And here I was thinking I was such a big shot, a thyroidectomy patient with nary a blemish on his body 30 days out from surgery. Metabolic balance? Ha! What metabolic balance! I was having none of it. A month into my post-surgical recovery and all I had to show for my troubles was one extra lab visit to measure/adjust my calcium and magnesium levels. Other than that, as Brooks said in "Shawshank Redemption" to Andy DuFresne about delivering library books to their fellow inmates: "Easy peasy." No fuss, with no muss whatsoever. Famous last words, or in my case, infamous first words.
It all began innocently enough with some bilateral shaking of my arms and some associated dropsies: items seemed to just slip from my grasp with no apparent reason – or awareness on my part. Then I began experiencing some "wicked," as we say in New England, pain in my lower back by my kidneys. Next came some forgetfulness and bouts of confusion. I knew who I was and I knew where I was but I definitely knew something had happened to me. I just didn't know if I was simply a victim of my own circumstances, so to speak, or had something more insidious taken root. I mean, I am a cancer patient with two types of cancer now.
I decided to email some of my doctors and share these new symptoms. My oncologist, in conjunction with my otolaryngologist responded. He arranged for me to see a neurologist which I did so the next day. The neurologist gave me the once over twice and ordered some additional lab work which I completed the next day after a 12-hour fast. Later that same day, Friday, Feb. 28, I received a call from my oncology nurse. She had received my lab results and after discussing them with my oncologist, advised me to go to Urgent Care immediately as I was at risk of a possible heart attack. My calcium levels, a previously well balanced component of a functioning thyroid gland had levels nearly off the chart, literally, 40% above normal. And since we couldn't exactly put my thyroid back in, off to Urgent care I went.
After excusing myself to the front of the waiting line, I was led back to an examining room, where I was treated pending transportation – or not, to somewhere else. After spending an awkward night on site, I was eventually transported by ambulance to a local hospital where I would spend the next four and a half days trying to wean my body off its own elevated calcium. Finally, on Tuesday, I was pronounced fit enough to be released. My ordeal seemed nearly over. By late Tuesday afternoon, I arrived back home where I collapsed in my own bed for the first time in nearly a week and began to recover once again.The rest of the story consists of bits and pieces, fragments of recollections and words-to-the-wise in an attempt to prevent a recurrence.
I can't really say that I've learned my lesson because I did nothing wrong. I was simply following doctor's orders. Adjusting one's calcium and magnesium levels is a proactive part of life without a thyroid gland, though it's hardly a matter of routine, and I have no doubt there's still some tinkering yet to occur. Nevertheless, onward and upward I go. with hopes that future episodes will be met with similar vigilance.
Now, back to the previous cancer-themed column. I'm meeting with the endocrinologist on Tuesday to determine a course of action to eliminate the remaining 10% or so thyroid cancer embedded under my collarbone. Once we get that process straightened out then we can get back to treating my underlying non small cell lung cancer.
I imagine I'll live to write about it, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a bit scared. When one treatment is delayed due to the treatment of another, I can't help thinking there should be penalty called for piling on. I don't mind carrying my share but two cancers is hardly share and share alike. Too much of a bad thing is just plain bad.