He could have easily said, gesturing to me, "This is exhibit A, a papillary carcinoma patient who has had multiple recurrences." I actually think he did that before I came in the room.
I started the appointment with honesty: "Hey, I am really nervous because I have not gone a year between appointments since my recurrence." He understood. The students nodded.
I showed the students my scars along with their accompanying stories. I have two scars: one large one about five inches long centered on my neck, lower half, and the other about three inches long on the upper right side of my neck. The longer one was used twice (it's special) for my first two surgeries. For the third surgery, he needed to make another incision as the cancerous lymph nodes were higher that the surgeon could reach with the original scar.
I had three physical neck exams -- first by Dr. W and two more by the students. Nothing significant was found, just a discussion among the three of palpating some scar tissue beneath my, guess what, larger, most used scar.
Here's the drill, which I knew was coming: get blood drawn for a thyroglobulin test. These test results dictate everything. If it is 0.5 or lower, all is good -- see you in a year! If it is higher, most likely no bueno. Next step is a ultrasound of my neck to see what's going on. Of note, with both recurrences, the first indication of anything wrong was an elevated thyroglobulin.
We wrapped up the appointment with me asking Dr. W, "Are you still in semi-retirement? Because I hope you aren't going to fully retire anytime soon." It took me several years and two other endocrinologists to find him.
I loved his response: "My wife said she married me for better or worse but not lunch everyday." He's still in business for now it seems.
I had the blood drawn right then. He said he would call me in a week with results. It's been six days. Hopefully, he calls tomorrow. I jumped at the phone yesterday and today thinking maybe the results were in early. He did not call.
I have ran through the "what ifs" when said call is received, which include "Great, see you in a year!" or "OK, I know -- ultrasound, needle biopsy, and possibly surgery. Dang, I don't want to do this again."
I'm still waiting on results from Dr. W....and waiting.