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I just recently had my yearly medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) check-up. This included a CT scan, bloodwork, and a phone appointment with my oncologist. I remember how much I was dreading these days back in May, around my “cancerversary.” When the time came to have the CT scan done, I was very calm. 

There was the slightest bit of anxiety, but nothing like what I experienced a few weeks before the appointments drew nearer. Looking back, I think most of the anxiety was related to the fact that I was still battling a cold. It was a typical summer cold with chest congestion and coughs. My whole family got it this time. However, I believe this go around, I was the sickest of us all. 

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I should mention that shortly after I finished radiation, my blood work showed decreased white blood cell counts. Nothing to the extreme of needing treatment, just low enough that the automated systems would flag it as low. If I am not mistaken, my WBC was between 2.5-3.5 when it is supposed to be in the 7-8 range (Canadian blood reference numbers). 

With that being said, I was expecting to get sick frequently, given the fact my immune system seemed to be low. The opposite was true though. I rarely ever got sick. My husband, and later my son, would get sick with fever, chills, aches and pains, and cough. I would have a runny nose for a couple of days, but nothing else. 

Now though, that has almost turned completely. The first time I can recount when this shift happened, was Christmas 2021. We were at a family Christmas party when I started feeling very drained. Nothing else was noticeable, I simply felt run down. 

By the time we got home, I had a fever. Before that date, I don’t remember the last time I had a fever. Ever since then, every time I have a cold or flu, I end up very sick. Most of the time it includes a fever and other cold and flu-like symptoms. In a post-COVID world, the worry of having COVID and possibly passing it along is often at the front of my mind. Needless to say, for every cold, a COVID test was done. They were always negative. 

This latest cold was just poorly timed since it was so close to my CT scan date. I was feeling much better and was just dealing with a lingering cough. Obviously, I wore a mask, but it still felt weird going to any health facility while coughing. I didn’t think the cold would influence my results.

The hospital I was booked in for the scan, was also so full that there was no option to move my appointment unless I was willing to wait another 3 months or more. Since my phone consult with my oncologist was scheduled for a few days after my scan, it was essential to have the scan before that.

All of that to say, the scan came back with somewhat inconclusive results. The tumors that were previously known, have barely changed. There may be a small 1-2 mm change in those. However, when examining my lung fields, there were multiple spots that my oncologist was unsure about. During our phone call, he asked me if there was any recent illness, to which I  answered yes. 

He seemed to be a little relieved by that since he then said that some of what he is seeing could be from a respiratory illness and not necessarily spread from my MTC. In order to be sure however, he was going to send a referral to a pulmonologist as well as book me in for another CT scan within 3 months instead of just the yearly 1 we have been doing over the last couple of years.

Earlier this month, I had an appointment with a pulmonologist. It feels like I am just adding all the specialties to my list of providers. He agreed with my oncologist that most of the questionable areas can be explained by my recent cold. Although there were 2 spots he wasn’t sure about and thought could be tumors. He even looked back on the previous scan and thought he might be able to see those same spots, however, much smaller. 

Needless to say, it’s kind of a weird feeling. Not so much the fact that there are more tumors and that they potentially are in my lungs, I was somewhat expecting that. The weird part is that something as ‘simple’ as a cold has led to finding them. If I wasn’t sick, I wonder if those tiny specs would have even been picked up. 

If I had been healthy, they may not have checked as closely, and those 2 tumors would have gone unnoticed for a little while longer. I honestly can’t say which I would prefer. I know now that they are there, but we aren’t going to do anything about them. They can’t be biopsied. They can’t really be taken out without a massive surgery that would do way more damage than these 2 little white dots on a CT scan could do. 

I have long come to the understanding that my cancer has already spread everywhere it will eventually show up. I don’t know if that is a scientific fact, but it is 1 way I have been able to cope with this never-ending disease. Believing that there isn’t much that I can do from cancer spreading (which I know there isn’t) and believing that it already has spread makes finding tumors on a scan almost like a ‘yay-moment’. 

It is almost like a “gotcha” moment. Now that I know they are there, we can watch for them. I can be a little bit more proactive and reactive rather than just waiting for the next shoe to drop. I know that eventually there will be a day when I have a scan and it will be like the proverbial shoe dropping, but for now, my cold possibly helped us find more cancer. And for that, I am grateful at least for now.