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.)