Hiding in the numbers

I spent yesterday trying to gather information from various doctors about my latest medical tests. I was unable to get anyone to read me the final pathology report on my tumor, which was exceedingly frustrating. I did manage to get ahold of a sympathetic nurse who read to me from my electronic health record, although she didn't have much to offer in terms of interpretation. I gleaned a little information from this: several blood tests that have been normal since my surgery in June are now abnormal. I have tumor markers present in my bloodstream and also a positive thyroglobulin value. Both tests were drawn just prior to my radioactive iodine, which yields a ray of hope that the iodine may have destroyed the active cancer that was brewing in my body at that time.

The tumor marker test looks for cancerous genetic material in my blood stream. The bad news is that only tumors that have access to blood supply can be tested for in this way. Recurrent tumor markers are associated with malignant metastasis (dangerous spread) in over 90% of patients with papillary carcinoma. A positive value for this test indicates aggressive disease rather than the slow-growing cancer that I have been told to expect.

The thyroglobulin test is less clear-cut. It could indicate that the remaining thyroid remnant in my throat was functioning somewhat. However, in combination with the tumor marker test, it can be used to indicate recurrent or metastatic disease. But this test is generally less compelling than the last test.

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know I normally don't coldly report on lab tests and statistical risk. Today I hide in the numbers. My family is circled close in a spiritual and emotional sense; circling our wagons. Consternation, fear, sorrow, remorse. Emotions are running high. I will write more when I have the heart to.