Thyroid Cancer and Me – A Year Later

This past Thanksgiving marked one-year since my Total Thyroidectomy and February 2010 marked one-year since having Radioactive Iodine treatment. Now part two of my adventures with Thyroid cancer – the one-year follow up. As part of the follow up I need to see both my surgeon and endocrinologist. The surgeon literally looks at my neck for 5 seconds, admires his own work (and how little my scar is visible) and sends me on my way. The endocrinologist does blood work, feels my neck and explains the one-year follow up scans.

As I was approaching my one-year check ups, I became scared upon feeling some little lumps and bumps in my neck (they turn out to be completely normal). So the timing of my check ups was perfect. On a side note, I cannot emphasize how important it is to have an endocrinologist that you like and get a long with. I say this because, in all my worried states, my over thinking and jumping to conclusions, my endocrinologist put up with me. He laughed with me and my silly worrying, which is exactly what I needed. He would reassure me that with the surgery and radioactive iodine that the reoccurrence of the cancer was rare. My blood work comes back 100% normal – relief is a nice feeling.

Now…the one-year follow up scans…this is a totally different experience than the blood work and quick trip to the surgeon.

This is the most inconvenient, pain in the butt part of the follow up process. It takes place over the course of a week – starting with two shots, a teeny tiny dose of radioactive iodine and ending with two scans. It’s a lot to do in one week and a lot of running around and scheduling with work. But, if you’ve had thyroid cancer, it’s very VERY necessary. The process starts on a Monday. Now, I have to set the scene, so please bear with me. I live in an area that does not get a lot of snow, but on this particular Monday in February, we receive about 5 inches. My office closes due to the weather, which is a good thing (less running around to do), but I have not heard anything from the Doctor’s office and whether or not it is closed. I brave the icy roads to the doctor’s office, which is opening late – I find this out because I drive to the office and no one is there. Two hours later I come back to get my shot and this time the nurse takes down my phone number in case the office will be opening late on Tuesday (I need to come back on Tuesday for shot #2). These shots – Thyrogen injections are used so that the patient doesn’t have to come off their Synthroid - are injected into your rear end, just an FYI. I personally did not experience any side effects from the injections and after having been off my Synthroid before for the Radioactive Iodine treatment, I’m glad this is an alternative. Being off Synthroid is not fun. Back to the story – the nurse calls me later that day to say the office was opening late the next day. Great! Now I have to go to work early, leave for a 5 second shot and come back. Sheesh. But it works out. Now Wednesday I have to go the hospital for the radioactive iodine. And this is the worst day!

Understandably, I have to take a pregnancy test before taking the RAI. This is the blood work kind of pregnancy test. It takes the lab an hour and half to tell me what I already know – that I am no where close to being pregnant. An hour and half to figure this out! I tell the radiation tech that we could have gotten faster results if I had peed on a stick! She did not laugh – I think everyone was fed up with my disgruntled attitude at that point in time (side note – I feel really bad for copping an attitude and apologize to the tech when I come back for my scans). When this is all finally done, I head back to work. No isolation this time because it’s such a tiny dose.

The scans – man, don’t you just love that thyroid scan and how close it comes to your face for 45 minutes?! I’m being sarcastic, but they really are quite boring – although a wonderful technology that I am grateful for. The first scan occurs on Friday at 10 am and the second is at 7 am on Saturday. Fortunately, there are no more snow delays.

Waiting for results and not knowing are the worst parts of this process (with the exception of the low-iodine diet). It’s the nurse (which is a good sign) at my endocrinologist’s office who calls me with the results and she says, in a surprisingly, overly upbeat tone, that she is thrilled to be able to give me good news – that no sign of the cancer showed up in my scans – woohoo! I’m stoked!

Hope everyone is happy and healthy and kicking thyroid cancer’s butt! Let me know your experiences throughout the process – I love to hear ‘em!
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