Preface: I’ve officially moved the Cancer Watch 2008 to yw7.brushthralls.com. All of the latest information can be found there. I’m leaving this page up here though as there are many links out there pointing to it.
For those who don’t know, let me bring you up to speed. Last spring I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent a total thyroidectomy (complete removal of the thyroid gland) as well as had several surrounding lymph nodes removed, 2 of which also contained cancer. I was also treated with radioactive iodine which was intended to ablate any remaining thyroid tissue. At that point, I was considered “cured”.
This spring, I returned for my one year follow-up scan. Although the scan was negative, my blood tests showed elevated levels of thyroglobulin. Thyroglobulin is the main hormone produced by the thyroid, something that I should no longer have any levels of in my system, so this was a concern. My doctor ordered an ultrasound of my neck and it showed at least 5 nodules in the thyroid bed of considerable size that shouldn’t be there. At this point, I decided to refer myself up to Huntsman Cancer Institute, a local cancer research facility and one of the finest in the country.
After consulting with Dr. Jason Hunt, a specialist in head and neck cancers and surgery, we decided to perform another ultrasound with a biopsy of the nodules in my neck as well as take a chest CT to make sure that the cancer had not spread to my lungs. Dr. Devaprabu Abraham at the University of Utah Diabetes Center performed my ultrasound and biopsy. He found 7~10 lymph nodes of considerable size (~2 cm) in the lower neck that are involved and possibly a few more down behind the breastbone. I am scheduled for surgery on the morning of July 7th at Huntsman to remove all of these nodes in my neck. I will likely be kept for observation for 48 hours following the surgery to monitor the swelling and drainage of the area. If fluid collects in the base of the neck, it can compress the trachea, causing difficulty in breathing and even death, so I’m not going to complain about the stay. The estimated recovery time is about 7 to 10 days. I’m not going to push things so I’m taking a full 2 weeks off from work and will be returning on a part-time basis on July 21.
I have also undergone a chest CT to check for spread of the cancer to my lungs. I was told going in that the odds were 1 in 100. To quote my favorite Star Wars character Han Solo: “NEVER tell me the odds.” Anyone who has ever played any game with me that involves dice or chance can tell you that odds tend to skew when I roll dice. If I need a 6 on a 6-sided die, I’ll get it at least 33% of the time. It’s just my “luck” so to speak.
Unfortunately, the results of the CT were positive. I have several lesions on both lungs, 5~6mm in diameter. Based on the size and known growth rates of tumors, these were present last year when I underwent my first cancer treatment and radiation therapy. (And was declared “cured” by my previous doctors.) The treatment failed to kill the cancer cells in my lungs and they continued to grow. Also based on known growth patterns, the cancer may have spread to my liver, brain and my bones. I’m still awaiting testing to determine if that is indeed the case for these areas.
The decision to remove the tumors now in my neck came after discussion of my options with Dr. Hunt. Since those are the largest masses present, they pose the greatest threat currently. Within 6~12 months they could easily invade the trachea and voicebox if left untreated. Also, by removing the majority of the cancerous thyroid tissue, I stand the best chance (there’s that odds thing again) of having a repeat of the radio-iodine therapy be more effective on the remaining cancer in my body.
It takes 6~8 weeks to prepare the human body for radio-iodine treatment, with hormone withdrawal and low-iodine dieting. It sucks, as I documented the first time around here in the blog. You suffer the effects of hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows, you’re constantly tired, it just stinks. To top it off, the diet is plain awful. Not only are you on it, but your family is as well. Kerry won’t make separate meals for her and the kids and then something else for me, so we’re all in it together for two weeks.
At any rate, I’ll be undergoing the radio-iodine treatment again. It will likely be the first week of September, but that is not firm yet. At this point, neither doctor is confident that it will be effective at completely eradicating the cancer from my body, given the fact that the previous treatment failed. I have to try though, as it’s really the only weapon we have against thyroid cancer that has metastasized. There are a couple of remaining options, but they are all experimental clinical trails using chemotherapy to either slow or stop the spread of the cancer cells in the body. Based on this, my current prognosis is quite low. If we fail to slow or halt the growth of the lesions in my lungs they will begin to affect my breathing within 3~4 years and become a serious threat within 5~6 years.
Kerry and I have shed a lot of tears over this, but we are determined to fight with everything we have. We both have faith in the Lord that I can be healed from this and we can grow old together as we’ve always planned. If you are a religious person, please say a prayer for us. If not, positive thoughts would be nice as well. Sadly, this fight is going to take a lot of money, money that we just don’t have. Project Rainy Day was a big help last year. This year, I simply don’t have the energy or the time to put into such a project. Not only that, but ArkenTyre is moving house, misterfinn is back into retirement, Dead Dogg is swamped with other projects, the list goes on. So I’m reduced to simply asking for donations if you feel like helping out. Please don’t feel obligated in any way. I need to raise $2000 for my out of pocket limit on my insurance. That will cover the “approved” treatments. If I have to go with the clinical trials though, I’ll be all on my own and right now that path looks like it leads to traveling to Denver from Utah to see another group of specialists.
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Thank you so much for reading this. Take care.
Dan “YoungWolf7″ Smith