*My thyroid cancer is monitored through two tests. One is by ultrasound of my neck and the other is by watching my tumor markers tested through blood work. Each test tells a piece of the story about what is going on in my body and both tests together are used to determine what course of treatment to take.
I had my ultrasound done right before my appointment last week. This can be interpreted by the doctors right away which is why I was able to find out so quick that by ultrasound examination, my tumors had remained the relatively the same size.
My tumor marker results take longer, as they are only processed on a certain day of the week. This test measures my thyroglobulin – something that should be as close to zero as possible since my thyroid has been removed and I have been through radioactive iodine to kill any other thyroid tissue. Increases in thyroglobulin mean thyroid cells are growing – in me that means cancer cells are growing since the cancer was in my thyroid cells.
The nurse informed me the day after my appointment that my sample had missed the deadline for the week, and that she would call me the following week with my thyroglobulin results. I remember being bummed not to know right away, but just knew it they would probably reflect “stability” as well because the ultrasound had been so positive.
Here’s the totally strange part…I totally forgot after that conversation with the nurse about my tumor maker test. My family and I rejoiced in the fact that my ultrasound had showed no change that I just knew my tumor markers would be the same as well (they have been stable for even longer than my ultrasound results have been!). I forgot that I was still awaiting my blood work results – the other very key part in my knowing what my cancer is doing.
I normally am the patient who is bugging my doctor and nurses fairly frequently to get results. If they say I should know Tuesday, I am calling Tuesday morning at 9am to check-in. I hate waiting so I pester until I find out. But this time I truly had forgotten that I was awaiting the results. So last week went by completely normal…until Friday morning…
My cell phone rings and I see it’s UNMC. I immediately know what it’s about…my blood work results! I keep thinking how astonished I am that I had forgotten about it. My nurse is on the phone saying she has the results.
She has discussed these results with my doctor and she said my doctor is comfortable with waiting six more months where they will repeat tests and see where things are at. She assured me that this isn’t a HUGE increase, and that they are more concerned if this is a trend. If it has doubled again at my next appointment, then indeed it is a trend, and we’ll be talking about “our options” again.
And there it feels like the rug just got pulled out from us again. Ugh…it’s like we can’t catch a break. Neel and I are trying to get back to that place of peace that we felt after hearing the ultrasound results. There’s no reason to really worry about anything now, because for all we know the tumor marker results are just something that spiked up and will go back now next time, but it’s still unsettling.
I know I should be thankful that physically I feel fine – believe me I am thankful for that – but it’s the emotional rollar coaster that is getting old. It’s the worry and anxiousness over what the next tests are going to say that steals peace from our house. It’s the not knowing what is going on in my own body that makes me feel defeated.
I go back to something my sister told me awhile ago when I was talking about how draining things had been. She told me that since I was winning the battle physically, Satan was trying to win the emotional battle. Even the doctor at Mayo discussed how thyroid cancer can be more of a battle of the mind than anything else. I have encountered this over and over again through the last three years, and it’s so true. With thyroid cancer, there is SO much waiting…and I know Satan does rejoice when I find myself worrying, feeling fear, doubting, and letting cancer steal those happy moments with my family.
So please keep us on your prayer list…we are not through this yet, and we still have hurdles to overcome. Please pray that we not only keep winning physically against cancer, but mentally, too. I do not want this ugly disease to keep me from recognizing the beautiful family and friends that God has surrounded me with. I am going to try to forget about what they might say at my next appointment, and live in the present and relish the fact that I get to be a wife and mother to a fantastic husband and two loving, energetic children.
The pictures in this post were taken today – we spent the weekend doing lots together as a family…which is probably the best medicine of all. Thank you for reading this incredibly long post – but it helps the mental health to get all of this out.