Nothing gets my adrenaline flowing, heart pumping, and anxiety surging like a good old-fashioned health scare. During the holidays. A week before my tenth anniversary getaway. When I’m frantically putting holiday cards in the mail, wrapping and shipping gifts, obsessively shopping for a bathing suit that makes me look
five ten pounds thinner (haven’t found it yet!), and prepping the house for my parents’ 12 day visit, including the five days when Mike and I will be away.
A week ago, my doctor informed me that the ultrasound on my thyroid showed a solid mass on the right side. She went on to say that it’s common, it’s small, don’t worry, these masses are almost never malignant…but all I heard was solid mass. Solid. Mass.
What happened next probably won’t surprise you. I panicked. The past week has been long and exhausting, but I have some answers and some peace of mind. My anxiety level is still high, but some of that might be due to (1) packing (must pack light…must have options!) and (2) guilt (my boys will never survive five nights without me…they’ll never forgive me…I’m a rotten, selfish mother…you get the idea).
Here are some thoughts on my thyroid (and a few other things):
I overreact when it comes to my health. I’m helpless to stop the Crazy train that leaves the station when something appears to be wrong, but I also know that waiting, putting off, and ignoring can be bad, too. There must be a balance – a way to feel concerned but calm – but I haven’t found it.
I’m loved. Within 24 hours of hearing the words “solid” and “mass,” I had a list of a dozen endocrinologists I could call. My friends and family went above and beyond to help me. (Grateful Mama!)
Speaking of endocrinologists, they are a tough bunch with which to get an appointment. On my first round of calls, the soonest appointment I could get was January 17, 2013. (That’s next year!)
It’s just as hard for me to ask for a favor as it is for me to take a compliment. My friend’s father is an endocrinologist. Calling her to see if his office could get me an appointment quickly (before my trip and, perhaps more importantly, before I imploded from anxiety) was really hard for me to do. Really hard. I hope if something like this ever happens again, I’ll know that I’m worthy of such a favor. I also hope I’ll have the chance to someday pay it forward.
I have good doctors (and health insurance). I’ll never forget sitting in the gynecological oncologist’s office seven years ago and being told that the cancer from a molar pregnancy was 100% curable as long as it was treated quickly. If not, the cancer in the uterus could jump to the liver, lungs or brain. (I sometimes forget how scary that experience was.) I couldn’t help but think about how some women – without the quality of care I had – might have suffered a much worse outcome in the same situation.
At 10:30 this Monday morning, I sat across from a highly regarded endocrinologist and got the care and reassurance I needed about my thyroid.
Lots of people – especially women – have cysts and/or solid nodules on their thyroids. Most of them are insignificant. Thyroid cancer is possible, but it’s rare. It’s also curable if caught early. I have a small solid mass on my thyroid. Maybe it’s been there for ten years. Maybe it’s been there for ten days. In three months, I’ll have a repeat ultrasound to check for changes in shape or size. If it grows, they’ll consider a needle aspiration biopsy, but for now it’s too small to be of medical concern.
Speaking of which, I saw my hematologist this morning (another day, another doctor’s appointment). Good news here, folks. My platelets have stabilized so I can wait four months until they draw blood again and reminded me that my body chemistry is a little bit crazy…just like me. We talked briefly about my thyroid situation and then about my recent colonoscopy. I told him the one I had in October was clean. “But there was a polyp the first time, right?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “And colon cancer runs in your family?” he asked. “Yes, on both sides,” I said. “You really need to stay on top of that,” he said. “I know,” I said. “Once your body makes a polyp, you become a polyp-maker,” he said.
I am, indeed, a polyp-maker, and a nodule-maker, too. In five years, I’ll have another colonoscopy. In four months, I’ll head back to the hematologist. In three months, I’ll have an ultrasound of my thyroid. In five days, I’ll set sail on a cruise, and if I’m
lucky fortunate, all I’ll worry about is how much I miss my boys.