The next day I was back at the hospital, this time to have a follow up with my surgeon. The valet recognized me from the day before. I had given him a decent tip, although I didn't think it was over the top. Maybe people don't tip hospital valets? He asked how long I would be. About an hour. He didn't give me a claim ticket. He just told me to look for him when I came back from my appointment.
When I got inside the room, I was disappointed to see the surgeon's assistant. Not that she wasn't pleasant and smart, but I really liked Dr. S. She went over my pathologies, just like Dr. E had the day before. 'How many lymph nodes were taken out?' I asked. My mother had asked me and I realized that I didn't know. '21. Ten from the center of your neck. Of those, seven were positive for cancer. They also took eleven from the left side of your neck. Of those four were cancerous.' So ten weren't cancerous. Yea for small victories!
I also asked her about the BRAF mutation. I couldn't stop worrying about it. She told me that it was a more recent discovery in papillary thyroid cancers, so she wasn't sure what the long term implications were. 'You can ask Dr. S. She might have more information for you on that.' So I was going to get to see Dr. S after all. Her assistant was probably wondering why I was bombarding her with questions when my doctor would be in soon. She finished up by taking the bandage off of my neck. Shortly after she left, Dr. S came in.
She checked my incision- it was healing very nicely. She said to make sure that I wore sunscreen over the incision. She also recommended lightly massaging the area a few times a day to help with healing. She asked how I felt otherwise. Did my throat hurt? How was my voice? My throat didn't hurt, but my voice was still a little rough. I don't usually notice it until the end of the day. She assured me that my voice would continue to get better, although it might take months to completely heal.
I asked her about the BRAF mutation. 'Yes, it does make the cancer more aggressive, but I am confident that we got everything out. And, if not, you'll have your treatment in August. That should take care of the rest. Also, it is a recent discovery, which means that for years almost half the people who had papillary thyroid cancer had the BRAF mutation and didn't even know it. And their chances of it not recurring were still excellent.' Then she looked at me seriously. 'You know, with papillary thyroid cancer the aim of your surgery and treatment is to help you maintain your quality of life. With other cancers, it's to keep you alive.' And that, my friends, was the kick in the pants I needed. That is why I like my surgeon so much. It helps to have someone around making sure you keep a healthy perspective on things.
We finished up by going over my calcium supplements. My numbers looked good, so she was dropping me down from six ultra-strength tablets a day to two. It was a big drop, but it didn't look like there was any damage to my parathyroid glands from the surgery. (The parathyroid glands control your calcium levels, and those glands sit right next to your thyroid.) I'm following up with her again in September.
When I got back out to the valet, he had my car parked right next to his station. Basically, he had parked my car for free, which was so awesome of him. Well, free, except for the tip that I gave him, of course. Totally worth it.