December 2018 Cover

Well, this is strange; I’m writing about December 2018, in December 2018. Which means I’m all caught up! Or, at least, I will be, in a few short paragraph’s time. After which, I’ll explain the way this blog, and website, will be structured, moving forward.

But, first, back to September and the aftermath of the surgery to remove the hotspot from my thyroid. Along with the rest of the right side of the thyroid…

The hemithyroidectomy, on September 10th, had gone well enough for me to be obnoxious on Facebook:

“I woke up in hospital, to find that some bastard had slit my throat!

Well, I say ‘bastard’, but what I actually mean is, surgeon.

And I was under general anaesthetic at the time…

The PET/CT Scan, of a few months ago, showed an active lump on my thyroid. So, today was the day they cut it out…, along with the right half of my thyroid.

Apparently, there’s only about a 20% chance that it’ll be cancerous, which are the best odds I’ve had in years. I’ll know more when the biopsy comes back in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, it’s a overnight stay in hospital and then home tomorrow, to a house full of unsympathetic gingers. Yay, me!”

The photo that went with the post…

The meeting to discuss the results of the biopsy turned out to be on 25th September. In the intervening time, I discovered that the surgery had messed with my voice. I was no longer able to shout. And I’d lost my upper range, meaning I could no longer hit the high notes of the songs that I sing along to while I’m cooking. Julie and the girls are yet to agree whether or not this is a good thing.

I mentioned all this at the follow-up meeting and was told that the surgery had gone perfectly. There had definitely been no damage to the nerve. The doctor then decided she needed to see my vocal cords, so it was, ‘camera up the nose’ time. The big difference, this time, was there was no blob of local anaesthetic on the endoscope. This lead to a fair amount of gagging, wincing and eye watering… and that was just Julie’s sympathetic reaction!

After she’d finished the examination, and given me time to wipe away my tears, she said that the vocal cords were fine. I could expect that any changes in my voice would only be temporary and would revert back to normal in due course. As I write this, on 31st December 2018, I can confirm that my ability to shout is largely back to normal. I am, however, still not able to hit those high notes, although there has been some improvement.

Back to the meeting, where it was confirmed that the biopsy of the  thyroid hotspot had been analysed and it was not cancerous. It was, in fact, ‘a benign hyperplastic nodule within a multinodular goitre‘. This meant very little at the time, and not much more now. All I cared about was that it was nothing dangerous. And it wasn’t. The relief I felt was… fleeting!

Seriously, I felt relief for a fraction of a second. The reason being that I had my next scheduled scans in a couple of weeks, on 11th October. After the Liver, Lung and Thyroid fun I’d already had during the year, I was not feeling particularly positive about those scan results.

Good old scanxiety…

As it turned out, during my meeting with the oncologist on 24th October, my fears were completely unfounded. My scans were clear, and the next set was booked in for January (next Monday, on the 7th…). On hearing this, I finally felt able to relax. The relief flooded in and the plans for Halloween immediately started forming. I’d celebrate my health by scaring the Hell out of trick or treaters; everyone’s a winner.

Julie, waiting to help me to terrify the trick or treaters.

The oncologist also discussed the results of the thyroid function blood test that I’d had on the 10th October. The blood test revealed that my thyroid hormone level was normal, but my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels was slightly raised. She explained that TSH was produced by the pituitary gland, in the brain, and it was this that told the thyroid to produce thyroxine. She suggested that this was to be expected because my brain was having to send more messages to get the remaining half of my thyroid to produce a sufficient amount of thryroxine. Which all made sense to me. She then said that I should book myself a blood test with my GP to recheck the levels in three to four weeks.

All in all, an extremely satisfactory meeting. 

In actual fact, I didn’t have to make that appointment with my GP, because my doctor’s surgery phoned me to make an appointment. So, on 16th November, I went in to see my GP. He’d made the appointment because he’d seen the results of the thyroid function blood tests and interpreted then in a different way.

To the mind of my GP, the high TSH levels effectively meant that the pituitary gland was having to constantly shout at the thyroid gland, because the thyroid wasn’t producing enough thyroxine. This also made sense to me…

Which just goes to show that it is very difficult for the lay person to properly comprehend medical scenarios they’re not trained for. In this instance, two medical professionals had interpreted the blood tests in completely different ways. To be fair to the oncologist, this isn’t her area of expertise and she was only interpreting someone else’s report. Some I.T. fault meant that she hadn’t been able to see the actual results for herself. The point I’m making is; try and avoid using the internet to self-diagnose… this stuff is too complicated.

Anyway, back to the meeting with my GP. He said that the TSH levels, while high, were still within normal parameters. Which meant that the prescription of medication was up to him. While I normally try to avoid medication, where I can, I tend to struggle with my weight. I know that an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to weight gain, and that an over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can lead to weight loss. Given the choice, I’d prefer weight loss to weight gain. I mentioned this to my GP and he decided to try me on the lowest dose of  Levothyroxine for a couple of months and see what that did to my next thyroid function blood test. Which is on the 11th January…

In all honesty, I haven’t noticed much change since I started taking the Levothyroxine. That said, the GP did warn that they’d take about six weeks to kick in. The problem is, that it’s always going to be difficult to notice a potential weight loss across a Lewis family Christmas

The December 2018 gingerbread Christmas tree.

I’ll find out more in a couple of weeks time.

The only other thing that’s been bubbling away has been the incredibly slow process of booking my next colonoscopy. And, while I’m in no particular rush, this had been going on since September.

Apparently I needed a kidney function test, before I could be considered for a colonoscopy. The forms for which had been sent through, and I had the blood test on the 10th October, while I was getting the thyroid function test. After that came the booking for a telephone pre-medical assessment, which I then had at some unGodly hour on the morning of Monday 19th November. Since then, nothing…

In actual fact, for an update of December 2018, literally nothing has happened during December 2018. January 2019, however, already looks incredibly busy.

But while not much has happened, medically speaking, during December 2018, it is a time of change.

December 2018 marks the the point that I’ve caught up with my story. In hindsight, I could’ve taken a bit longer over it but, to be honest, when I started getting it down, I didn’t know how long I had. Nor, for that matter, how long it’d take.

I just knew that I wanted to get everything down so that my experiences might help other people going through similar things.

And, while, as of December 2018 I’ve achieved this, I realise that this information isn’t presented in an easily accessible way. Additionally, this blog is tied to my more lighthearted Chubby House Hubby blog. And, the CHH blog has been important to me, in its own way; because it’s meant that I haven’t been solely focused on reliving my cancer experiences. And, by offering me this distraction, it has helped me avoid becoming depressed.

But, for all that, I’ve always worried that the Chubby House Hubby blog is a distraction to people who are starting their own battle with cancer. I can’t help thinking that the last thing people in this situation want is to end up reading about my opinion on the greatest English football team of all time. Which is why I still haven’t been able to bring myself to post this year’s version, even though the season finished in May.

The silly thing is, I don’t particularly follow football. It just annoys me when everyone claims that their team is the best… so I worked out who was right.
Photo by Andrii Podilnyk on Unsplash

As such, from December 2018, I’m splitting the site into two. Except that it won’t be me, I don’t have the technical expertise; I’m getting it done professionally.

The upshot will be that there will a new site, specifically for my Cancer Dad blog, called www.cancerdad.co.uk. Imaginative, huh?! I can only imagine that there’s no point trying to put a link. Not least because the site hasn’t been developed yet, but also because, when it has been developed, this post will be on that site. Meaning the link will end up pointing back to here… It’s like a time paradox!

Anyway, the www.paullewis.me.uk site will become dedicated to Chubby House Hubby and I can finally make my stupid football post.

Going back to the new site, specifically the ongoing content, there is going to have to be a change. Because I’m caught up to date, I don’t have any more historical tales to tell. Which means that December 2018 marks the first of a series of blogs in the form of a monthly summary of my cancer experiences. I’ll make these posts on the last Monday of each month. Obviously, if something more… interesting… happens, there will be more frequent posts about my cancer experiences, as they happen.

On the assumption that my next scans are fine, this will leave three, or potentially four, Mondays to fill each month.

And I’d like to use those spaces to address a couple of things that I’ve had to contend with over these last five years:

  • All the things that people tell you can cure your cancer, and;
  • All the things that people tell you can cause you cancer.

Because I answer a reasonable number of cancer-related questions on Quora, I tend to get comments, on my answers, about both of these things. Some are from genuinely well meaning people, others… less so.

But, as anyone with cancer, or anyone who knows someone with cancer, can attest, there is always someone suggesting you try something, to cure the cancer in question. And I’ll address these, one at a time, on the first Mondays of the month.

And, while not all ‘cures’ are Snake Oil; some of them definitely are!
By Carol M. Highsmith – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44038686

On the third Monday of the month, I’ll approach from the other direction, and address what we’re being told might cause us cancer.

On the second Monday (and the fourth in months with five Mondays), I’ll draw together some of the hot topics that are appearing on Quora in that particular month. And/or look at any meaningful breakthroughs and developments, as they take place.

To this end, if there’s any particular ‘cure’ or ’cause’ of cancer that anyone would like me to investigate, please let me know. I’m fortunate enough to have the time to study these things, and I’m interested to know the truth behind some of these claims.

And, finally, sorry for any convenience, but in order to make these changes, the site will be going down for a few days. Exactly how long it’ll be, I don’t know. But I hope you’ll bear with me, because it’ll be worth it when it’s done. I’m told that all the subscription information will pass over seamlessly. And, as we know, nothing ever goes wrong with changes in I.T. …

In the meantime, many thanks for reading my blog and a very happy New Year to you. May your 2019 be full of good health.