Tag Archives: whole-body scan

Cancer-Free…I Guess.

19 Jul

Today was a very, very long day at U of M. I was really hoping to announce “100% CANCER-FREE!” after my scan. Instead, what I can say is: nothing overtly bad showed up on my scan, and it’s up to me if I want to do any further treatment.

Let me explain…

When most people have papillary thyroid cancer, they follow the protocol below:

  • Total thyroidectomy
  • Medication withdrawl and low-iodine diet
  • Radioactive Iodine Ablation (RAI) for any remnant thyroid tissue (normal or cancerous..it all gets destroyed)
  • Follow-up whole-body scans to look for iodine uptake. Since all thyroid tissue should have been ablated with the RAI treatment, any uptake would be deemed “bad.” No uptake would get a gold “cancer-free” star.

Well, naturally, when I was diagnosed, I weighed all my options and I was not satisfied with the risks associated with the average protocol. I based my decision on the American Thyroid Association Guidelines for Thyroid Cancer Treatment. So my protocol looked like this:

  • Total thyroidectomy
  • Very long wait for Thyrogen injections so I didn’t have to endure medication withdrawl
  • Low-iodine diet and whole body scan
  • Follow up with ultrasound and bloodwork

Today, I had three total scans. The first two were 20 minutes each. I went in feet first, and I wasn’t restrained. I popped two Xanax, focused on my music and I was fine. Afterwards, I met with Dr. W, the nuclear medicine doctor. He said he was concerned about the level of iodine uptake he saw on the first scans, and he wanted me to do 3D image followed by a CT scan. He made it clear that he thought I should have done RAI in the first place.

Hysteria ensued.

I really couldn’t hold myself together. I became irate. I couldn’t stop crying. After waiting for another full hour, I got back on the scan table. This time, they had to restrain me and strap me in. I was told I was not allowed to move. Tears were streaming down my face and I felt like I couldn’t breathe, so I popped another Xanax. I sound like a drug addict, I know…but look at what they did to me! You would need prescription-grade relaxation too!

The nurse acted like I was crazy for needing my iPod. I am so glad I ignored her. I desperately needed it to cope!

After 40 minutes in this God-awful contraption, I got additional information. Dr. W said the iodine uptake was probably normal remnant thyroid tissue that my surgeon left behind. This happens frequently and is nothing to worry about.┬áThere was nothing abnormal in my lymph nodes, lungs or liver (where thyroid cancer frequently spreads). However, since he is a nuclear medicine doctor, he thinks I should just do RAI to ablate all the remnant thyroid tissue, whether it is normal or not. This would in no way improve my outcomes, and would not even guarantee that I wouldn’t have a recurrence. But it sure would make the nuclear medicine doctors’ diagnostic job a lot easier.

Dr. W acknowledged that there is good data on both sides of the RAI decision, and left it for me to discuss with my Endo, Dr. E, next week.

So what can I tell you? I have no bad news. And that, my friends, is good news.

Now, I’m off to eat dinner. I have a serious cheese deficit to make up for.

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Thyroid Cancer Scan Playlist

18 Jul

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Tomorrow is the big day – my first thyroid cancer whole-body scan. In true fashion, I am more worried about having to be in a small enclosed space than I am the actual results. I am pretty claustrophobic and I HATE needles and blood, so I am not exactly a dream cancer patient.

I have created a playlist for my iPod to help me zone out. All of these songs have special meaning for me, but most are relate-able for fellow thyroid patients.

Every Teardrop is a Waterfall – Coldplay. I am a huge Coldplay fan, and this is my cancer anthem. Maybe I’m in the black. Maybe I’m on my knees. Maybe I’m in the gap between the two trapezes…

Running to Stand Still – U2. Throughout this whole experience, I always feel like I am running to stand still. Besides, this song has one of the best Bono “Ooooohoooo” choruses ever.

Under the Stars – Morning Parade. This is just my favorite song right now. I love to crank it in the car on a warm summer night. Happy place.

Grace Like Rain – Todd Agnew. Usually I like to keep my Christianity and my music separated, but this song is my exception. I have a spiritual experience every time I hear it. It heals me.

Just Like Heaven – The Cure. This is a timeless, great song. One of my all-time favorites. It puts me in a good mood no matter what is going on around me.

Friday Night Lights Theme. I am not in this giant tube. I am in my favorite chair eating ice cream and Friday Night Lights is about to start. There’s Coach Taylor. And Tammy. Matt Saracen. And Julie. Jason Street and Lyla Garrity. And then finally Tim Riggins. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel. My favorite movie is Say Anything. It’s been my favorite movie since 8th grade. Is there any happier place than Lloyd Dobler and a boombox?

#41 – Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live at Luther College. Before there was Coldplay, there was Dave Matthews Band. I was obsessed. Two seconds after this song begins and I am back on CMU’s campus, drinking a Bud Light and laughing.

Rearviewmirror – Pearl Jam. Before Dave Matthews, there was Pearl Jam. It’s time to leave my thyroid cancer in my own rear-view mirror.

Breathe Me – Sia. This song was in the Six Feet Under finale. I didn’t even like that show that much, but the finale really moved me. I remember telling Andy that moments in our lives pass too quickly and we will grow old before we know it. I was so, so right.

Fix You – Coldplay. I sing this song as a lullaby for both of my girls. It’s an amazing song. And I, too, have lost something I can’t replace.

Alive and Kicking – Simple Minds. That’s right. I’m still here. Alive and kicking.

Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkston. Ode to my cancer. The night before my thyroidectomy, I drove around my neighborhood and belted out this song, just in case I wouldn’t ever be able to hit the notes again. Guess what? I still can.

The Sound of Settling – Death Cab for Cutie. After three weeks on this low-iodine diet…I have a hunger twisting my stomach into knots…

Stop for a Minute – Keane. This is a song for my over-analytical inner-self. Sometimes I feel like it’s all been done. Sometimes I feel like the only one. Sometimes I wanna change everything I’ve ever done. I’m too tired to fight and yet too scared to run. And if I stop for a minute…I think about things I really don’t wanna know…

Lost? – Coldplay. I have to end my scan reminding myself that just because I’m losing, doesn’t mean I’m lost. And just because I’m hurting, doesn’t mean I’m hurt.

The U of M nurse told me that if the nuclear medicine doctor gets a good scan tomorrow, I can skip Friday’s scan. Here’s to hoping I get the all-clear and I can order a giant Starbucks caramel macchiato by tomorrow afternoon!

Want to buy this playlist on iTunes? You can get it here.