Since last fall, I’ve been on an every three months regime of getting scanned. Two have been chest and abdomen, other was just my lungs. They are tracking the speed of spots in my lungs, looking for anything to get bigger. The last scan, done at the end of June, showed my largest lesion at about 2cm diameter, and growing a couple mm every 3 months. It showed the other ones “unchanged.” This is too slow to be alarming, but they want to track it, along with a tumor marker in my blood.
One possibility is that they will shoot a beam of radiation at the big lesion if it’s growing faster than everything else. Another is that they’ll do nothing until they see a rapid increase in the pace of growth.
What all this means is that I’ve gone into a kind of cycle: the best parts of the year are between the time my doctor finishing the appointment where he says “we’ll do another scan in 3 months” and getting the scan in three months. Then there’s the waiting part in-between, which is less fun.
I don’t normally post on social media about horrific events as they happen, simply because I never have anything profound to say. Expressing my outrage here simply does nothing for the people who are actually suffering, and it doesn’t make me feel any better.
But I’ll say this about Charleston, coming on top of all the police violence against African-Americans in the last year.
When I read about the Charleston shooting, coming on top of a year of police violence against African-Americans, a part of me reacts with the hope that this violence is the last, desperate paroxysm of white supremacy as it stumbles off its pedestal into the fog of history, like so many other imperial formations before it.
Another part of me fears that it’s just business as usual.
We won’t have a way to be sure of the difference, except — I hope, one day — in retrospect.
After last November and December’s adventures in cancer world, it isn’t surprising that I get a lot of questions about my health and emails wishing me well, often based on incomplete information. Of course since I have incomplete information, that’s no wonder. So here’s some slightly more complete information.
We’re back to watch and wait. Ideally, forever. But maybe not.
When I saw my endocrinologist before I left for India on Jan 9th, he read my situation a little differently than the oncologist, as in he thinks I’m in a different class of patient (and was unworried enough to want to talk about teaching evaluations, which I took as a very good sign).
But both of them are singing the same tune in terms of next steps. In a couple months (give or take) I’ll have a scan that will give us a sense of what’s happened since the “new” baseline set in December, and then we’ll do partial scans throughout the year. What they are looking for is when the cancer starts “trying to grow” at a considerably faster rate than it is right now. When that happens, the slow-growing thyroid cancer is trying to start behaving like a more aggressive cancer, so the drugs start. Once I’m on drugs, I’m probably on drugs forever. At least with the medicine at where it is at today. The thing is that “trying to grow” phase could come soon, or it could come in 10 years or even later. And there are no other experimental treatments to try right now (the lithium/radioactive iodine was their best shot).
So now we pay attention every few months, and otherwise we suspend attention. “Watchful waiting” it’s called, but I like to think of it as blissful denial punctuated by periods of intense ambiguity.
This is the best possible outcome at this stage, so around here we’re considering me lucky.