This post is less of a reflection and more of an update for those who have been walking this cancer road with me long-distance.
Thursday the 18th marked exactly six months since surgery. In honor of the occasion, I got my blood tested and kept a Friday-morning date with my favorite radiologist, Dr. Berk — the no-nonsense South African Jewish grandpa who successfully scanned and biopsied my neck back in May. He was pretty open about what he saw on yesterday’s ultrasound: nodes that look “suspiciously unfriendly.” Given that I have no thyroid left, these are almost certainly lymph nodes.
It’s not a surprise that lymph is involved in my cancer. The original diagnosis back in May was supported by the hands-on discovery during surgery: that the thyroid cancer had begun to spread to lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. The surgeon removed all the affected lymph that he could find, which is why I ended up with a lymphatic drainage tube buried from my ear to my collar bone for ten days. The surprise is not that lymph was involved, but that it might still be involved. Yes, the surgery was intricate and complicated, but we had all hoped that he had gotten everything that needed getting. We will soon know for sure.
Dr. Berk couldn’t tell me the plan right away. He needed to call my surgeon first. However, he did tell me that we would almost certainly need to do another biopsy next week. The results will tell the doctors whether or not I need a follow-up treatment; and if so, what type. Given that he is not my primary doctor, he was hesitant to list the options for me; but I gathered there were two or three possibilities, including another surgery.
All of yesterday’s findings are apparently independent of the nuclear radiation scans which are due this month as well. The upcoming scans are to find out if the radioactive iodine treatment I went through last August was effective in wiping out all of the residual thyroid tissue. I’m told that the tissue needs to go, even if it’s not cancerous, because it could still become cancerous at some point. If there is any thyroid tissue left — even on a microscopic level — I will likely need another round of radiation.
So, in short — I might still have cancer, it might have changed forms, and I might need to swallow a radioactive pill and spend three days in a lead room again. MIGHT. So many heavy unknowns in my body, to say nothing of all the heavy knowns at school. The ride ahead is likely to be rough. All I know for sure right now is that I’m feeling a lot more fragile and vulnerable than that limpet on the rock.