It Is Thyroid Cancer

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I’m writing this the week of Thanksgiving, and while I’ve a litany of things I’m thankful for, that’s not what I’m writing about this week. Instead, it’s only slightly later than one day after I found out that I have cancer. I’ll share with you an edited version of an e-mail I shared with many of my close friends last night.

I wish to take care of this correspondence in one fell swoop in order to… well, I want to get this unhappy news off of my chest as quickly as possible so that my wife and I can resume our discussion of whatever it is people discuss when they hear this type of news. I hope my thoughts are somewhat coherent tonight. They may not be.

I found out on my way home from work, via a phone call from my endocrinologist, that the thyroid biopsy I had last week (which you can read about in all its glory here) came back positive for cancer. Papillary thyroid carcinoma.

First, let me step in before you say, “He told you over the phone that you had cancer? While you were driving?!” and tell you that, following last week’s thyroid biopsy, I’d developed a persistent sore throat and had put in two calls to the doctor’s office to ensure that this wasn’t a complication of the biopsy. No one called me back today until my endocrinologist phoned me. I just happened to be on my way home from work.

It makes sense now that no one talked to me. They most likely knew the biopsy was positive for thyroid cancer and wanted someone who knew me to handle the breaking of the bad news. And, yes, my doctor didn’t want to tell me over the phone, but his judgment told him I’d want to know sooner rather than later. His judgment was correct.

Second, as far as being slapped with a cancer diagnosis goes, with ten being the worst and one being the best, a papillary thyroid carcinoma is about a two. Two = good. Really. (Relatively speaking, “as far as being slapped with a cancer diagnosis goes.”)

Yes, it’s a big deal. It is cancer. At times I want to downplay its significance, emphasize the success rate, that it’s not such a big deal relative to possible other cancerous diagnoses. That’s well and good. Then again, it’s a big deal, for me, because, well, it’s me. I have cancer.

Please note: There is a 97% cure rate for papillary thyroid cancers.

But of course, this sucks.

My endocrinologist, has already referred me to a top thyroid surgeon within the University of Michigan Health System. That surgeon will contact me next week to discuss the next steps. I think I know pretty much what the next steps will be, although the when and the many specifics that will come from my and my wife’s questions have yet to be answered. The not knowing sucks.

What I’m pretty sure will happen is that they’ll remove the thyroid completely. Then I’ll have a radioactive iodine treatment to make sure that all the cancerous cells are destroyed. (I think my downtime — whenever the surgery is — will be one to two weeks.)

After that, oh joy, I’ll be on some kind of hormone replacement medicine for the remainder of my days. Given the insulin, the statin, and the antidepressants I’m already taking, what’s one more attendee at the party? (If anyone wants to give me a really cool Monday through Sunday pill case as a joke, just make sure it’s something I can actually use!)

The good thing is that thyroid cells are unique in that they absorb iodine, so I won’t have to undergo chemo or radiation (in the conventional sense) to rid my body of the remaining cells (more about that halfway down the page here).

So, yes, I thought I should share this with certain people, because, well, part of who I am is someone who shares things like this.

Happy November holidays. I’ll continue to update you on the thyroid cancer as I learn more.

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