First of all,
WOW! you guys rock. Thank you for all the well-wishes, everyone!!! I'm overwhelmed and so grateful for your love and friendship.
I want you all to know that I am going to be just fine. I will beat this! Everything will be OK.
Papillary thyroid cancer is very treatable and curable. It responds uniquely to radioactive iodine therapy. Unlike other cancers, the treatment protocol is NOT radiation and chemotherapy.
The oncology surgeon will remove my thyroid and the tumor on Oct. 4th. The surgeon told us that it will be a long surgery - probably 6 hours - due to the size of the tumor and all the nerves and blood vessels in the neck. I'll be in the hospital for a couple of days - probably go home on Saturday the 6th. I'll have bloodwork done at weekly intervals for two or three weeks until I'm in an extreme hypo-thyroid state, then will be re-admitted to the hospital for the radioactive iodine treatment (called RAI). Being hypo-thyroid is essential for the thyroid cells to absorb the radioactive iodine. I'll be in the hospital for 3 days, until the radioactive isotopes wear off. (can't contaminate anyone with stray radioactivity) The beauty of this treatment is that the only cells affected are thyroid cancer cells, no matter where they are in the body.
After the RAI treatment, I'll start thyroid medication and will continue to have weekly bloodwork until my levels are optimized. I'll probably be able to return to work 2 or 3 weeks after the RAI. From then, I'll continue to have monthly bloodwork done to monitor the thyroid levels.
In about a year, I'll be weaned off the thyroid meds for 4-6 weeks and then have a body scan with contrast dye to check for thyroid cancer cells. If there are any, I'll have another RAI treatment and then resume the thyroid meds. During the 2nd year post-op, they'll continue monitoring my bloodwork every 3 months and adjust the meds as necessary. Two years after my surgery, I'll repeat the weaning off the thyroid meds and have another body scan, and another RAI if there are still any stray cells, then back on the meds. After the first negative body scan, the bloodwork will be monitored every 6 months. After 3 negative body scans in a row (3 years) I'll still have bloodwork done semi-annually but will do body scans on a 3 year rotation. The doctor told me to expect to have at least two RAI treatments, because of the size of the tumor and that I've probably had this for several years. The RAI treatments are spaced out because if the radioactive iodine only stuns the cells rather than killing them, they won't show up on a body scan until they've "woken up" or quit lying dormant, which can take time.
Y'all, I can do this. The worst part will be while I'm hypo-thyroid before the RAI treatments - fatigue and brain-fog are the worst symptoms. I can live with this treatment schedule. The bloodwork will be a pain in the butt until the thyroid hormones are leveled out, but that's a small inconvenience. The doctor told me that oncologists frequently say that if you are going to get cancer, Papillary Thyroid Cancer is the easiest to treat and beat.
Joe's doing pretty well with the cancer diagnosis. I hope that's because I'm not worried or scared. Worrying wouldn't change anything, so its senseless. I know I'm going to be fine.
Next time, I'll tell you about our trip to Alaska, which was fantastic. :)