 😏 Same thing with my surgery. The surgeon tries to cut away all of the thyroid, but not at the expense of accidentally cutting away non-thyroid meat. 😳 I guess it’s not terribly uncommon for tiny bits to be left behind because of that logic.

It won’t be for quite a while, but next year I’ll have to have an ultrasound of that area, to see if those cells appear to have grown. And since thyroids don’t grow back, I’ll assume that would be a bad thing. So at least the next “next step” isn’t stopping my meds and getting dosed with radiation again. ☒️🀒☒️ That tells me that while there is reason for concern and monitoring, it’s not of the “oh shit” variety where one of the most extreme measures is the first measure taken.

So, like I said, I guess overall it was a good result. I mean, there’s plenty of ways where it obviously could have been worse, but it’s still shitty that my first radiation didn’t kill offΒ all of the thyroid cells – because there’s no way that this won’t be something that floats around in my thoughts more than I’d like it to. πŸ˜’ I guess all my other recent lab numbers are good though, and I still feel like I’m gaining back more energy with each day that passes, so there’s that as well. I just wish that was the only thing that was going on with my neck.

So, yeah… πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Trying To Not Read In To This

I got a message two days ago from the doctor’s office that is handling my thyroid cancer treatment. My next session with the radioactive iodine treatment, which should be my final session (if everything goes well), was scheduled to start near the end of July… but they now actually want to schedule that as soon as possible. 😐 They asked me to call in yesterday so we could start making a plan, but to be honest the message had me a little too shook… πŸ˜₯ and since I was actually having a decent day yesterday, I didn’t wanna risk nuking that by bringing all of my thoughts back to the “unknown” about what’s remaining inside me, if anything.

That’s also why I took advantage of the day yesterday to get caught up with some things around the house, because I know that this next step is gonna be a bit of a nightmare. 😣 I have to completely stop taking my thyroid meds for a couple of weeks, and they were clear about how it could have drastic physical and mental side effects. (Also part of the reason that I stopped the Paxil, so I didn’t have one crap thing on top of another.)Β Then once the thyroid medication is completely out of my system, that’s when I’ll go to the hospital for the radioactive pill and another full body scan about a week later. πŸ˜•

Confession… I didn’t call them back today either. 😞 Instead, what I’m going to do is just go into the office tomorrow and talk to them in person. To be sure that I understand the details of the plan, to be sure that everything is scheduled properly… and also to see if I can catch some kind of vibe by the way that they speak with me about it. 🧐 Like I said, I’m trying to not assume that something has gotten worse just because they want to start things sooner. 😳 It could be as simple as being easier on their schedule, and just better for me (or anyone) to do all of this “second phase” stuff sooner rather than later anyway.

So yeah, that’s the next thing on the radar… movin’ in fast. 😟 And lemme tell ya’ something. πŸ˜’ Uncertainty, when it comes to something like this… it’s a special kind of slow, drawn-out torture. I’m ready though. I was doing good at keeping it out of my thoughts up until now – but whether I got that call a couple days ago, or whether we stuck to the original end-of-July starting point… either way the anxiety was gonna come. So I agree… let’s get this shit started. 🀨

Unrelated: I just updated my Windows 10 and all of my emojis now have thick black outlines. πŸ€”πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

Oh… My Scan / Blood Tests

I guess I never got back on here to update about my follow-up appointment with the endocrinologist. πŸ€” Before the doctor even came in, the pre-doctor person took my blood pressure and asked me if a student and intern could join the doctor when he came in to talk to me. Meh… what do I care? Sure… all are welcome, all are welcome… 😏 Gotta let the young people learn so they can fix the old people like me in the future.

He’s an interesting guy… doesn’t seem bothered to convert “data” into user friendly word blurbs for the average schmo to understand, but that’s actually okay with me. πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€βš•οΈ I’d much rather have a shitload of numbers and charts than a generic “You seem fine.” or whatever. πŸ€“ And with four tubes of blood, and more than four different comprehensive tests – I was surprised to hear him read off all of the numbers while also saying that almost all of them fall within the appropriate range for someone who is getting better. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

And then the full-body scan, which looked for glowing remnants of thyroid tissue that had absorbed all of the radioiodine 131 or whatever it was… this one is more subjective than objective, since it’s looking at an image rather than something that produces numbers against a chart. πŸ€” But on the scan, he said that he saw nothing that indicated that there were any stray thyroid cells left in my neck, which also means that if the cancer truly started in the thyroid and hasn’t spread to anywhere else… then it’s pretty good news, eh? πŸ™‚

He did make sure that I understood that even though the results of the scan seemed ideal, that it doesn’t mean “Woohoo! Cancer free!” of course. But it does mean that as of right now I’m in pretty good shape, so when I go through my next round of treatment in about five months, I’m starting off in a better position than a lot of folks that have had the same surgery as me. But yeah… five months from now… 😳

This next round of treatment is actually going to be worse than the first. Something to do with having the thyroid medication in my body for so long, so I’ll have to actually stop taking it for at least three weeks before they can even consider moving on to the next step. πŸ˜’ Several more blood draws, another round of radioactive iodine treatment, another full scan… and at that point, if the results are the same as this last one, they can feel pretty confident about saying that I’m cancer free. I mean, as much as anyone, even a doctor, can really “declare” something like that. πŸ˜•

I’m sure it’ll be one of those deals where if I’m good on the next one, then we’ll probably wait a year until we do it all over again… I dunno, I’m just assuming at this point, but you’d figure that each time all this fuss comes back as “Looks good.” they’d let me wait a decent bit longer before we start at the beginning with the treatment and testing. So, yeah, pretty good news… I just wish I physically felt better than what I do. 😟 Seriously, the way I’ve been feeling over the past few months, I’d have put money on the results coming back with something concerning. But I’ll take the good news and try not to dwell on it too much. I’ll just put this one behind me, and when it’s time to worry about round two, that’s when I’ll start worrying about it.

I’m Tired, Boss

Nothing much going on around here… at least nothing good…

Went back to the dentist to get the last bit of my root canal done and was fitted with a temporary crown. A temporary crown which feels like it’s squeezing the life out of the little nub of tooth that it was mounted on.Β πŸ˜’ Jaw aches… head aches… I’m just hoping that the final version ends up fitting more comfortably than this one is. I’ve got to wait aboutΒ  a week and a half to find out.

Shortly after that it’ll be time for the radioactive iodine treatment. That means in the next couple of days I’ll need to start my low iodine diet. I guess the thyroid tends to attract all the iodine that enters your body, so you basically want to starve it for a couple of weeks so when the radioactive stuff is introduced – if there are any thyroid / cancer cells left, in theory they’ll be destroyed. 😐 I’ve chosen not to google too much about all of this, so I’m not sure exactly how the full scan will go afterwards, or how nervous I should be.

But in preparation for that I went grocery shopping today and picked out some things that are on the “okay” list. I don’t really eat much anyway, and the stuff that I’ll be allowed to eat isn’t that bad… just different from the normal canned or boxed stuff that I usually eat. Fresh meat, salads, fresh vegetables, meh… it’ll be fine. Just more dishes than usual.

My friend that was diagnosed with lung cancer a little less than three years ago… she entered hospice care over the weekend.Β πŸ˜• She actually had to go into ICU for a bit, but they got her stabilized enough to return back home. It just is what it is. And what it is, is scary… seeing what has happened to someone that was “fine” and just went to the doctor for a cough three years ago, having never smoked, having never had any serious health problems… and yeah… fast forward to today, three years later. 😞

Pass The Baton / Kick The Can

I didn’t do my bills last night, but I’m doing them now. πŸ˜’ They’re enough of a pain in the ass that I think I deserve an intermission, so I figured I’d jump over here and drop a few paragraphs. I knocked out the easy ones… gas, electric, internet, etc… but all of the fun medical related ones are starting to come in, and I want to pay closer attention as they nickel and dime me. 🀨 Mostly just to make sure that they don’t nickel and dime me over the same test, scan, procedure, or person twice.

My appointment today? Well, I guess it was okay. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ He said that the pathology reports on the tissue removed during my surgery was exactly what the pre-surgery biopsy had suggested, and that it’s the most common and most treatable type of thyroid cancer. 😐 Bleh… I don’t like using that word, so don’t expect to see it get used much here. 😷 So, it was a good follow-up, with the labs at least not coming back with something scarier than already thought. And I really pushed him for his true opinion. I told him not to bullshit me, and asked him if he had any “gasp” moments during the surgery.

Like I told him, before I was able to get workers comp to pay for my C5-C7 fusion surgery, I had to get an MRI done – with several doctors and medical assistant folks looking at the results, which showed some pretty severe damage. 🧐 And each one that didΒ look at it… it gave them a “gasp” moment. 😧

Where even a trained medical professional was like Wow. 😳 or Damn. 😯 or Holy shit. 😱

I explained how that helped me in thatΒ previousΒ situation, as it got everything approved and moving much more quickly… but that a “gasp” moment now isn’t something that I was hoping for, but that I still wanted him to tell me if it happened to him while he was digging around inside my neck. 😐 His reply seemed genuine (as usual) when he said that nothing was any more concerning to him once he was in there than when he was anticipating how it would look and how it would go. πŸ‘πŸ»

He explained that there was inflammation, but no more than he was expecting. He said that nothing gave him any kind of pause, that the surgery went as well as he could have hoped for, and that I don’t need to worry so much at this point. (Easier said than done, pal… 😏) I’m getting more blood drawn tomorrow, and he’s referring me to an endocrinologist in the same building that will hopefully help get my screwed up levels straightened out, as well as likely doing (or scheduling) this marker/radiation pill dealΒ  – which will hopefully be a one time thing followed by close monitoring. 🀞🏻

I figure I’ll save the questions about if/when I’ll have to see an oncologist, although I’m guessingΒ that’sΒ gonna be the doctor that would be doing the marker/radiation pill deal that I just mentioned, now that I think about it. πŸ€” It’s a little frustrating to be handed off from specialist to specialist, but better to have a whole bunch of different eyes on the situation than just one d00d who might not know what he’s doing, right?

So today’s follow-up… I’ll take it as a positive outcome. πŸ™‚ Didn’t really learn anything new, but learning that the labs confirmed what the initial tests suggested, and nothing worse… that’s sure better than the alternative. Also, having the whole “Don’t BS me, doc.” conversation, with the way he replied… it did actually make me feel a little more comfortable with the whole thing in my head. And so it goes…

Oh Yeah? Hmm… Okay

No updates for a while due to various circumstances. Thyroid biopsy was done a little over a week ago, which wasn’t as bad as I expected – but also more serious than I expected. πŸ€”πŸ‘¨πŸ»β€βš•οΈ Other than the doctor using a needle rather than actually cutting me open, it was actually a real deal procedure. Hooked up to monitors, in my gown, rolled from the waiting room to the procedure room… and then a couple nurses or technicians dealing with the ultrasound and instruments, while the doctor repeatedly jabbed me in the neck with a thicker-than-I’d-have-preferred needle. πŸ˜―πŸ’‰ It took three different “pokes” to get enough cells for the tests that they needed to run, but the folks were all great, and always spoke in a very calming way that made it not nearly as anxiety inducing as it could have been.

Then on Monday I made it to my first of four dentist appointments. 😳 Rather than attack my whole mouf at once, they figured it would be easier on my face (and at least psychologically, on my wallet) if we split up the work on my teefs. So that appointment was a deep cleaning on the bottom, and then a gum line filling on one of the right rear molars. A little uncomfortable since they had to use a tool to push my gums down until the filling was complete, but I was good and numb so it didn’t really hurt until much later into the day.

Things have been hit and miss with my sciatic issue. Some days it’s almost unnoticeable, and then others there’s a continuous mild pain with some sharp bursts that also come with some weakness. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™‚οΈ I’ve got a followup appointment with my chiropractor in the first week of next month, and I guess I’m still gonna go see him – just so I can update him in case I have my doctor doctor contact him for my info, when I ask her to look into this problem for me through whatever avenue she thinks might help.

And then my biopsy results… they came back a day sooner than I was expecting, and I actually got the call from the specialist on my way home from the dentist. πŸ˜’ They can’t really tell you anything definite from a small sample like that, so he says surgery is in my future. 😐 I actually had an appointment with him earlier yesterday, and I left feeling about as optimistic as possible when talking about this sort of thing. Like I had already been doing myself, he pointed out many reasons that I should feel far more optimistic than the average person when it comes to this – especially noting that sometimes people have thyroid defects that grow for years and years, and are never even discovered until they’ve grown to a size where it interferes with a person’s swallowing or breathing. 😧

There’s way too much to the situation to get into real detail, but I’ll just say that his “matter of fact” way (in a good way) of talking about the surgery, the treatment, the positive results that he expects and has gotten many times before in others… it helped provide a little ease to a decidedly uneasy thing to think about. So, it’ll come, we’ll hope for the best, and if that isn’t enough, we’ll just face whatever the next thing is after that. I think that things will be fine, even if not on the first try.