Two weeks ago, I had a follow up appointment with the surgeon who performed my thyroidectomy and neck dissection, Dr. S. He said the incision site on the side of my neck was still swollen some, and is healing. That side of my neck is pretty numb- I get a “pins and needles” sensation when I touch it, but it doesn’t bother me. Dr. S. said the entire incision is healing perfectly, and just as it should. He examined my neck and throat area and said everything felt just like it should- translation: no new enlarged lymph nodes or nodules.
I informed him I had not had my thyroglobulin level tested since I completed radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy in August. Dr. S. ordered the blood work and I left with the perscription in my hand for the test. I was very happy everything seemed to be on track, but I knew the results of thyroglobulin test would be the true indicator if I was cancer free.
The type of thyroid cancer I had, papillary, produces elevated levels of thyroglobulin. Before my surgery, Dr. S. told me a person with no cancer thyroglobulin’s level would be zero. Mine before surgery, was 38! Dr. S., said that was very high, and he had never seen a person my age with that high of a thyroglobulin level. Before my RAI treatment in August, the endocrinologist measured my thyroglobulin level, and they were amazed to see it was down to 4! They said it was very rare- almost impossible to get the thyroglobulin level that low, with just surgery. They said a reading around 13-20 is more common. This confirmed Dr. S., did an outstanding job on my surgery.
I had no reason to feel anything but optimistic, assuming the RAI would have killed off any remaining cancer cells. Still, I couldn’t help but worry a little bit. All those thoughts crept into my mind…all the what-if’s? It didn’t help that I had to wait a week for the results- for some reason the lab was really slow in getting the bloodwork back.
But last Thursday, on my 37th birthday, Dr. S’s office called with the results. My thyroglobulin level was undetectable and surpressed. The levels were perfect, and I am officially cancer free!
I was beyond thrilled and happy! As it sunk in, I got very emotional. It had been six months from my first diagnosis to this news, but it has seemed at times, the longest journey of my life, and like I would never reach this point, or if I did reach it, I would never be quite the same again. I thought back to when Dr. S. called me on a Saturday in April to tell me he was sorry, but the biopsy showed I had thyroid cancer, and how the second I hung up with him I cried, and didn’t stop for hours.
That seemed like a lifetime ago. Everything I have experienced- the tests, the cancer diagnosis, the uncertainty, the fear, finding out the cancer had spread, the surgery, the time I lost with my children, the incision, the numbness in my neck, the medical mistakes that were made, the diet, the severe hypothyroidism, the medication, the days I could barely function- all of those things, brought me full circle and I am healthy again.
I couldn’t wait to share the happy news with my family and friends- all those people who have been there for me through all of this. And most of all, I couldn’t wait to tell the boys. Ryan smiled and hugged me when I told him- he understands all of it- probably even more than I care to admit. Cole does too, but he asked if that meant the doctor didn’t have to cut my neck open again.
It has occurred to me sometime in the past few days, that this is the end. My cancer journey is over. There will still be routine check-up’s to monitor my levels, but thankfully papillary cancer has a very high cure rate, and reoccurrence is very rare.
I have shared my experience with thyroid cancer in part, because it was very hard for me to find real-life information on it when I was researching it. Most of the medical information describes it as no big deal, more or less. While that is true from a medical standpoint, this experience has been anything but “no big deal.” I have categorized every time I have written about my cancer, under the Cancer topic (35 posts in all), and I hope what I have experienced, will help others in their research.
I am amazed and touched by the e-mails I receive daily from other thyroid cancer patients and survivors- in every stage. I’m shocked that so many people tell me they have learned more about thyroid cancer from my blog than from their doctors. So many of the patients are afraid- just like I was. I hope the cancer posts will continue to help and inform. I will try to continue to answer as many of the personal e-mails that I can. I am brainstorming some ways I can offer more assistance personally, and locally to thyroid cancer patients.
This is where my experience ends. It has been a journey that has been one of the hardest for me, but also one that has taught me so much about myself and others, and one that will never leave me. But for now, it is time for me to say good-bye to my cancer.