Thyroid cancer follow up scan

Today I met with my endocrinologist to discuss the results of my first tests done since radiation (neck ultrasound and blood work). The goal was to see if the radiation I was given after my full thyroidectomy and radical neck dissection surgery had taken care of anything remaining.

Unfortunately, not only does it appear radiation did not take care of everything, there is increased soft tissue density in comparison to the scans taken when I was unexpectedly hospitalized a few weeks after radiation. As a result, it is likely I will have to undergo another surgery sometime in the next couple months. While it cannot be confirmed right now, my doctor said he would be very surprised if the tissue was benign, because:

  • The tissue has increased
  • I had about 3x the amount of radiation the normal patient receives, and if there was any remaining loose tissue that was not cancerous, it should’ve all been killed off by the level of dose
  • I have high thyroglobulin levels, which is considered a “tumor marker.” If everything was gone, they would expect the level to be less than 0.1–my level is 4.2.
  • There was one mass they were able to measure as 1.3 x 0.7 x 1.1 cm (which is pretty large, especially in the tight muscle grouping in the neck), and several smaller masses.

So what now?

  • March 7: Another ultrasound to see what kind of change there has been since the last scan (about 3.5 weeks will have gone by).
  • March 13-22: My dad and I go to ITALY! He has business for only three of the days and the rest of the time we will be able to spend together exploring. We might even go on a day or two trip to Greece while we’re there! I couldn’t be more excited for the time away. Growing up, whenever we went out as a family we’d say we’re going to “party like a bunch of Norwegians:” πŸ™‚

    Photo Feb 27, 5 06 37 PM

  • April 2: Needle biopsy of all the masses they are most concerned about after the ultrasound
  • End of April/Beginning of May, surgery?

The good news is, we are very close to the right dosage of thyroid medication! We are hardly a fraction away, and because I’m awesome, I don’t even take a dosage that they manufacture now. I take one pill everyday and once a week I take one and a half pills. Because it is a long-acting drug which accumulates over time, I’m able to do this. Science is fascinating, isn’t it?!

Photo Feb 27, 3 25 52 PM

It seems like such a prolonged timeline. It’s hard to believe because of my endocrinologist’s availability, It’ll be over a month until the biopsy. I’m trusting nothing drastic will happen between now and then–we’ll see. I really shouldn’t be complaining, it is such a privilege to have access to these kinds of tests and facilities. It’s humbling.

If I have surgery, they will follow up with another scan three months later to see if I need radiation or if I’m clear…this will once again be around the time I am supposed to start law school. I am PRAYING this doesn’t come full-circle. It would be disheartening to begin another year and have to pull-out again for medical reasons. We’ll cross that bridge later, I have scholarship applications to finish πŸ˜‰

Overall, I am doing very well with this less-than-pleasant news. I’m at peace and calm. Right now, the main concern I really have is if surgery will interfere with the Indianapolis mini-marathon I plan to run on May 4. πŸ™‚

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well”

Memorable Weekend, Pre-Radiation

I’m several days into the pre-radiation routine–strict low-iodine diet (see previous post) and no thyroid medication. I meet with my radiologist this Thursday to hopefully get more information on my dosage of treatment, length of being quarantined and likelihood of multiple treatments. Prayers would be appreciated!

This past weekend was such a blessing. I started all of the pre-radiation methods Friday morning, and made my first 3.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit my cousin Melissa at her school. The drive was stunning, the fall colors are in full swing, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to some great music and taking it all in.

Friday night, Melis, her friends and I walked to downtown Grand Rapids to watch the release of hundreds of lanterns over the river. If you have seen the movie Tangled, you have a good idea of what I’m talking about. In any event, it was one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. Would have been a great date πŸ˜‰

The next day, Melissa and I spent the whole day doing fall-festivities that I truly missed the four years I lived in California, and one of the main goals for the day was to make a bunch of food that would follow my low-iodine diet. We went to a local orchard and bought apple cider, apples and pumpkins to carve.

We spent the day cooking–we made pumpkin bread muffins, spicy pumpkin seeds (from out freshly carved pumpkins πŸ™‚ ) and for dinner we made chicken with cinnamon apples. Everything we made turned out very well, and it definitely lifted my spirits. Not to mention we watched The Hunger Games during dinner, which of course was awesome. I was beginning to think I was going to be eating oatmeal, fruits and vegetables every meal for the next several weeks :). Now, however, I have great motivation to make so many things, hopefully in large quantities so that I have left-overs.

I cannot express how much the changing seasons does my soul well. It brings me so much joy. When I start to feel the weight of what I’m walking through right now, it often only takes looking out the window and breathing in the crisp air to revitalize. There is so much beauty in the world–even in the most unlikely places.

After returning from such a memorable weekend in Michigan, I was blessed to end Sunday watching football with great company. I mean how much better could the weekend have been?? Well, my roommate’s dad and sister visited last night and we watched Here Comes Honey Boo Boo–that’s how! Weekend complete. πŸ™‚

I’m definitely starting to feel the weight of not being able to take any thyroid medication. I’m uncomfortably tired all-day, everyday. However, I am still keeping active, laughing the usual uncontrollable amount and even exercising when I feel my heart won’t explode ;). It is very clear to me that my strength is not of my own.

Two Weeks Post-Surgery.

Tomorrow marks two weeks post-surgery. While the time has past relatively slowly, it is actually pretty hard to believe it’s already been two weeks. Each day there have been small victories in recovery. From removing the dressing, removing the stitches, removing to tape, to being able to lay on my back again, to sleeping in a bed, to being able to shower, to being able to run errands without wanting to fall asleep, to returning to teaching high school percussion.

I’ve been really trying to learn how to rest, which is something I’m not used to. I am so used to being borderline unhealthfully busy and now I am forced to take not just a breather…but to stop. I am also used to exercising daily. Yesterday I “ran” for the first time since surgery (12 days after surgery), and while I was only doing a light jog, my heart rate was between 170-180 bpm the whole time. When I finished, I realized just how much my body still needs to recoup. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try that again for a while…I realize now that there can be severe ramifications to that.

My heart rate is still very elevated from what it normally is. I’ve begun to wear my heart monitor when I’m sitting down, to get an idea of my resting pulse right now. I’m used to my resting pulse being around 60 bpm, because of how active I am. Now, it’s not uncommon for my resting pulse to be around 85 and as soon as I walk from one place to the next, it jumps up to 110-120 at least. I have really been trying to learn how to be physically still. It’s so hard. However, today my resting pulse has been in the upper 70’s, so hopefully in a couple days, I’ll feel safer about running or riding my bike!

This week I starting teaching high school percussion again and it was SO wonderful being back in that element. I truly hope I can inspire these kids and give back to them all that has been given to me over the years.

I meet with my ENT again next Friday for follow up and then meet with my endocrinologist the following Monday to talk about radiation treatment. I’ll be starting radiation in the next few weeks. I’m SO glad my favorite author, Donald Miller just released a new book, so I have good material for the days I’m quarantined for radiation :)!

Thank you ALL for your amazing encouragement and support! I am doing very well, and I am excited to see where this unexpected season of life takes me. I am comforted by Christ daily, and the changing seasons in Chicago–pumpkin spice and crisp air, can’t wait for the leaves to start changing!

Fact of the day: “Thyroid cancer will set a new record in 2012, with 56,460 people newly diagnosed in the United States and more than 200,000 worldwide. Unlike many cancers, thyroid cancer is increasing in incidence, and it’s the fastest increasing cancer in both men and women.” (article)


Photos from my recovery:


Day 4, second day out of the hospital

Day 4, First time going for a short walk in public. Threw on the scarf as to not scare children πŸ˜‰

Day 5, Mom helping me wash my hair when I wasn’t allowed to get the incision wet.

Day 6, last day of stitches

Day 7, stitches out, tape on, waiting to get blood drawn to see where my calcium levels are.

Day 7, Came home to my apartment for a night and was overwhelmed by love of my roommate and packages in the mail. As a Colts fan, it was pretty bittersweet to receive a new Peyton jersey in orange πŸ™‚

Day 8, driving for the first time since surgery. FIRST DAY that I did not feel nauseous since surgery!

Day 9, first time heading out to meet a friend to hang out–to watch kickoff Sunday football!!

Day 10, Stitches AND tape off. Complete healing commences. You can see fluid still sitting in the center where my thyroid used to be. Still waiting for that and the swelling to go down.

Day 10, I decided it was pretty cool that I now have two “smiles” πŸ˜‰

Day 11, I can really see that this is healing beautifully now!

Day 12, Redness is really minimal now!

Day 13, It’s still healing very nicely, though I’m starting to get some serious stiffness in the back of my neck from the lack of use of the front muscles of my neck.