Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thyroid Cancer

After an interesting few months (years really), Robb was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this week. Specifically, with papillary carcinoma. The good news is that if you're going to have cancer, this is the kind you want. The treatment is fairly straight-forward and recovery rates are phenomenal. The bad news is that it's cancer and cancer sucks.

About 10 years ago Robb was admitted to the hospital for a severe lymph node infection. At that time they told him to keep an eye on his thyroid, as it was fairly large. Since then he's had occasional blood tests, but everything has come back normal in his hormones. In November Robb went to see the Dr. because he had been having breathing problems and dizzy spells. They did a battery of tests, EKGs, blood tests, etc. They also looked at his thyroid. Again, the blood tests came back normal, but they were concerned with the size of his thyroid. So several other tests were started. They did an ultrasound and found very large nodules. Then they did a fine-needle biopsy, which came back as abnormal. However, they still weren't sure if it was malignant. And since it was so large and affecting his breathing (probably because it was encroaching on his esophagus), they decided to take out half of his thyroid. Also, they would test the part they take out for malignancy. They would avoid taking out all of the thyroid until they could tell if it was malignant or not. That's because once the entire thyroid is gone, you have to be on medication for the rest of your life. So I guess the idea is to wait and make sure the thyroid needs to be removed, before actually doing it.

So the scheduled surgery was on Monday. I took Monday and Tuesday off of work and we went to the hospital in Seattle early. The surgery went fairly well. He survived the sedation and was kept in the hospital overnight. He's still on sick leave, but feels much better. His throat hurts, but feels better each day. He's scheduled to go back to work on Tuesday.
The surgeon told us that they took out a 5 centimeter tumor that was almost completely calcified. That is HUGE. A decent sized nodule is 1 centimeter. A big nodule is 4 centimeters. So 5 is a big problem. (Once we found out he had a growth on his thyroid, Robb and I could see it and feel it from the outside.) The fact that it was so large was concerning and pointed to cancer. The fact that it was calcified was also a concern. So, coming out of surgery we knew that the chances of it being benign weren't good. We finally got the pathology report on Thursday, papillary carcinoma.

We're not really concerned about the cancer aspect. It sucks. But again, this is a cancer that is beatable. It's everything else that goes along with the cancer. Another surgery will have to be scheduled to take out the rest of the thyroid. Then about 4-6 weeks after that Robb will have a one-time radiation treatment. (That's kinda freaky. He will be isolated in the hospital for 24 hours so he doesn't contaminate anyone. Then, when he's released , he will have to have limited contact with me for a few days.) Then he has to be on thyroid medication and monitored for the rest of his life. Robb only gets like 5 sick days a year and he's used almost all of them for this first surgery. So he may lose out on money if he has to take time off. My sister's wedding in Florida is in March, so we have to try and figure out if surgery can be scheduled around this. And it's just stressful trying to figure out the side effects that we can expect in the future.

Robb's still recovering from surgery, but he's doing well. He has an appointment on Monday and then we'll know when the next surgery will be scheduled. So, we're doing okay. One day and step at a time.

No comments: