I don’t always have the last word, nor do I feel the need to, but when it comes to my health, I can’t shut up about it. I was certain that with a little twist on my perspective, I could make a cancer diagnosis seem less horrifying by mustering up a little stick-to-itivness, looking for the upside and finding to something to laugh about.
My thyroid tumor was detected during a routine medical exam. Although I had never heard of a goiter, this was my physicians diagnosis. “It’s very common in women,” he explained. “But to be safe, let’s schedule an ultrasound.” Not long after I was given the all clear and given a prescription for synthetic thyroid replacement, which was to “shut down” my body’s own natural hormone production.
As the year dragged by, so did I. Many of my symptoms appeared just as they had in the list I had eagerly researched; they included hoarseness, pain in the neck and throat, enlarged lymph nodes and a ugly lump, or goiter, in my neck that had me opting for turtle necks, lest I be mistaken for a slightly more feminine man with an Adam’s Apple. When added to my velvety Luther Vandross-esq voice, there could easily be some doubt.
My family might argue the legitimacy regarding what normal is for me, but I would return again and again to my doctor, complaining that something was still off. With each visit, he would assure me that I was fine and, perhaps, hyper-vigilant. I wasn’t going down without a fight. He finally agreed to refer me to a surgeon. I was over the moon having found this lovely man willing to cut open my neck and remove my man nodule, but there was a catch. I would first have a front row seat for this cool little procedure called a fine needle biopsy, where, as you might expect, a fine needle was inserted into the tumor to extract tissue to check for cancer. The results came back as a benign tumor, I breathed a sigh of relief and signed up for the event of a lifetime. My surgery went well and I was released two days later. Then came the phone call from my the hospital. The post surgical biopsy had actually revealed cancer. I was terrified. This thing had sat in my throat, growing and festering for over a year! The good doctor suggested that I come in to remove the entire thyroid.
Six weeks later, I returned for an encore performance. It was deja vu. Same phone call, same results. For the next nine years, I endured one treatment after the next, each requiring me to be quarantined for several days. A radioactive iodine pill is the usual course of treatment for thyroid cancer. My time in solitary confinement was some of the most insightful days of my life. I learned that my husband could cook and my kids were able to successfully navigate a path to taking out the trash. My dog didn’t starve and the vacuum cleaner wasn’t specially coded to be operated solely by me.
Despite my otherwise scary diagnosis, there was an upside. My doctor had warned me that thyroid disease could actually cause unwanted weight loss. Who doesn’t want that? Sign me up for this side effect! Alas, it was not to be. Although, a healthier me emerged, I’ve learned to make light of the fact that only I could have thyroid disease and not lose a pound. Oh, well, there’s always diet and exercise.