Thursday, February 09, 2017
I evidently misunderstood what the nurse told me in an earlier phone conversation. Turns out, the lymph-node biopsy was successful after all, yielding enough tissue for analysis. The problem was with the nodes-in-the-thyroid-bed biopsy. This is the one they wanted me to come in to repeat, this time to Manhattan rather than to Basking Ridge.
That didn’t happen, though. The interventional radiologist in New York did an ultrasound of my neck, and after looking at the results she concluded it was too difficult, even risky, to biopsy the nodules. They’re located very deep inside the neck, and they’re surrounded by so many blood vessels that there would be the risk of internal bleeding that could be hard to control. Her largest needle is barely long enough to reach that spot, she explained, and the longer the needle, the harder it is to control its tip precisely. She promised I’d be hearing soon about the results of the lymph node biopsy, once the other doctors have had a chance to confer.
Yesterday, I got a phone call from my endocrinologist, Dr. Stephanie Fish, who ordered the biopsies. She confirmed that there is papillary thyroid cancer in the lymph nodes, the same type that had showed up in nodules on my thyroid gland five years ago.
This is further confirmation of what we already knew — or had at least surmised. Dr. Jay Boyle, the surgeon who removed my thyroid, told me back in July that the nodules were almost certainly a recurrence of thyroid cancer.
But there’s still no particular hurry to do anything about it. The protocol continues to be “watch and wait.” Dr. Fish told me that Dr. Boyle sees no reason to move up the date of my next scheduled appointment with him, which is in June.
I’m OK with this. It’s taken me some years as a cancer survivor to wrap my mind around the concept, but “watch and wait” is not a matter of ignoring the issue. In certain circumstances, it’s a treatment modality in itself.
To paraphrase ol’John Milton, they also heal who only stand and wait.
Thursday, February 02, 2017
When my 30 minutes on the elliptical were ended, I listened to the message. It was from Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Please call back because one of the nurses has a message for you from Dr. Fish.
OK, this is it, I said to myself. My biopsy results.
I called back, and was eventually connected to the right nurse. Yes, she did have my biopsy results: just not the results I expected.
The tissue samples from the lymph nodes were not diagnostic. (In other words, inconclusive.) Dr. Fish wants you to come in - to the main hospital in New York this time - and repeat the biopsy.
That was surprising to me because the needle-wielding doctor at the MSKCC Basking Ridge facility had seemed so confident she'd gotten a good sample.
Someone's going to phone me tomorrow to set up the appointment.
I'd call the news "a kick in the pants" were it not for the fact that getting another needle in the neck sounds worse.
Oh, well. Cancerland is full of surprises.