Health Update: Suspended Attention

by Jonathan Sterne on February 15, 2015

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 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.

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