Scan Results are In!

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My oncologist’s office called. My scans were clear!! Everything looked good! I don’t have to go back to my oncologist until August. I am so relieved!

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I Had a Thyroid Once

I had a thyroid once

I feel better now than I did before my thyroidectomy.

My Scar – 6 Months Out

My scar continues to look better. There are some days I don’t even think about it.

This picture was taken 6 months from my surgery date.

My Scar at 6 Months

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA

I went this week to sign up for the LIVESTRONG Program for adult cancer survivors at the YMCA. It’s a 12 week program designed specifically for cancer survivors who are in that transitional period after completeing treatment.

I had been telling my husband that I wished there was some kind of program that would help cancer survivors rebuild strength, stamina, and muscle mass. I also need help losing weight. I have gained 17 pounds since my surgery. Anything to boost my non-existent metabolism would be helpful. I can’t afford a personal trainer and I’m too tired to do it on my own. I found out about the LIVESTRONG Program at the Y when I went to find out more about scheduling a mammogram at the one of the local hospital’s websites. I tried not to get too excited. It seemed too good to be true.

The lady I met with at the Downtown YMCA in Columbia, SC was amazing. She explained the program and asked me questions about my health. She asked me to tell my story. She listened. She acknowledged that I am a different person emotionally and physically since my treatment. No one has really done that before and I really needed to hear someone say that. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted into the program because some people don’t consider thyroid cancer to be a real cancer. She told me that I shouldn’t discount my cancer because I didn’t have to go through as hard of a treatment as others. I wanted to hug her! She even introduced me to a guy who worked the front counter who was also a thyroid cancer survivor. I got to chat with him a few minutes. It was the first time I had met a thyca survivor face-to-face. So, overall, a very positive experience. The program starts towards the end of September. I go in next Tuesday for an intake and physical assessment with a trainer who has been trained by LIVESTRONG to work with cancer survivors. I’m so excited to get started! Oh, and it’s FREE!!

Here’s a link to more information about the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Program.

Here’s a link to a map to help you find a LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Program near you.

Also, here is a video about the program. Have the tissues ready.

RAI

Radioactive

I got 100 mCi. (well, actually 99.7 mCi.) of radioactive iodine (I-131) yesterday. So far, so good. Honestly, I don’t feel bad at all. The stress and anticipation in the weeks and days beforehand were WAY worse than the RAI.

I was scheduled to get my first Thyrogen shot on Wednesday morning. I was so nervous. I drove myself to the hospital, checked in at Registration, and then headed down to the basement to the Nuclear Medicine Department. They took me back upstairs to get blood drawn for a pregnancy test. Then I was sent back to the basement to wait for the results. Not pregnant. The nurse technologist went over all the rules and I had the opportunity to ask even more questions. The people in the Nuclear Medicine Department  have been so good about answering any and all of my questions. I was a little bummed that I wouldn’t be able to meet the my new best friend, the Nuclear Safety Officer, in person. I was able to speak with him on the phone on two occasions and he gave me so much information about I-131 and how to keep others safe while I was radioactive. All the information really helped to ease some of my fears. Anyway, after more questions were asked and answered, another nurse came in and gave me the first shot in my hip. It stung. I kind of got a little dizzy, but I think that was more from the anxiety than the shot. The nurse wanted me to sit for a minute, but I just wanted to get out of there. By the time I got to my car, I could feel the effects of the shot in my muscles, especially the gluteus maximus. I was tired and my muscles were achy for the rest of the day. I was still able to get outside with my 4 year old and fly kites. By that evening, I was feeling better.

Thursday’s Thyrogen shot went much better. The same nurse gave me the shot, but it didn’t sting going in this time. My muscles were slightly achy afterwards, but I felt okay in general. I picked up my mom from the airport later that afternoon and spent the evening getting my things prepared for isolation.

I was scheduled to arrive back at the Nuclear Medicine Department on Friday at 1 for my RAI. I was not as nervous as I had been on Wednesday. The nurse went over all the rules again, had me sign a Patient Agreement stating that I would take the following precautions:

1. Sleep alone for the next 4 days.
2. Stay out of work for the next 4 days.
3. Maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from others for the next 4 days.
4. Kissing and sexual intercourse should be avoided for the next 4 days.
5. Avoid contact with young children and pregnant women. Do not hold young children or allow them to sit on your lap. The thyroid glands of children and developing babies are more sensitive to the effects of radiation. Pregnant women and young children should vacate the home for the next 4 days. Maintain a distance of 3 feet for an additional 3 days.
6. If you are pregnant or think you might be, notify your physician immediately. If you are planning to become pregnant in the near future, discuss this with your physician prior to this treatment.
7. If you are breastfeeding, STOP. Continuing to breast feed may cause hypothyroidism or ablation of the infant’s thyroid gland.
8. For the first 24 hours, drink fluids in moderation. After 24 hours, drink plenty of fluids to assist in the removal of radioactive iodine circulating in the bloodstream.
9. Wash your hands with soap and water after each visit to the bathroom for the next 4 days.
10. Flush the toilet 2 or 3 times after each use for the next 4 days.
11. You must have sole use of a bathroom for the next 4 days. Rinse the bathroom sink and tub thoroughly after each use.
12. Use separate eating utensils and wash them separately for the next 4 days.
13. Use separate towels and washcloths. Launder these items and personal clothing separately from those of other household members for the next 4 days.
14. Do not travel with others by automobile for longer than 2 hours for the next 2 days.
15. Do not ravel by airplane or mass transport for the next 2 days.
16. Avoid foods that may leave saliva contaminated trash (BBQ ribs, apples, etc.) for the first 2 days.
17. Double bag your trash for the first 2 days and hold for 10 days before allowing pick up or disposal.
18. If hospitalized within the next 4 days, notify the physician and/or staff that you have received this treatment.

After the agreement was signed, the nurse technologist called for the I-131. A guy from the Nuclear Pharmacy rolled a cart into the adjoining room a few minutes later. On the cart was a small metal container. The nurse technologist paged a radiologist. A few minutes later, the radiologist came down, went over my file and spoke with me. He was really nice and joked about how I’ll soon be glowing green. He gave me a little more scientific info about I-131, asked if I had any more questions, and then signed some papers. The nurse technologist brought the little container into the room where I was seated. The canister was heavy. I wish I had been able to get a picture. She opened it and removed a vial that contained the I-131 pill. She poured the pill, which was about the size of an herbal supplement capsule, out into a little plastic dosage cup and had me take it with some water. She and the radiologist waited a few seconds to make sure I had gotten the pill down. No problems. I gathered my purse and she escorted me to the door and pointed me in the direction of the elevators. As I walked down the hall, she outstretched both of her arms to her sides and reminded me to stay 6 feet away from people. I dodged people as I made my way through the halls of the hospital and out to the parking garage. I didn’t feel any different physically, but it was very strange to know that I was radioactive and a danger to others. So surreal.

Second Post-Op Appointment

The bad weather held out long enough so that I was able to make it to my appointment with the surgeon today. Thank goodness! I was ready to get the 38 staples in my neck removed. It was a bit uncomfortable as he removed each staple, but I felt much better afterwards. The incision doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would, although my neck still looks a little shocking. The doctor didn’t put gauze over my incision and I had to walk out into the main office full of people. Lovely.

38 staples out

I could feel people staring. I didn’t care, though. I had just gotten some good news. My surgeon had the final pathology report. The lymph nodes he removed during the surgery were clear of malignancy. The samples from the neck tissue around my thyroid were also clear. I think he also said that the samples taken from the thyroid around the nodule didn’t contain cancer. I can’t remember the details. I wish I had a copy of the report to be sure. I’ll have to remember to ask the oncologist for a copy. It appears I caught this thing early, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I will have a full body scan in 6 to 8 weeks. When that comes back clear, I will feel much better.

I also found out from the pathology report that I have the follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer. It was located in the right lobe of my thyroid and measured 1.4 cm. A microcarcinoma measuring 1 mm was found in the left lobe of my thyroid and it was pure papillary thyroid cancer. I am so glad the whole thyroid was removed. I will have to undergo a radioactive iodine treatment (RAI) in 6 to 8 weeks to ablate any remaining thyroid tissue.

Another interesting piece of information contained in the report was that my thyroid was severely damaged due to Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disorder that attacks the thyroid. It is the leading cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 12 years ago. I have been tested for Hashimoto’s in the past by two different doctors and was told by both I didn’t have it. Hashimoto’s tends to cause a rise in certain thyroid antibodies and mine were never elevated. I also never had typical Hashimoto’s symptoms. Even though it wasn’t previously detected, it apparently did a number on my thyroid. My surgeon said my thyroid was shriveled and hard, almost rubbery. I am so happy it is gone. My thyroid was rubbish and I expect I will feel much better now that it is out of me.

I’m 11 days out from my thyroidectomy and honestly, I feel pretty good. I’ve been able to keep taking Synthroid (although I prefer Levoxyl and can’t wait for it to be back on the market). I think I have an advantage since I was hypothyroid and on meds before having a thyroidectomy. I hope that means I won’t have to adjust my dose much. I’m not looking forward to getting off my meds to prepare for RAI. I can’t imagine how terrible I am going to feel.

I was scheduled to meet with the oncologist on the 13th, but the appointment was cancelled because of ice and snow. The appointment was rescheduled for the 21st. I will know more about the next steps then.

My Neck 5 Days Post Thyroidectomy

I’m 5 days out from my total thyroidectomy. I saw my neck/incision/scar for the first time today. I thought I was going to pass out. Wow!

Here’s what my neck looks like:

2-4-14 Thyroidectomy Scar

How’s that for a battle scar? My husband said it looks like I survived a Columbian Necktie.

Sneak Peak of My Post-Surgery Neck

It’s been 4 days since my total thyroidectomy. I got a sneak peak at my post-surgery neck today. Horrifying. I haven’t even seen the whole thing, but my husband has. He says it’s not symmetrical and he thinks that is going to drive me insane (I’m a bit OCD). We will see. It may not bother me at all.

sneak peak neck

I’m feeling a little better each day. I was totally unprepared for the level of exhaustion and weakness I am feeling. So grateful that my mom is here to help with the house and kids. She amazes me.

Saw my surgeon today. He had not received the final pathology report yet. I’ll have to wait another week. I’ll feel better once I find out that it has not spread to the lymph nodes. His office set up an appointment for me to meet with an oncologist next week. I’m cleared to get my incision wet and take a shower tomorrow. I’m happy about being able to shower again. The little things.