I am rather attached to my thyroid gland – and as Peter Cooke might have said, “The trouble is, it is rather attached to me!” We had a rather vague letter last Saturday, requesting that I report to Southmead Hospital yesterday (Monday) at 0800 at the orthopaedic ward to ostensibly see the Mr Dixon, the surgeon who had carried out the operation on my shoulder a fortnight ago. We thought this rather strange as the next bit of surgery was to be the removal of the remainder of my thyroid gland. So we phoned the hospital to try and find out what was happening – but no-one who knows anything is on duty over the weekend. However we got through eventually to a junior doctor on ENT who assured us that “Yes, yes, that’s right, Mr Nixon is a ‘general surgeon’ who also does thyroid operations.”

Well – we thought that was a bit strange as this particular medic had been introduced to us as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. So at 0600 on Monday morning we braved the rough West Country weather and drove to the orthopædic day ward at Southmeads. “Oooh hello,” said the charming receptionist. Your name was on my board on Friday but it seems to have gone now…whatever!” Off she scurried and with one of the nursing assistants, made some enquiries and managed to discover that I wasn’t there to see Mr Dixon at all, neither we were there for any sort of orthopædic procedure, nor for an operation on my thyroid which, (contrary to what I said in my last blog entry), I still have and still needs to be removed at some point soon. No – I was there for something completely different.

No-one seemed to know why I was seeing the consultant radiologist – Mr Bradley – on an orthopædic day ward…but there we are! Nice young doctor who very carefully and in some details told me we were going to have “Radio Ablation” treatment on the tumours on my ribs. If you remember the reason I had surgery on my scapular two weeks ago, was to remove as much of the tumour there as possible in order that the radio iodine treatment – when I have it – will be as efficient as possible to work on all the various parts of my body that are infected with cancers. The more they can remove surgically means that the active ingredient will be more concentrated on those areas where it is required. The treatment I had on my ribs yesterday was for the same purpose – to attack and destroy as much as possible of the carcinogenic cells there. So off I was wheeled in my hospital gown and on a lovely little trolley to the radio therapy department.

The first thing was a CT scan. Quite painless and effortless of course – but quite horrible as I tend to be rather claustrophobic. After the first scan Mr B came and injected a local anæsthetic in my side and then inserted a needle through my ribs and on to the tumour itself. This probe was connected to a special machine – so special in fact that there are only four of them in England and it, along with its operator, had travelled that morning from Oxford solely for my treatment. Another quick scan to make sure the needle was in exactly the right place and then the procedure began. The best way of describing it is that they microwaved the tumour, I think up to 60°, for twelve minutes. The probe was then moved along the tumour a bit, another quick scan to check positioning and the process was repeated twice more. Total cooking time thirty-six minutes. Because of the anæsthesia it was quite painless, although there was momentary alarm during the second session when I felt my side go “pop,” which made me jump a bit! Everything was immediately turned off and they all rushed around me to see what had happened. In fact they weren’t quite sure what had happened but came to the conclusion that with the heating up of the internal tissues some trapped air had expanded and literally went “pop!” No damage done and we continued on. Apart from when the scan machine was actually operating, a very pleasant nurse stayed by my side all the time and held my hand and was extremely re-assuring. Wasn’t that nice of her?

I asked Mr B what they would have wanted to achieve and he said that all being well the Radio Ablation will have destroyed 70% - 80% of the tumour, and he was very upbeat about the whole thing. So that can only be good news. I was asked to remain for an hour or so to recover and just to make sure all was well and then it was home again. This morning I’m feeling a bit tired and my side is a bit sore – but what can one expect?! So – all well and now awaiting a further letter for the operation to remove the rest of my thyroid – the way things have been going so far, my guess is that it will be next week.