In a weeks time i’ll be heading back to Oxford to start my Radioactive Iodine Therapy and so figured it was time for a bit of an update from me as it feels like it’s been a bit of a saga to get to this point.
If you’ve been following any of this on social media then you’ll probably know that I was suppose to start this therapy a while back. Initially i’d been expecting to have it 6 weeks after my initial surgery. I didn’t get my oncologist appointment through until April (3 months post surgery) to discuss getting me in for RAI (Radioactive Iodine), however on examining me he found that the lump in the side of my neck was unlikely to be residual scar tissue and was in fact either another tumor or a tumor they didn’t remove the first time around.
A couple of days later and I was back at Churchill for an ultrasound and biopsy. You can have two different biopsy’s under ultrasound. The first is when they use the needle to remove some of the fluid to send to the lab (which is what I had at the biopsy back in Swindon). The second they do under a local anesthetic and they use what they described as an “apple corer” (their words) to remove the tissue. I was so pleased that i’d made the decision to use public transport that day and got to leave with a gigantic dressing on my neck! I mean c’mon, priorities! The Radiologist was pretty honest about what he thought it was (seems to be a theme with them…) and having studied numerous scan photos of thyroid cancer online, it was pretty clear what I could see on the scan image.
5 days later and I was back at Oxford to meet with my surgical team for the results…
I’ve spent quite a while pondering whether I should share all of the details about the things that haven’t gone as planned. From walking around with a cancerous tumor in my neck for 10 years to them not removing it during my initial surgery…there have obviously been issues, but I think, at the moment at least that i’m not going to talk about that. For now, I just want to focus on the positives and the light at the end of the tunnel of this being over. The staff at the Churchill have always been fantastic, clearly at times they are over worked and under resourced which has been made public in the press.
But essentially on discussing the new results with the surgical team the decision was to get me in at the first available opportunity and two days later I found myself first on the list for surgery.
My second surgery has left me with a much smaller incision than the first, it’s higher up on my left side of my neck. The surgical team have used the skin crease again to minimize scarring and the surgery was much less intrusive than the first so the scar really is very minimal, but yeah no more symmetrical scarring – tsk! During the surgery they removed a further 5 lymph nodes, 3 of which were cancerous and the main one was 3cm tumor which had started spreading beyond the lymph node into surrounding tissue and muscle (not sure how you miss that…). Due to staff shortages I had the surgery as a day patient and was back home the same day, which actually was great. I didn’t have to have any drains this time and I felt so much better just being able to get back on my feet and crack on with things. (It was also during the short campaign and I was back out running a hustings and campaign sessions a day later because you know that’s how I roll)!
Which brings me onto the light at the end of the tunnel. The final part of my treatment.
I’m heading back to Oxford next weekend for my pre-treatment injections and then i’ll be admitted on the Monday to start RAI. Thyroid Cancer is often spoken about as the cancer that you would want if you have to choose one, because of the very specific and easy way they can treat it though Radioactive Iodine. Your thyroid sucks up iodine, so by making the iodine radioactive it sucks up all of that and it kills any thyroid tissue and any cancerous cells left by my surgery. The side effects are fairly limited, the worst probably being that i’ll loose my sense of taste for a few weeks and being so radioactive during the treatment that I have to spend my time in hospital in an isolation room and not being allowed close contact with people afterwards!
I’m not great at sitting still or not doing a lot, as those who know me well will testify – so I am worried how well i’m going to cope with being in an isolation room for four days. I’ve got plenty of books, some dvds and the novelty idea of time to myself, to think, ponder, consider the world…sounds…erm…wonderful! You should all expect some rather random social media posts during that time and I will update you a bit more about it next weekend!