The Rollercoaster Day at MD Anderson

If you read my first post earlier this morning, you may have wondered what happened to us after that . . . well, let me tell you.

{feel the jerking of the cars and the clacking as the mechanics of the coaster inch the cars up further and further towards the top of the first hill}

We met with the doctor first which was fascinating. He is truly the expert in his field and the “Big Daddy” as he was referred to when we first arrived. I had no doubts we had landed in the right place. Not only is this his primary field of study and teaching, but he publishes the articles that set the standard for all of the doctors who see patients with thyroid cancer.

He affirmed that because of my age my cancer is Stage 1 – which determines the likelihood of survival, so you can’t get a better Stage unless you just plain don’t have cancer at all.

He also said he thought the treatment that I had undergone already was appropriate although there were a couple of things he might have done differently if he had to do it over again.

His own daughter, who is only 23, has had this same cancer in the last year and also had 10 lymph nodes that were removed during surgery when they didn’t have any idea there was lymph node involvement beforehand. Since this was one of the most alarming pieces of my own cancer story, that was quite reassuring.

All together, Joey and I left that appointment feeling as positive as we have since the original diagnosis almost 18 months ago.

{crest the top of the hill where for a moment all is still and you can see for miles around and feel, as if, even for just this moment, you are on top of it all}

We were already late for the bloodwork by the time we finished with the doctor, so we hurried across this incredibly vast interconnection of buildings to get bloodwork done. We were quickly checked in and ushered back, even though there was a large waiting room full of people. Once again, God had prepared the way because the sweet lady who took my blood could not have been more gracious or reassuring. She was encouraging and kind. She talked about how much she loved her job and the people who come through, and, boy, could you tell!

From there, we rushed to the Ultrasound. So far, I haven’t had much luck or confidence in the ultrasounds that have been performed. But Dr. Big Daddy had reassured us that is often true when the thyroid is still in place because it hides the lymph nodes that might show up in an ultrasound. Then afterwards, sometimes the issue is technicians that don’t do many ultrasounds with the sole intention of finding indications of thyroid cancer. However, at MD Anderson, they do 6,000 – 10,000 ultrasounds of individuals with suspected or confirmed thyroid cancer every year.

As I should have known, he was spot on. The ultrasound tech was fantastic. He spent three or four times as long as the other technicians I have had perform ultrasounds. He went as far as the trapezius muscles in back on both sides of my neck and revisited the right side (the side of concern) three times before he was done. I honestly think he must have taken 30 pictures of different locations in my neck – some because they seemed to be of concern and some on the opposite side of the neck for comparison.

We knew that if they found areas of concern they would do an immediate biopsy following the ultrasound. He told me he would go speak with the radiologist and be back. When he was gone for more than ten minutes, I just knew he was going to come back and tell me they were going to biopsy multiple locations. He returned and said, “Well, that’s going to be all for today.” I was puzzled and momentarily elated, until he continued, “The spots are all small and not in locations that can be biopsied by ultrasound. You might be able to do a CT-guided biopsy, but that would have to be a different day.”

{just when you are distracted by all that is beautiful and enjoyable around you, the bottom of the car you are in falls away and you are dragged with it, plunging down much further than it even seemed you climbed}

In a numb, rather confused, state that I find has become all too familiar in the last year and a half, I redressed and went out to the lobby to find Joey and try to explain all that I didn’t really understand myself.

It wasn’t bad news.

It wasn’t the relief I had expected.

It was oddly a different version of the same information we had walked into the hospital with to begin the day.

But it was comforting to know that an expert was at the helm, and we knew he would take my bloodwork and the scan, together with his knowledge of my case to give us further direction.

{air rushes through your hair and you catch your breath as you come out of the first hill and begin to race through the curves and turns that carry you forward to the next hill}

So we went for a late lunch at PF Changs – just because my husband knows I love eating there, and I usually only get to eat there about once a year on my birthday. We enjoyed our lunch and leaned back into the peace that has supernaturally carried us through so much of this uncertainty and not knowing.

We called my mom who seemed more positive about the day than we seemed to feel at the moment.

We headed home to resume our regular schedule of kids, school, work, sports, games, and all the other household activities that are necessary to keep putting one foot in front of the other as a family.

{creak . . . creak . . . tension builds as you head up another hill. how high will this one be? how far will it drop under you? there is no getting off, so you hang on and set your mind to seeing it all through}

As we drove down the street to literally turn into our neighborhood, my phone dinged to alert me to a new email message. Apparently, I had a test result waiting. Curiously, I opened the app to see what information it held.

Shocked I found the following words from Dr. Big Daddy:

“[regarding the areas of concern identified in the ultrasound]…these spots are too small at this point to be of significant concern…We should repeat your thyroglobulin and neck ultrasound in 1 year.”

{crest the top of the hill where for a moment all is still and you can see for miles around and feel, as if, even for just this moment, you are on top of it all}

We still have the option of connecting with Cancer Treatment Centers of America to pursue alternative treatments in the meantime – massage, chiropractic, nutrition, holistic – but that decision is for another day.

Today, we will hold on to this view for just a little bit longer . . .

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