What a day! We are exhausted, but it has been a very productive day.
After our first meeting with Dr. McIver, I went through several tests. The first being blood work, which was pretty routine.
Then a neck ultrasound – again fairly routine, as I have had about a dozen of these in the last three years. But they were so thorough here!
I then went for a vocal chord check. I had problems with my vocal chords after my first surgery, and get hoarse every now and then right now, so Dr. McIver wanted me to have them checked to see if there was any damage and how things look if I do need a fourth surgery. This was by far the most uncomfortable part of the day…as they stuck a camera up and then down my nose, through to my throat, so they could watch my vocal chords move as I talked different sounds. Talk about awkward! They told me I could watch on the screen as the camera went down…I chose to just close my eyes. It was all I could do from wanting to rip the camera out because it felt so funny. But, good news is my vocal chordes look just fine and don’t appear to have any damage.
And then we went to meet with Dr. McIver again to go over everything. This man is awesome…he has a great way of explaining things, and you can really tell he cares about us.
My blood work looked pretty good…pretty much the same as when I had it drawn in Omaha. It shows that there is some cancer activity, but no big increases in the last month since things were checked last.
My ultrasound also showed the same three cancer spots that have always been there. Two in lymph nodes in my neck, and one spot near my trachea in my central neck. Here are the options he went through:
External beam radiation: This could be good treatment, but Dr. McIver really views this as a back burner option because there are so many potential negative side effects.
Radioactive Iodine: again, could kill the spots in my neck, but since this treatment didn’t get rid of it the first time, there’s no reason to think it would work a second time. The side effects of this treatment make it as such that it’s probably not worth it to try again
Alcohol ablation: This is a treatment really only done at Mayo, where they inject alcohol into the bad cells using an ultra-sound guided needle. This would probably work great for my two lymph node areas, but would be tricky in my central neck area. The tumor there is right near my vocal chord and other major arteries, where if the alcohol leaked out, could cause permanent damage. Not really something worth the risk, when surgery is still viable. Which leads us to…
Surgery: This is where Dr. McIver is steering us. The areas are large enough to remove and would set us up for the best chance of success in the long run. He is referring us to a surgeon for a consult, which will hopefully be tomorrow, to make sure a surgeon thinks they could successfully remove all three areas without too much problem.
One thing we have taken from today, and really something we have been learning all along, is that I will probably never be cured. Dr. McIver said he would love to be able to cure me, but that really with my disease and the pattern that it’s in, it’s probably something that we will always have to manage. But this means I can still live a completely normal, long life.
So, tomorrow I do a CT Scan of my neck and chest, and then check back in with Dr. McIver’s office to see when my consult with the surgeon is. It could be tomorrow as well, but maybe Friday.
We are kind of still processing everything, but we feel really good about the decision to come here. Although we were hoping for better news…really we aren’t surprised. But the silver lining in all of this is that I will still be able to live a normal, healthy, long life. And my “cancer free” party might not happen…but we will certainly have lots to celebrate for many years to come (and we’ll probably throw a party anyway!).
We will keep you posted on what we find out tomorrow. Prayers are certainly appreciated. Thank you!