1. When you go to your surgeon, take a second set of ears...
March 8th, after getting the pathology results back from a needle biopsy on a teeny-tiny thyroid nodule, Dr B. my endocrinologist told me that it was indeed cancer. The upside was that thyroid cancer, or to be specific "papillary thyroid cancer", is super slow growing and completely curable. I was getting a referral to a surgeon, but chances are that I may not even have to have surgery yet, or if I did, I may not have to have my entire thyroid removed.
Maybe only just half.
Maybe none. Or so I heard...
So given that it didn't seem like a crazy emergent problem, I held on to the referral and proceeded to go shoot the film "BREAKTHROUGH" in Canada. When I returned in late April, I put it off for a few more weeks, because like I said it was "small" and it wasn't really an emergency, right?
With the referral about to expire in July, I scheduled an appointment with the surgeon Dr H. for June 8th. This time, because it was a surgeon, I had my husband Collin go with me. (I had learned when my mom was going through Amyloidosis, that you need another set of ears that can "compartmentalize" the emotions of potential bad news, and ask the questions that you as the patient may forget.) Doctors offices can definitely test the innate "fight or flight" response, depending upon the news you are contending with. And while I consider myself a "fighter", because we'd be discussing MY HEALTH, those ears are a necessity.
So on a Friday afternoon I found myself in my doctor's office, casual as can be, because like I said before it's SUPER small, and it isn't growing fast so chances are there is no immediate surgery in my future...
Ummm, yeah. Can I tell you how WRONG I was?
After asking her to explain my diagnosis (I get super nerdy about science stuff when it comes to Doctors. I like to be able to talk to them using the correct lingo. If only I had been that interested in science in school!) she explained that I was "kinda right" and proceeded to draw a picture on the template (picture) of the thyroid she had on the desk.
* The small nodule on the left side of my thyroid was indeed papillary thyroid cancer
* I ALSO had an immune disorder called Hashimoto's Disease which was signified by the elevated Thyroid Antibodies in my blood work.
*And finally, two lymph nodes on the left side of my neck were enlarged, suggesting that cancer might have had spread to them.
They talk about "an out of body " experience. Well actually, in my case I was fully in my body, but in like one of those bad dreams where you are stuck in cement and can't move or process anything.
I thought this was "NO BIG DEAL"? What did I miss ? Was I not listening?
Nope, I didn't "miss " anything. It's simply that I went into a bit of shock, or as the professionals like to call it "acute stress disorder" . The first time around, I barely detected it. It's pretty easy to listen and not actually HEAR something. This time I definitely HEARD it, I just couldn't bring everything together to ask the questions that needed to be asked. Which is why you bring a husband... in my case, my own.
Because when I couldn't speak he asked "So what do we do?"
"I'd say total removal" says the Doctor. "The Hashimoto's is attacking the thyroid, you take it out it has nothing to attack. Then a mid-neck dissection to remove the lymph-nodes and test them. Or you can wait, but if you wait you're going to have to definitely biopsy the lymph nodes."
"Okay, that sounds like then we remove it all. Right?" Collin says, looking at me as if there is no question.
My head is swimming. And all I can think about is what if I am one of 1% with permanent vocal damage? What does that mean for performing? Will I ever sing again? I mean I haven't really, except at karaoke since my mom died, but still...
"Um, I want to wait."
"Are you crazy?" Collin says. I look from him to the Doctor, who both look like I am standing there with no clothes on.
"If you wait, then you at least need to get the lymph nodes biopsied" the doctor says.
"Fine" I said. "Let's biopsy the lymph nodes. If they come back positive, then we take it all out, if they don't then I have some decisions to make."
And because my Doctor is a fucking ROCK STAR, she did it right in the office.
And because she's even more of a ROCKSTAR, she was right, the cancer cells had spread to the lymph nodes, so the decision was made.
I was going under the knife.