The recap: My neck dissection surgery to remove lymph nodes was in July. I recovered and was off a week from work. I did undergo a few weeks of physical therapy, but am happy to report that my shoulder and neck are now working on their own and without much pain again. Over the last six weeks I have been off of all of my synthetic thyroid hormone replacement in anticipation of another radioactive Iodine test. The last three weeks I have been on a low Iodine diet (The Hater, too, when he's home.), attempting to starve those hungry thyroid-loving-Iodine cells in order to entice them with some tasty radioactive Iodine for the scan.
If you remember, the last time we did this I was given a "test" dose, and then returned to see my endocrinologist two days later for a full body scan to see if there were any Iodine-loving "hot spots". My test dose was Monday along with labwork, and I returned to the clinic today for the scan. I have good news and bad news (but the bad news really isn't bad-bad news):
GOOD NEWS: It was a negative scan. There were no visible "hot spots". It looks like there are no more clumps of cancer in my body. Thanks be to God.
THE NOT SO BAD, BAD NEWS: This is in regards to the labwork that was drawn on Monday. Cancer cells put off a certain "marker" that can be drawn in your blood. Different kinds of cancer (lung, prostate, breast, thyroid, etc) create different kinds of "tumor markers". My thyroid cancer tumor marker, called thyroglobulin, was obvoiusly super-duper high before they removed all of my thyroid gland in April. In July before the second surgery it was still elevated, but not as high as the tumor marker in April. Monday when my labwork was drawn, my cancer marker was 40. We would like it to be zero.
(So what does that mean?)
It means that, although I had a negative scan, there are still a few microscopic thyroid cancer cells in my body.
(What's the plan?)
We want to kill those cancer cells. Today I received a higher dose of the radioactive Iodine than I was given last time, the gold standard. Those hungry cells will suck up the radioactive Iodine and be killed, leaving all of this to be a story that can be told in past-tense.
At least, that's what we're hoping; at the very least, it's a step in the right direction.
I have returned to my posh prison, the second bedroom in our apartment, and will remain here in isolation for the next several days. I have the best amenities, but am already looking forward to getting out of here (and eating real food again). Zoloft bemoans her discontent for the current living conditions and closed doors by crying in the hall.
I'm not entirely sure what the official plan will be after my isolation. I will go back next week for a post scan, which should be negative, also. We will continue to monitor my thyroid levels and my tumor marker as I restart my thyroid medication. In the Spring we may do another one of these scans "just to make sure". If things continue to improve, we may get the clear to conceive as early as next fall. We know it's all speculative at this point, but it's wonderful to be given permission to hope for something -- and a time-table further into the future than a month.
We want to thank each of you for your continued good vibrations and prayers. Please continue to pray that this radiation will kill all of my rogue cancer cells, that my tumor marker will disappear, for healing and strength to endure. Please know how grateful we are to each of you for remembering us in your prayer life. And although we'd never wish anything dramatic to fall in your lap, please know you can always contact us when you, too, are standing in the need of prayer.
And hope I don't go crazy in this little room.