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Monday, June 29, 2015

Thyroid cancer walk-through

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hi neighbors. Since the statistics state that thyroid cancer is quickly becoming the most prevalent cancer in America, I thought I'd share my experiences with it. Some of my readers will no doubt develop thyroid cancer themselves in the next few years and I know some of my readers have already been there and done that.

First indications of thyroid cancer usually come from blood work. When the numbers go down that means your thyroid levels are up -- I know it doesn't make sense to me either. If the blood work shows problems you go in for an ultra sound of your thyroid. Then you go to a specialist -- usually in some other city. They feel your neck and say, yep, something is there alright. They have found nodules growing on your thyroid.

Following the discovery of nodules there is a "needle test" which involves a doctor sticking up to seven needles into the nodule and withdrawing small pieces of it to see if any cancer cells are found.

There are various cancers that attack the thyroid; but my first surgery indicated Hurthle cells.

I say first surgery because the typical method of dealing with thyroid cancer is removal of the side that contains cancer cells and taking a small sample of the remaining half. If the remaining half also has cancer cells a second surgery is scheduled.

The first surgery involved a three week recovery time, mainly due to vocal cord trauma. I got over that and went back to work. Then it was time to deal with the second surgery.

My second surgery revealed papillary cells, a different type of cancer -- must have been a two-for-one sale on that day. That surgery went smoother and I only had to take two weeks off work. However, following the second surgery and discovery of the second cancer it was recommended that I continue with the third stage of the treatment -- radioactive iodine.

It all sounds simple; you go in, take a pill and go home. However, your thyroid cells that remain -- and some still remain following surgery, are getting messages to produce thyroid -- which they can no longer do. Instead the messenger keeps harping about it and the body goes into low thyroid status.

Up until this time I had been doing OK, but now I started dragging. To make certain the left over thyroid cells grabbed onto the radiation when given, I was put on a low iodine diet. Iodine is the trigger that the thyroid cells grab and (on the low iodine diet) is provided solely by the radioactive iodine pill.

The proof falls into the blood work tests again. My doctor had said I needed to be at 50 points on my thyroid. Remember the higher the numbers the lower the thyroid and thus the lower the energy level.

Once I reached 47.7 I was scheduled for the radioactive iodine the following week. My levels had risen 10 points each week for the last three weeks. I assumed I was at about 57 points by the time I entered the hospital. I did all the paper work and was escorted to the radiation area to fill out more forms. Then I was sent to the lab to get blood drawn. I found all of this walking around very taxing.

When the doctor, nurse, radiation technician and his supervisor all arrived in the room with me, the innocent looking pill was taken from a lead case and handed to me in a glass vial with a plastic bottle of water. I took the pill and watched the other four people immediately take several steps back away from me.

I was taken to a radiation proof room to wait an hour to make certain I did not throw up and to start taking one after another lemon drop candies. It seems that the salivary glands will shut down if not constantly stimulated 24 hours following taking the pill.

I drove myself home and went to my room where I remained in isolation for 72 hours. My son cooked my meals (still on that diet and still very hypothyroid) until the first 48 hours were up. At that time I started a thyroid medication to help me get myself moving again.

This is the end of this stage of my treatments. All I have to do now is the full body scan in a week to determine if my Hurthle cells are all gone.

I'll keep you all posted and will gladly chat with anyone who is facing, or has faced, the same situation. You can e-mail me at nancymalcom@sbcglobla.net

Nancy Malcom
The Third Cup