Category Archives: Surgery

It’s the good kind….Really!

“The Good Kind” is a catch phrase/byword in the thyroid cancer world.  Thyroid cancer (thyca) in general and Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (PTC–which makes up about 75% of thyca) specifically are known as “The good kind” of cancer or, “if you’re going to have cancer, that’s the kind of cancer to have.”  There’s a reason for that….the survival rate for PTC is better than just about any other kind of cancer out there.  Some question whether it should really even count as cancer.

I know that some people hate this generally optimistic feeling about thyroid cancer, mostly because they feel that it minimizes their fears and the difficulties that treatment involves for them personally.  Also, there are some types of thyca that are not nearly as easy to treat as PTC and whose outlooks are not nearly as favorable.

So today I found out I had Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, not Hurthle Cell Carcinoma, as I feared. And my first reaction when I saw that lab report was relief.  Because I know that PTC actually is “the good kind.”  Because HCC was really a scary thought for me.

Wanna know the crazy part?  The PTC was in that ugly looking nodule with the calcifications, the one that I originally “knew” had to be cancer.  The one that tested benign on FNA and frozen section.  The Hurthle cell lesion was just a big lump in a lumpy gland.

I guess that’s my only real whine at this point.  Why couldn’t we have just found it on the first biopsy and gotten all the surgery over to begin with?

Possible reasons:

  • I needed, for some reason, to not go around knowing I had cancer in my body for that period of time from FNA to first surgery–It was better to find out after it was out.
  • I needed time to work on a gentle weaning process for Eleanor.  More on that later…
  • I needed to be really afraid of having HCC so that PTC wouldn’t seem bad at all to me.
  • Something I haven’t even thought of yet.

Whatever the reason, I am going to trust my journey because I trust my Guide.  He knows what I need and what I can handle.

He answered my prayer to be spared HCC. He let me have a big benign lump in a visible place so that I could find the cancer that was hidden farther back in the gland.

I embrace the label “The Good Kind,” because this is NOT my mother’s cancer.

Ok, so here are the details:

  • PTC Nodule was 1.2 cm.
  • It was completely encapsulated.
  • It had no vascular invasion.
  • It was widely invasive of the capsule. (So glad it is O-U-T!)
  • It looks to be unifocal and confined to the thyroid. (That would make it stage I. This could change after the findings of the 2nd surgery.)
  • Also, I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (or at least I do for the next few weeks.  I think surgery will “cure” me!)

Here’s the plan:

  • Have a great VBS.
  • Go to camp and have a GREAT time!
  • 7/11, have the rest of my thyroid removed.
  • recover
  • meet with the nuclear medicine doctor and talk about whether or not I need RAI.

Somewhere in that plan I need to include finishing Eleanor’s weaning.  Rusty got up with her this morning (bright and early) and fed her some breakfast before I made an appearance.  She has asked me to nurse a couple of times, but I have been able to put her off so far.  We’re going to see how far we can go with this.  I may go get my nail polish in a minute and work on my own toenails, and see if she wants me to do hers.

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Looking worse, feeling better

My bruising is pretty bad. It’s sliding down my chest. Check it out (day 4, if you were wondering):

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But on the other hand, I feel almost normal. I am having very little pain. What I’m mostly experiencing is a mild burning feeling around my incision. That sounds scary, but it doesn’t feel or look inflamed.

My energy is still not all there. If I get up and “do” for a few minutes, I will start to feel just a little bit clammy and woozy. That’s my cue to resume my station on the couch. But I am doing more today than I did yesterday. And I expect to be doing even more tomorrow. It looks to me like that one-week recovery I keep seeing quoted everywhere may be right on for me.

The incision

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This is from the morning after surgery.  Looks pretty good, huh?  Nice work, Dr. B.

The next thing I remember…

Surgery went really well. My nurses were all super sweet. And it wasn’t crowded or backed up like I thought it would be. W, C, P, and J came and hung out with Rusty while I was in surgery. I was so glad he didn’t have to sit in the waiting room alone.

In preop, they got me situated–stripped, gowned, I.V.’d, etc– and then called Rusty back to be with me. We hung out while they gave me my first and second dose of sedative. I don’t remember much after that…Rusty says he kissed me as I left.

I have a foggy memory of them shifting me to the operating table.  After that, the next thing I remember a nurse in post op saying, “It’s all done, and it’s benign!”

That’s the only thing that has bothered me about the whole process. To be told, “It’s benign,” the instant I wake up, when really, we won’t know that until final pathology is done, seems PROFOUNDLY irresponsible. It wasn’t the nurse’s fault. She was repeating what she’d been told.

Dr. B was also very positive when he spoke with Rusty after surgery. Which was fine, given that surgery went so well. But he basically led Rusty to believe that all worries are over. And I hope they are, but I won’t be able to rest completely easy until that final report is back.

I wanted to talk to Dr. B myself to see if there was something he saw during surgery that led him to believe that all worries were over, like maybe if the Hurthle cell lesion was unencapsulated, which would suggest benign metaplasia. Fortunately, he came by to see me this morning, so I got my chance.

Just as I thought, when he said, “benign,” what he meant was no malignancy found on the frozen section samples during surgery. Then he told me they were 90% accurate.  Which is misleading. Because when they find malignancy in a Hurthle cell or follicular neoplasm, frozen section testing is very accurate. But for those two kinds of thyroid lesions, frozen section analysis has only a 20-40% sensitivity. That means that it fails to catch 60-80% of malignancies.

That’s because frozen section testing only looks at a few samples from the tumor, and if there is capsular or vascular invasion at even one point, the lesion is malignant. I’m not even sure why they do it, to be honest.

So I asked Dr. B if it was encapsulated, and he said that it looked like it, but he only final pathology will tell for sure. Which is what I thought. I just hate that we probably got some people’s hopes up prematurely. But maybe those hopes will be fulfilled, and they need never be the wiser.

So the words we are hoping for now are “Hurthle cell adenoma.”

My dear friend J stayed all night with me. We were able to catch up, and she pampered me, rubbing my calves where they were sore from the compression stockings they used during surgery.

The boys, of course did fine with Aunt Sharon, and so did Eleanor, for which I was SO thankful. She slept late yesterday morning, which made it possible to skip her nap, completely avoiding that sticky wicket. Then because she was sleepy, bedtime was a breeze.  And getting up this morning she was a little sensitive, but got through it ok.

She has not nursed all day, although she has asked a time or two since I’ve been home. I wonder if I’ll be able to just cruise on out and be done with it. The morning will be the test, I think.

I am so thankful to the Lord for helping things go so well. And also for all the good friends and family he has blessed me with, who have helped me and prayed for me through it all. May all our prayers be answered with a benign final result.

Surgery today

I wasn’t thrilled when I got the call from the hospital yesterday telling me I should arrive for surgery at 12.  That’s 12 noon.  With nothing to eat or drink since midnight the night before.  The nurse who called told me that if I wanted, I could get up before five and have some dry toast and black coffee.  I elected to sleep in.

This has made me think about how entitled I feel when it comes to my three meals a day.  How abnormal is that?  I was actually starting to get irritated because I wouldn’t be able to eat this morning.  In reality, this brief moment of being a tiny bit hungry is good for me.

Praise be to God who has provided so bountifully for me all my life!  May he be with me today, and may he guide my doctor as he works on me.

My awesome Aunt Sharon is coming down to stay with the kids.

I have almost crossed off everything on my “to do before surgery” list.

I have slathered On Guard (diluted with fractionated coconut oil in a roller bottle) all over my neck area multiple times a day in an effort to wipe out any unfriendly germs living in the area to be operated on.

I am defying my NPO order by sipping on a tiny splash of water right now.

See you on the flip side.

Mama the Grouch

I think Rusty is worried that I’m going to be Grouchy Mommy (or possibly worse, Weepy Mommy) after my thyroid surgery.  He keeps making lighthearted comments to that effect.  One example:  I was telling him that I was thinking about giving up coffee. He joked something to the effect of “No coffee AND no thyroid? Is that a good idea?”

Now, it’s very possible that he’s just trying to keep things light.  However, in my experience, there is always some truth at the bottom of humor.

To be perfectly fair, I am a little concerned about how I will feel with only half a functioning thyroid, and that half possibly impaired by an autoimmune process.  But I feel like with a little thyroid hormone replacement, I will probably be able to sort it out.

Google remission for several days now.  I feel much better.  Just waiting for June 7th.

Macrophages

Ok, so I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I HAD to keep on researching.

Let me back up.  Here is the word-for-word write up of FNA of the the larger nodule on the isthmus of my thyroid:

Hurthle cell lesion–see comment

COMMENT:

The specimen consists of numerous Hurthle cells and fragments of Hurthle cell epithelium, with a population of macrophages.  The differential diagnosis includes Hurthle cell change in a background of thyroiditis or a hyperplastic colloid nodule versus a Hurthle cell neoplasm.  Clinical correlation recommended and follow up as indicated.

So that actually didn’t sound too bad, especially the idea that it could be “Hurthle cell change in a background of thyroiditis.”

But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  I wanted to know what, if any, meaning the macrophages had.  I had some vague memory that macrophages were immune cells, maybe a type of white blood cell?  I knew that certain cell types like lymphocytes tended to point towards a benign nodule.  So I went looking, using “macrophage” as a term in combination with “Hurthle cell lesion,” “Hurthle cell adenoma,” “Hurthle cell FNA,” etc. ad nauseum.

I found one case study in which two different patients had similar FNA samples that included Hurthle Cells and macrophages.  One ended up being a Hurthle Cell Adenoma (benign) and the other a Hurthle Cell Carcinoma (malignant).  So I know that macrophages could be present in either.

Then, for whatever reason, I searched for “macrophage thyroid cancer.”  From that I learned that macrophages are generally present in tumors (benign or malignant) and that a certain type of macrophage, known as a Tumor-Associated-Macrophages can sometimes make up up to 50% of a tumor, and that their actions tends to help the tumor grow and spread.

I found this article.  The title alone almost sent me into a panic attack.

I had a little freak out moment, feeling SURE that the “population of macrophages” meant my nodule is FOR SURE cancer. I have reeled it in a bit, and I’m now back to the recognition that “tumor-associated” doesn’t have to mean “cancer-associated,” and that, once again, I cannot find out if my nodule is cancer or not by doing research.  Still, I am not comforted.

I’ve also learned that “hemosiderin-laden” macrophages are usually associated with benign tumors; they “digest” red blood cells when a colloid nodule (always or almost always benign, from what I understand) undergoes “hemorrhagic decay”.  My FNA report didn’t say whether the macrophages were “hemosiderin-laden” or not.  So I really have no idea where I stand.

Before I made my macrophage discovery, I sent Dr. B an email to ask how long surgery should take (45 minutes to an hour)  and where pathology would be done (right here in our local hospital).  I have now looked up the pathologists on staff and am considering sending them gift baskets the day before my surgery, to make sure they do top-notch work for me.

Also, my sweet, sweet Aunt Sharon has said that if I need her, she can come for a few days.  We are going to play it by ear to see how things go.  And UK is in Uganda, preaching.  Love it.

Ok, I REALLY, REALLY need to forget all about this until maybe a few days before June 7th!  Although, I think it would be good to work on some things that would be helpful to accomplish before surgery. I am going to put my “folder” (containing my lab reports, surgery instructions, etc.)  somewhere out-of-the-way.

Should I Google “Hashimoto’s macrophage,” just to make myself feel better?  You see how sick I am?

ETA:  I did Google some more.  I am back to the realization–full realization, not just what I’m telling myself to think–that macrophages don’t mean I have cancer, and very well could point to a Hurthle Cell Lesion associated with Hashimoto’s.    Must.  Stop.  Googling.