Wednesday, November 9, 2011

breathing again

So, I used to be a big fan of the sitcom Home Improvement when it was on prime time. There was this one episode where Randy Taylor went in for a visit to the doctor, and suddenly came home with a problem. It was either a goiter, hypothyroidism, or cancer. And boy oh boy, Jill and Tim were prayin' for a goiter. Randy overheard his parents worried whispers, and took off to the arcade to distract himself from the stress.

Well, call me Randy. And I just got home from an 8-month stay at the arcade.

So. 8 months ago I was at the doctors office for a regular check up. Dr. thought my thyroid felt large. Told me it was probably nothing, but she was going to send me for an ultrasound, anyway. Had the ultrasound, and the techs said hey we think there's something there, but its probably nothing. We'll do that again later, anyway, just in case. And then they saw the 3 cm nodule sitting nicely behind my thyroid, and said hey nodules are really common. It's probably nothing but we'll send you to an endocrinologist, anyway. And then the endocrinologist says, 3 cm is about 3x the size of "normal" nodules. It's probably nothing, but we'll do a biopsy anyway. And then the biopsy comes back with atypical cells. And the endocrinologist says, its probably nothing, maybe an error, but we'll do another biopsy anyway. And then the second biopsy comes back the same, and so does the core sample. And the endocrinologist says, hey there's this type of cancer that will cause these biopsy results, because you need to see the WHOLE thing to actually see the cancer. It's probably nothing, but we'll take out half your thyroid, and that growth that's attached to it, anyway.

And after hearing all of this, you really start to think that when it's probably nothing, it's probably something. And you don't know what. And you don't know why. And you don't know if you should be worried, but all of a sudden seemingly small numbers like 15% and 20% (the odds I'd have this cancer) start looking like really big numbers. And you feel kind of silly for worrying when really, odds are in your favor that it's nothing, but you can't shake the feeling that it's something. And you're already a worrier, who can get worked up into a frenzy without having any real, tangible thing to worry about. And then you have this. And you don't want to talk about it or think about it, but when you're alone in the car, or trying to fall asleep after a hard day, all you can think about is, holy crap what if this is cancer? And you just cry and cry with the worry. And you do any and everything you can to try and distract yourself from the worry, but nothing seems to push it out of your mind. Even thyroid cancer, which is one of the least deadly, most successfully treated types of cancer, scares the crap out of me. I could still be sick, and these babies of mine, they need me. And for 8 months I felt like I couldn't breathe.

On Friday, they took out the right lobe of my thyroid, and the nodule attached to it. Preliminary pathology came back benign, but full pathology results weren't done until today. And I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to breathe again. It was benign. Didn't talk terribly in depth (I will on Tuesday at my post-op appt), but the dr basically told me that had this been overlooked and not noticed for another 5, maybe 10 years... this would be cancer.

And it suddenly dawned on me just how lucky I am that my doctor decided to go back and feel my throat a second time, because she thought it felt funny. It was by sheer luck that we were able to find and remove this 3cm piece of funk that had the potential to turn my life upside down, 10 years down the road. It's also given me great perspective, and helped me to know, in the smallest way, what it must be like for people who have real, long term health problems. And it has made me so grateful for what I have. And especially for what I don't have.

(Randy Taylor had hypothyroidism, and had to take thyroid hormone medication daily. I know you were worried about that.)