"Your thyroglobulin is now undetectable at less than 0.5, indicating that Dr. Sanders performed an excellent surgery in removing the involved lymph nodes and we have reason to be somewhat more optimistic at this time."
Out of frustration more with the situation of having thyroid cancer for the third time in four years than with my current endocrinologist, I sought out a second opinion on what to do next following surgery. I wanted someone to confirm what my current endocrinologist's plan was for moving forward.
As a result, I met with Dr. Leonard Wartofsky at the Washington (DC) Hospital Center in June. Google him, and you will find that he is an endocrinologist specializing in thyroid cancer and that he has published many papers on thyroid cancer and radioactive iodine treatment. In fact, he only sees thyroid cancer patients. This is what I had been looking for - someone I have total confidence in about his/her knowledge of thyroid cancer.
Other endocrinologists I had met with treat all types of endocrine problems. Dr. Wartofsky - he only sees thyroid cancer patients. I have had this stuff three times now. I really wanted a specialist, and I got it.
You may wonder about the "somewhat more optimistic..." quote above. When I initially met with him, besides being in awe of his knowledge of thyroid cancer - saying things no doctor had ever said to me about the diagnosis - he listened. He wanted to hear my story from the beginning. He asked about the question I had and didn't dance around them. Yes, fellow thyroid cancer patients and survivors, it's true - an endocrinologist who didn't rush me out and listened!
Interestingly, he had a colleague from Europe observing him that day so he was part of the consultation/examination. When I told Dr. Wartofsky that my thyroglobulin this spring was 5.8 and that two positive lymph nodes were removed, they had an exchange and, of course, I chimed in:
Dr. Wartofsky: "Do you think that with a TG of 5.8 and two positive lymph nodes that the surgeon got it all?" (Of note, this is not a knock on the surgeon's skills but rather the sneakiness of thyroid cancer cells.)
Colleague: Smiles sheepishly and shakes his head no.
My reaction to this: "You think that I will need radioactive iodine therapy to be sure we got it all?"
Dr. Wartofsky: "It's likely. However, let's see what your thyroglobulin level is today and go from there."
With that, the three of us expected my thyroglobulin to be in excess of 0.5...probably more above 2.0, which is the upper limit of "you probably have a recurrence" or "there are still thyroid cancer cells in there."
It was undetectable. Wow.
What's next? Keep monitoring my blood work this fall and an ultrasound January 2013.
What isn't next? Radioactive treatment....For that, I am grateful.
I'll take "somewhat optimistic" over thyroid cancer any day.