Before I discuss the events that occurred during the time frame listed in the title of this post, I should give a little background.
Last Fall, while pursuing our annual visit to our doctors in Savannah, GA, Barb saw a cardiologist to see whether she should be taking statins for her cholesterol. Among the tests he ordered was an ultrasound of her carotid arteries. She had no alarming symptoms, but saw the doctor given the medical history of her family and because numerous doctors had recommended statins, an option about which she was skeptical.
The full report was not available by the time we left Savannah to return to the Caribbean, but the initial indication was that there was no significant blockage and that all was well. Early this year when settling up medical bills from last year and paying the balance for the ultrasound, she decided to find out what the report said. The only way she could get it was to have it sent to our mailing service in Green Cove Springs, FL. She eventually got the report and learned that a 1.3 cm nodule had been found on her right thyroid.
So this year during our extended visit to Bismarck, Barb decided to seek medical advice. The ultrasound was repeated, with no change in size. But the recommendation was to take a biopsy by needle to investigate the nature of the nodule. That biopsy revealed a cell type that is consistent with follicular neoplasm. We were told that cells of this type are suspicious and could be cancerous, but that the only way to be sure is to remove the entire affected wing and then examine it. If it is cancerous, the other wing would also be removed (and additional treatment would probably be undertaken.) So surgery was strongly recommended. We decided to involve the medical facility currently ranked number one in the United States: Mayo Clinic. We were able to secure an appointment, but several weeks in the future.
Meanwhile, Mom was recovering from her own medical issues, so we decided to take our RV to the west and visit Yellowstone National Park and then join our friends in McCall, ID for an informal rendezvous at the home of Tom and Leslie Arnold.
And that brings us to the events of this post. On August 10 Barb and I left our friends (still partying) and our RV in Tom & Leslie’s yard and drove our little Chevy Tracker to Boise to catch a flight to Minneapolis, where we rented an automobile to drive to Rochester, MN.
In the following days Barb met with an endocrinologist, had yet another ultrasound, and had another needle biopsy. Same result: surgery recommended. We also got a more precise meaning of “for this type of cell, most turn out to be benign”. “Most”, as in eighty-five percent. Remarkably, Barb was able to schedule the surgery for the day after we got the results of the biopsy. The surgeon, a specialist who performs hundreds of these a year, removed the right thyroid (and the small isthmus that separates the wings), waited for the removed tissue to be examined, and then closed up the incision, because, yes, the nodule was benign.
They call this situation a VOMIT – “Victim of Medical Imaging Technology”. If the nodule had not been discovered by the initial ultrasound in 2015, Barb would not have had the surgery. But of course if it had been cancerous, it would have been a good thing that it was detected.
The surgery was done in the morning and Barb walked back to our hotel room late in the afternoon. She had a sore throat for a few days — the after-effect of a tube they put in her throat for the surgery — but otherwise felt generally fine. Well, there were some early episodes of low energy, but we don’t know if that is the consequence of anesthesia or of having lost half of her thyroid. Hopefully her left thyroid will make enough hormone to compensate for the missing right side.
We made it back to McCall, ID and our RV very late Wednesday. Thursday morning I Installed a new charging relay on the RV — restoring the ability of the RV alternator to charge the house batteries when underway– and got underway after Leslie and Tom fed us a huckleberry pancake breakfast. Our destination: Sun Valley, where we would meet Bill & Colleen. But that gathering deserves its own post. Stay tuned.