It has been almost two months since we noticed the tumor on the side of Rob’s neck. What a couple of months this has been! Many have asked for an update and so I will do my best to bring everyone up to date - as to where we are at now. I would like to say first of all how much it means to us to know so many are praying! Knowing that so many of you are going to God on our behalf has brought great comfort and we know God has walked through these difficult weeks with us. Thank you so much for your love, concern and prayers for us!
When we went into the first surgeon to get the results from the first biopsy that they did on the tumor we were told that Rob had cancer and that it was either Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer or Medullary Thyroid Cancer (two terms we had never heard of before that day). The surgeon told us that she was not equipped to handle the care that Rob would need and that he needed a surgeon that could work with a team approach. She also pulled strings to get us into see an endocrine surgeon that had a waiting list way out past October. She got us in to see her the next day. She was concerned – and that was of a concern to us too! We went home and researched these two types of cancer. We realized that if the cancer proved to be Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer we were very likely dealing with possibility that this could be the last year that we would be together as a family. Talk about a paradigm shift!
When we got into the surgeon the next day she said she had been reviewing the pathology reports - (they had sent them to three different pathologists). The endocrine surgeon told us that she was 99.9% sure it was NOT Anaplastic Thyroid cancer and 99% sure it was Medullary Cancer. The complications with the medullary cancer are that it spreads throughout the body and is only able to be stopped by removing the actual tumors that appear. She told us that Rob would undergo blood tests every four months for the rest of his life to detect the C cell counts in the body. When the C cell counts were elevated we would know that there was cancer growing somewhere in the body. She then ordered blood work to measure his C cells to find out if we had cancer that had spread outside of the thyroid. Before we left her office she did a biopsy on his Lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread to the nodes in the neck. She was concerned with what she saw on the ultrasound when she looked at the lymph nodes. She scheduled surgery for four weeks out .
Two weeks before the surgery the surgeon called and said she had just received the blood test results and was shocked at what they were showing. Rob’s C cells were not elevated – in fact his C Cell count was almost nonexistent. She said that ruled out completely that the tumor was Medullary Cancer. She said she could not believe what the tests had shown because she was sure that was what we were up against. She also told us that all three pathologists were in disagreement with what they were finding through the biopsy. The only thing that they agreed on was that they were finding Hurthel Cells in the tumor (another term that we had never heard of). She told us that they only way for us to know what we were up against was to wait until she opened him up to see what she found, remove the tumor. She said that with Hurthel Cells there is a 20% chance that it will be cancerous.
We felt like we were on a bungee cord. Two weeks before we had been told that Rob could be dying soon – and now we were told that there was more chance that it was NOT cancer. We wanted answers but the only thing we could do was to wait for two more weeks until the surgery date came. That was a very difficult time for our emotions.
Last Friday finally got here and Rob was taken into surgery with the surgeon telling us that she would feel more comfortable telling us that we were looking at a 40% chance that the tumor was cancerous. The pathologist had reviewed the biopsies again and felt the risk was greater than first expected. She also told me that she would check the lymph nodes; but that Hurthel Cell Cancer rarely moved into the lymph nodes. For a second I was overwhelmed with joy – until she finished her sentence informing us that Hurthel Cell Carcinoma moves to the brain, the lungs or the bones. (When she finished her sentence I was brought back to reality.) I kissed Rob goodbye as they wheeled him into the operating room and went out to wait for the surgery to be completed. It was a long wait and I am so thankful for the friends that came and sat with me during that time! Thank you!
Two hours later the surgeon talked with me in the consult room. The tumor was “very large” but she was able to get it all out. The other side of the thyroid had looked “sticky” and she removed the entire thyroid because it just did not look right (a decision we had made before the surgery to avoid them having to do surgery again to remove the other half of the thyroid if they found cancer). The tumor had grown into the muscle of the neck causing her to have to remove that muscle. She assured me it was not a muscle that he would miss now that the thyroid was gone. She said she was concerned that the parathyroid glands looked “wrong” so she removed two of them . She said that she might have taken three of glands – because she thought one was behind the muscle; but that he could live with one out of the four glands if she did. She said that she did not want to mess with the glands and have cancer spread to other parts of the neck if they were indeed cancerous. She said that the lymph nodes looked good and she did not remove them because they did not look suspicious. She said that it was of concern that the tumor was attached to the muscle – but we would not know anything until the biopsy results were back. She told me she could guarantee me that we were not looking at Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer. She then told me that she would think that we were looking at a 50% chance that the tumor was Cancerous and may have spread. She assured me that she would call with the results of the pathology report as soon as she received them.
That was a week ago today. We are still waiting and trusting that God has everything under control. We still do not know what the future holds – but we did not really know that a year ago. I will admit that every time the phone rings I brace myself before I look at the caller ID to see who is calling. We could get a call that tells us that this trial is over – the tumor is gone and there is not cancer in Rob’s body. We could get a call telling us that the tumor was cancerous and has spread; and we will be facing more decisions and more waiting time. I feel like we are hanging between two extremes.
Rob has had complete and total peace throughout this entire time. If he has been anxious about any of this - I have not seen it. I have felt anxious at time more than I can express in a blog post. I have found God’s Word to offer me peace. The Holy Spirit has brought calmness to my heart that has been amazing. Focusing on the faithfulness of God has made me feel that my life is on sure footing. Nothing is out of control and I can trust that everything is going to be OK - no matter what. When my mind focuses on cancer or on the future - there is anxiety. When I focus on God - there is peace.
So we wait for the results and remind ourselves that our God is bigger than cancer and has our lives in His hand and in His control. Thanks for praying for us! God has been so close to us and we have come to know Him in a most personal way in the past eight weeks. He is good – all the time. Rob is recovering well and we have not had any setbacks. Today he went into work - he will just be doing paperwork and we will see how the day goes. He was excited to get back to work. He was getting a bit stir crazy here at the house. :) We will keep posting as we have information - thanks for your concern and prayers for us at this time. We are blessed to have so many friends. Thank you!