It’s amazing to me how much the simple act of getting my blood drawn these days can instill so much panic. Pre-thyroid cancer, I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash over having to go for lab work. I wouldn’t have cared about doctor’s appointments, and an ultrasound would have been nothing. But life after thyroid cancer is not exactly like it was before.
This month marks five years since I was called in to my endocrinologist’s office (a specialist which I had never heard of prior to my initial consultation) and learned I had papillary thyroid carcinoma, to which I silently thought, ‘at least it’s not thyroid cancer.’ But that was exactly what it was.
The six months leading up to my surgery in June 2013 feel like a blur now. Yet the years between now and then have felt like they’ve lingered.
After my surgery, my life was somewhat normal…or at least, a new normal. I had made peace with my daily yellow Synthroid pill, missed days at work to see doctors for follow-ups, and constantly getting scripts for either neck ultrasounds or blood work.
Then, my new normal changed…again. After beginning to see the specialists I had come to know so well less frequently, my anti-thyroglobulin levels started to rise. That feeling of being a survivor became murky, and suddenly I felt just like an anxious patient all over again.
It would be a year of waiting out a watch-and-see approach filled with many rounds of blood work, neck ultrasounds, trips to see my endocrinologist and my initial surgical team, a consult with a new surgical team at a different hospital, a meeting with a radiation oncologist and a biopsy by a head and neck surgeon before we had any answers.
I underwent an I-123 whole body scan in November 2017, which revealed some residual thyroid tissue in my neck area. Since then, I haven’t had any blood work done or had a neck ultrasound.
I will be seeing my endocrinologist soon for my first follow-up since my whole body scan, and decided to ask for a script for blood work prior to the appointment. I never imagined how many emotions would accompany me on my early morning trip to the lab the other day.
I guess sometimes we never really get used to our new normal as well as we think we do.
Kathrine Eldridge says
Praying for you my friend. I totally get it. I can’t blame you for getting triggered. Seeing so many people I love deal with cancer, the memories come flooding back from time to time. I believe everything will be good and so should you! 🙂
Vanessa Steil says
Thanks, Kathrine! I will certainly keep you posted on how it all goes.
Hey, i hope the blood work came back good. Im sitting at work, teary eyed reading your post. Its been a year since my surgery, 6 months since radiation. The new normal is ever adjusting. Are you in Mt Sinai now? I am. I go back in Sep for blood work/neck ultrasound. I finally understood how to read the blood work results, and am terrified to see a rise in antibiodies. If you need anything, or just someone to talk to, im here 🙂
Vanessa Steil says
Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Anya! I am five years out now since I had my surgery at Weill Cornell, but I was completely terrified when I saw my antithyroglobulin levels rise back in November 2016. Instantly, I felt all of the fears I had as a newly diagnosed patient come flooding back. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do a course of I-131 after my I-123 whole body scan. But this will be my first follow-up with my endocrinologist post-scan. Wishing you all the best in adjusting to your new normal. Feel free to reach out if you ever need to talk!