Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thyroid Cancer and Parathyroid Stuff!

Last Thursday I had surgery to remove my thyroid. 2 weeks earlier, I had surgery to remove a parathyroid tumor. The following is part of an email I sent to family and friends, explaining the ordeal of this past year. I am still home recuperating and want to share my journey with anyone who is interested. I'll be posting frequently in the next few months.

Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable and highly successful cancers that there is - but it can spread. I am fortunate that it was found so early before it spread to the lymph nodes or liver. Please have your annual physicals!! Also - have an ultrasound if you feel any lumps in your neck (or anywhere for that matter)!


About a year ago my family took me to Benihana's for dinner for my birthday. We had someone take a picture of our family. I remember looking at myself in that picture and thinking I looked sick. I was pale and I looked worn out. My eyes looked so sad. It was very surprising to me. I made an appt with an internal medicine doctor for a physical and asked her to definitely check my thyroid function. The results showed that my thyroid function was perfectly fine but my calcium was high. She said a person's calcium should never be high. She ran more tests and found that my parathyroid hormone (completely different than the thyroid, I have learned) was also on the high end and referred me to an endocrinologist. She told me that she suspected that I had hyperparathyroidism. She explained that one of my 4 parathyroids was growing a tumor and pulling too much calcium from my bones. Too much calcium in the body makes a person feel sick all the time (achy, nauseated etc.) - which is how I was feeling. The endocrinologist ran more tests and agreed that it was a parathyroid tumor. The only cure for this is surgery. I learned that the surgery was simple and that I would feel so much better after the parathyroid was taken out. More tests needed to be run, however, so the surgeon could determine which of the 4 parathyroids was bad. This is where things became complicated.

I went to a surgeon who told me that I didn't have a tumor or if I did it was too small. He said my calcium was fine. He said to go back to my internal medicine doctor because he couldn't help me. I was devastated. I had been through so many tests and just wanted to have the surgery to feel better. I felt very belittled and pushed aside. I left in tears and vowed to never see another doctor again! I think I really said that! I also started to feel like I was a hypochondriac and wasn't really sick at all. As a side note - it turns out he had inaccurate data and labs that he was referring to (I still don't know why there was a discrepancy with my labwork). I didn't know about the misinformation at the time and waited seven months to see another doctor. I should have held my ground and been more pushy instead of wasting so much time. I have since learned that we are ultimately in charge of our healthcare. Doctors see hundreds of patients and many times we are just names and numbers to them.

This past September I still felt sick. I had been sick all Summer. I decided to give the doctor thing another try. This time I did research and found an Endocrinologist that had experience with parathyroid tumors. He was awesome (Dr. James Grua). He nailed my condition on the head in the first 5 minutes and referred me to a great surgeon that has a lot of experience with parathyroid surgeries (Dr. Pramod Sharma). I highly recommend both of them. Dr. Sharma sent me for a couple of ultrasounds so that he would know which parathyroid was the offender!

The ultrasounds showed a couple of nodules on the right and middle parts of the thyroid. He wanted me to have a biopsy because of their size. Apparently most people have thyroid nodules and he wasn't very concerned - but wanted to be on the safe side. The biopsy showed some suspicious cells. He didn't suspect cancer at this point but told me that it was probably best to remove the right and middle parts of the thyroid - especially since he was already going to go in and take out the parathyroid.

The first surgery was on Friday, November 16. He took out half of the thyroid and the offending parathyroid (it was on the lower left side). The surgery was easy and I was sent home the same day.

The following Wednesday was my followup appt. I was told that the thyroid labwork showed papillary thyroid cancer and he would have to go in and take out the remaining half of the thyroid.

I am now home from that surgery and doing very well. My body is still trying to readjust my hormones but I am starting to feel much better. Especially today - and I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been put on some thyroid medication (cytomel) which definitely helps with my energy level. I will have a radio-active iodine treatment in about 6 weeks and will have to be isolated for a few days. This will kill any remaining thyroid tissue that was left behind. I'll be checked again in about 6 months and then every year for a while.


Todd said...

I am the father of this household and I feel it important to have some of my feelings validated. I felt it was necessary to sit all licensed drivers down and give them a corrective blessing by anger (Anger: the bandaid that covers the real wound - Wound: the fact that I will have to work extra hours for the rest of my life to pay the auto insurance) AND CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT THEY THEY HAD THE NERVE TO GET MAD AT ME FOR GETTING MAD?

Babs said...

well , as the sister of this Clan ,
and having dealt with this driving dilemma with two boys - I choose -
after numerous problems , peddal bike action . Now how bad do you really need to go ? The peddal bike
can put priorities into teen-agers
that you never knew they had . But Alas , as you live on top of a mountain - where the deer run free - this is not a practical solution for your family .Keep
your day job Todd and keep shinning
bright-ly my witty sister .

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