I’ve been fuming the past hour thinking about the ways thyroid cancer has derailed and altered my life since 2006. I had an appointment with my endocrinologist this morning and he brought up the follow-up scan that has been postponed due to my pregnancy. It got a little heated because it felt to me like he was second-guessing my judgment or my intellect.
But here’s the deal: every summer for the past four years has been terrorized in some way because of this cancer. I told him today that I want some resolution. I understand contingency and I fully expect follow-ups for years to come on the cancer, but no one has ever talked to me about the long-term expectations stemming from thyroid cancer. This is what I mean by resolution: I am much easier-going if I know what to expect. I work well under pressure, but if I know that twenty years from now, I will STILL be having scans every year or two, then fine, I can deal with that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to know what to expect in that regard. But damn, the doctor was so obtuse, it just about pissed me off… and I don’t get confrontational with physicians.
Of course, much of this pivots around breastfeeding, too. I had to quit nursing Katie (well, it turns I didn’t have to, but anyways) because of the cancer follow-up (that dragged on ALL summer that year). This endocrinologist tells me that I don’t have to quit nursing with the thyroid scan. Fantastic! So I’ve been thinking I’d plan the scan around my dissertation defense, because I can’t nurse that week, and it’ll just be easier to be away from the baby than be with her and not nurse. But then the doctor decides this morning that HE wants to schedule the scan for January.
And this is where the record screeched to a halt and we began to haggle. I have to go back and get my levels checked mid-December anyways (thyroid levels can drop precipitously postpartum, and this is a problem particularly for breastmilk production) and I plan on taking it up with him again. We settled on February for the follow-up scan. Since my initial treatment in 2006, I have not had the full scan, because of my first pregnancy but also because the last endocrinologist decided it wasn’t necessary. So, I wonder, what’s the difference after three years between February and April?
Which brings me back to my first point. My life has been drastically altered since 2006: I didn’t go to Peru because of the cancer. That put me a whole semester behind in school and I’m graduating a year later than expected as a result. Moreover, I only received radiation that summer (which is what prompted me to stay home from Peru) because the pathology reports showed the tumors were just barely over the threshold in size warranting treatment. Otherwise- nothing.
This is not to say I will resist treatment if it’s needed. However, the past three years have been ridiculously anti-climactic and I have made so many decisions and been so afraid because of this cancer when it always turns out to be NOTHING. I think I had three or four ultrasounds and at least two biopsies the summer leading up to comps only to find out that I simply had a swollen lymph node. It seems Dr. Exstrum reads the test results to be “inconclusive.” There is NOTHING indicating that I need treatment right now, and I am just so annoyed and fed up with this cancer dictating my decisions and my life that I refuse to let it happen this time. If there were some reason to jump right in to the scan, I would. But nothing says I should other than some man whose office has no problem taking my co-pays and my money by making me come in for office visits when I’ve done this before and you know what- I never had to actually SEE the last endocrinologist while I was pregnant. He just had the lab orders and it was done with a phone call.