A week after I had the neck ultrasound I went back for the results, which was on November 15, 2011. At first, my thoughts were what if they find something or that there is further spread? My husband said that we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Little did we know that bridge was staring at us point blank! There was a suspicious nodule found right near my left laryngeal nerve where they couldn’t remove it all. I was floored! So the next step was to set up the biopsy to determine if this was in fact a metastatic nodule. I had the biopsy on November 30, 2011 and grateful that my husband was able to come with me for that appointment. The interventional radiologist that performed the biopsy was really amazing. At first I could hardly feel it, and then there was a lot of pressure as the nodule was very close to my trachea. They only had to do a few needle passes and then had adequate tissue and the pathology team was right there in the room as well.
On December 6, 2011, I came back to obtain the results of the biopsy and I received the devastating blow from Dr. Song. It was confirmed that the nodule was metastatic papillary. Then the what if’s started playing in my head, what if I had seen Dr. Bentz sooner, what if I had seen my PCP earlier than I did and then maybe it may have not been so far advanced, or what if we had waited longer to do the RAI ! I could not believe that I was dealing with a recurrence in less than a year’s time. It was only nine months since my TT and four months since RAI. Why did the RAI not work? Dr. Song offered me two options – neck dissection or ethanol alcohol ablation was a new procedure that could be tried. He suggested that I speak with the endocrinologist about it before making a decision. My husband was shocked by all this as well; it was so devastating for both of us!
Dr. Bentz had made arrangements for the biopsy which was done at the University of Utah hospital which is located near the Huntsman Cancer Institute and was done on January 25, 2011. During the biopsy, there were two or three interventional radiologists that were in the room along with the Pathology team. At first, they numbed up several areas on my neck before they actually did the needle passes into the masses. I felt some pressure, but the pain wasn’t really that bad although I did feel like a pin cushion as there were so many areas that they had to biopsy. I managed to muddle through it and the staff there was very nice and they even called me the following morning just to see how I was doing. Later that day on January 26, 2011 I saw Dr. Bentz to obtain the results of the biopsy. The night before obtaining the results, it was hard to sleep as I kept thinking about what the results was going to show. I was very nervous about what was going to be found, but I just had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing there were calcifications that it was most likely going to be cancer. I had my parents come in with me to that appointment and sure enough Dr. Bentz confirmed my worst fear, I had thyroid cancer! As he said that, the reality hit me like a ton of bricks slamming into my body that yes, I have cancer. I finally said it, the big “C” word! It’s not something anyone wants to hear, but yet it was happening to me of all people. Dr. Bentz said that it was highly suspicious of papillary thyroid cancer and was recommending a total thyroidectomy to remove the entire thyroid and the surrounding lymph nodes; he said that more information would be known after the removal of the thyroid. This all seems so surreal and I keep thinking that I will wake up and this will all just be a horrible dream!
Next, the decision was made to do surgery. I was going to have a TT (total thyroidectomy) and neck dissections on both sides of my neck to remove lymph nodes as well. The surgeon wanted to do it within the next few days. However, I had to schedule it a few weeks out as I was having another needed surgery on my foot first, and I also needed to get my husband back to the states as I was not about to go through such a major surgery without him by my side.
I made sure to ask Dr. Bentz when I could get back to the gym following surgery as I have been such an avid proponent of staying fit. I think I was more worried about missing gym time than the surgery itself. I have worked hard over the last two years getting our family on healthy eating and exercise mostly out of necessity due to our eldest daughter being diagnosed with a Pseudo tumor, which is essentially like a false brain tumor. It has caused some major issues with her eyesight and damaged some of her optic nerve. The treatment for this was that she had to lose some weight; I wanted her to have a support system and this has been something that our whole family has benefited from. I enjoy working out and I feel so good afterwards, it is the one thing I look forward to each day in doing.
I made the dreaded phone call to my husband in Japan explaining the diagnosis. He could not believe this was happening; both he and I were both hoping that it would have all been benign. Going through this ordeal was really difficult and it felt like I was ripped from my family, my teaching job and the students in my youth group. It feels as though I have just been blind-sided as though a curve ball coming out from nowhere. I had so many emotions going through my head at the time and it was hard to get a grasp of what was happening to me. Our family has been through a lot of medical challenges with our daughter the last two years, due to her Pseudo tumor diagnosis. Why was this happening now? I guess things were just going too good and something was bound to happen to stir our life up. I had many questions and no answers in sight. I had to put my trust in God that those questions would have an answer and that they will be able to get this cancer out of me!