I spoke to my surgeon yesterday after he got the pathology back from my surgery last Thursday. It turns out that one of the smaller nodules on the right side of my thyroid is cancerous. I already had an appointment scheduled with my endocrinologist this morning for a post-op checkup, but it let us talk through what we do now.
First, the positive list.
1) I have a follicular variant of papillary thyroid cancer. If you pull out your google-fu (which I have done) you discover that this is typically a non-agressive type of cancer, and with treatment the success rate at beating it is 97%. As my endo said this morning "if you have to have cancer, this is the kind to get".
2) We found it incredibly early.
3) It was small, only 1cm. The larger nodule that was the reason for the surgery originally was totally benign.
4) It's already out. Think about it for a second, I found out it was cancer because it's already outside my body and was cut up in a lab. There is a chance that I was cancer free before I even found out about it.
5) I had an ultrasound today - everything else in my neck looks to be benign, though there are still a few nodules on the left side.
What this means now.
1) I am going back into surgery Friday morning (7:30am PDT) to get the left side of my thyroid removed. While part of me certainly wishes I had chosen to do the entire thing up front I think this might be the best scenario. J pointed out that during the first surgery cancer was an unlikely possibility, this time they know it was there and so will take a much more careful look at the area and be sure to get anything (including lymph nodes) that look like trouble.
2) Six weeks after the surgery I will go through a radiation treatment (radioactive iodine). Chances are if I have the non-aggressive form this step isn't necessary, but the endo recommended treating it as though it is the aggressive version just to be safe, which sounds good to me. It also kills all of the remaining thryoid cells - cancer or not - in my system, which means future testing will be a lot easier. I am hoping to figure out a way to get superpowers out of this.
3) After the surgery and the radiation I will be on the synthetic hormone pills for life.
So it's obviously not good news, but it's a lot better than it could be. I am grateful that this is all happening now, while I'm unemployed and can deal with all of this without trying to juggle work. I'm grateful that it was found early and small and is entirely beatable. I'm grateful that J is so entirely awesome in helping me through all of this (he came to the dr with me this morning to be extra ears and ask questions).
The surgery on Friday is going to be the weirdest case of deja vu ever.
I'm still a little shaky about the whole thing, obviously. I have cancer. It's weird, and mostly unreal. And a really big word.