Thursday, May 24, 2007

Health update

My endocrinologist recently referred me to a different hospital in Manhattan for tests and consultations about my parathyroid cancer.
The surgeon with whom I met has treated some of my endocrinologist's other parathyroid patients whose illness had progressed to a level where options were limited and treatment was problematic at best.
He recommends surgery within the next month to month and a half.
It will be my fifth surgery in five years and sixth overall.*

There are two areas of tumor, one in the middle of my chest and one more or less at the base of my neck. My chest was operated on in 2005, and rather than saw through the breastbone again, the surgeon wants to remove the more readily accessible mass in my neck. Chest surgery will be a last resort.

At this point, the hope is to buy time, to see if plucking the mass from my neck lowers my serum calcium level to the point where the medications I'm taking have a better chance at keeping the calcium in check.
That's the way it is.
I'm well over 100,000 miles and this isn't covered in my warranty.

There are some encouraging signs, for which I'm grateful.
The intravenous medication I receive from time to time sparks an interesting reaction in me a few days after I receive it. The tumor in my neck becomes palpable, visibly swelling to the point where it can interfere with swallowing. A rash develops in the area, and I run a low-grade fever and generally ache all over for a day or two. It's almost as if the tumor becomes angry at efforts to lessen its effects. It's counterintuitive to me, but the surgeon says this actually is an encouraging sign. I'm sure he has his reasons.

Because of where the tumor is located, there is a risk of infection. But, all things being equal, I should be out of the hospital within two to four days. I plan to take a week off from work following the surgery, and I'll take some vacation time the week before I go in.
I've been through this routine, so I'm not particularly anxious. Considering my surgical batting average of 0 for 5, I'm not very optimistic, either, though I've learned by now never to underestimate my body's resilience (or to undermine it by obsessing over hurdles).

As the Japanese saying goes, fall down seven times, get up eight times.

*(For newer visitors to my blog, you can do a search in the header at the top of this page using the keyword "parathyroid" to follow my ups and downs since this adventure began in 2001.)


jo(e) said...

Sending some healing energy your way ....

Michael said...


Zen said...

Same here, with my morning prayers!

Michael said...

Thanks very much, guys. I really appreciate the support and the friendship.

Anonymous said...

I'm on vacation in NS, but thinking of you. Hope all goes well and that you heal.


[p.s. can't remember my new blogger pswd, so I'll hafta do this anonymously.]

Michael said...

Hi FA,

As always, thanks for your support and for taking the time to drop by.

Enjoy Nova Scotia!!

Jean said...

Thinking of you very much, Michael. Please keep us informed when you can.

Michael said...

Thank you, Jean. Yes, I will.

Justin said...

Wow. I hope all goes well for you Michael.

Michael said...

Thank you, Justin.

east village idiot said...

I can't believe I didn't read this note earlier! When are you going in for your procedure? I hope you don't mind if I remain stubbornly optimistic about this procedure! :)

Will you be able to eat after the procedure - should you stick to ice cream, pudding? things like that?

Michael said...

Hey EVI,

I would like to have the surgery done by mid-July, if not sooner. As for post-op recovery, I think this surgery will differ somewhat from prior neck surgeries in that the tumor is so close to my esophagus. But my hunch is that there shouldn't be any dietary restrictions, except perhaps to stay away from any foods that could cause heartburn, at least until the area is healed.

Thank you for your optimism! Hope springs eternal, and this truth keeps me going.

Chris vLS said...

All the best. I truly appreciate the blog. Cheers --


Michael said...

Thank you, Chris, and welcome to my blog! I appreciate your taking the time to visit and leaving such a kind thought.