When 98% Is Not Good Enough
I saw my doctor yesterday and got 98% good news. My biopsy came back normal, and needle biopsies are 95%-98% accurate. But the vocal cord palsy still bothers my doctor — and not because my voice isn't working correctly. My doctor says that the number one cause of this is thyroid cancer, and you work under the assumption that it IS cancer until you prove that it isn't. And since the biopsy isn't 100% accurate, we haven't proven it isn't cancer yet. It's only a really really small chance that the biopsy was wrong, but if we make a mistake here, he'd prefer we erred on the side of caution and do too much rather than miss a cancer and have it go unchecked and thus get much worse. The repercussions of being wrong are major bad, especially since thyroid cancer is very curable — but only if you actually treat it.
So, I'm having half my thyroid removed next Tuesday — yes, Valentine's Day. The pathologist will be in the operating room, and he'll test it once it's removed. If he says it's not cancer, which is what I expect he'll say, they'll close me up and that will be it. I'll have to have my thyroid checked in about a month once it calms down from the surgery, but usually half a thyroid works just fine. If the thyroid isn't working correctly, I'll have to take thyroid hormone pills every day forever. Plus, no matter what, I'll have to have my thyroid checked via ultrasound once a year forever.
However, if the pathologist says it's cancer, they'll remove my entire thyroid, as well as possibly some lymph nodes. Then in a few weeks, I'd take a radioactive iodine pill to kill any remaining thyroid cells, and I'd be radioactive for a couple of days, but that should take care of the cancer. And if they take the entire thyroid, I would definitely have to take hormones forever.
The surgery won't fix my voice, though. And frankly, I'm much more worried about my voice than about the slight possibility that it might be cancer. Once we're finished with all the surgical stuff, I can have some speech therapy to try to improve my voice. The palsy might resolve itself over time, but if after about six months to a year it hasn't, we can consider some surgical options. But in the meantime, I'll just have to get used to people asking me all the time if I have laryngitis and backing away because they think I'm contagious. I'm thinking of getting my forehead tattooed: "I'm not sick. It's a paralyzed vocal cord." But that would involve needles, and we already know I don't like needles.
Okay, I hope my next entry will be about crochet. If I can make myself go weave in those stupid ends on my sweater, I'll be finished with it and I can post some pictures. Hmm, I wonder if it's just my needle phobia that's preventing me from finishing this. I'm trying to decide what my next project will be. I have several things I'd like to do, but I think I should focus on something a bit mindless now, like maybe an afghan with just enough complexity to occupy my mind but not so complex that I have to think really hard about counting and shaping. Hmm, just like that, I think I've decided. I'm going to make an afghan I've made before, which should be perfect for this time period. Now I have to go weave in those ends.