Since both the specialist and the surgeon said there was only a 5 percent chance of cancer, I was 95 percent shocked when the doctor told me — over the phone mind you — that I had cancer!
A few years ago a doctor discovered a lump on my thyroid. I had it biopsied, which was a little unpleasant, but when the tests came back it turned out to be benign. “But,” the doc said, “come back in a year or so and we’ll check it again.”
Unfortunately, I’m a terrible procrastinator. And in my defense, it wasn’t really explained to me, nor did I understand that this lump could morph from benign into malignant. I went back to the doctor a couple years later, mostly at Joe’s insistence.
Another biopsy was performed, again unpleasant. This time the results were different. The doctor was no longer sure it was benign and said the growth showed signs of being malignant. Drat!
At that point, my emotions ranged from irritated to a little worried. The doctor explained, very gently, that it was okay, it was a pretty simple operation. The surgeon would only remove half of my thyroid and many times our bodies can function on the half that is left, with medication to help it along. He assured me that there was only a 5 percent chance that this was going to be anything more serious. Sounded easy, right?
Next, we meet the surgeon. He was interesting. He assumed from our surnames that we were polygamists, and explained he had several patients who were and let us know he didn’t have a problem with it at all. Whew, that’s was out of the way! He went on to explain that odds were very low that the surgery would uncover any more problems. Really nothing to worry about, he said.
A week later, I’m off to surgery, a new experience for me. It seemed to go very well. I didn’t even require any pain meds afterward, which was a pleasant surprise. Mostly, there was just this strange feeling that something had to be taken out of me, a part of me was missing. Melodramatic, I know, but I was glad to finally be on the other side of it all . . . or so I thought.
Now comes the emotional part.
After the surgery, the doctors told me to call in week to get the lab results. I was just the tiniest bit nervous because even though they wanted me to feel there was not much cause for concern, there was no way to be sure until we got the report.
On that day, I sought out the quiet of our living room and, with Joe by my side, I called the surgeon. “We had to send the sample back to the Mayo Clinic because they’re the experts, and they discovered that it was the bad kind of cancer and we need you to come in next week to remove the rest of your thyroid before this spreads anymore,” he said.
This is the moment when it all became too real. I was still holding the phone because I had questions, but tears started rolling down my face. Joe was holding me, trying to grasp what the doctor had just said. Vicki and Alina ran in from the kitchen and everyone surrounded me, trying to comfort me and handing me tissue after tissue as I cried and blubbered.
We all ended up squished on the couch together and after the tears subsided (for the moment, at least) we tried to make sense of it all. We were all a little bit frightened and, hey, “cancer” is a scary word when it’s spoken to you or a loved one. We didn’t know what to expect or how this might affect all of our lives. We also had to break it to the children.
Which we did. As each age group came home from school, we had them come into the living room and gently explained, on their level, what was happening. That was hard! They reacted differently, according to their personalities, but they were all very sweet to me, giving me hugs and trying to comfort me. I could tell they had fears of their own about it.
Later that day, the specialist called me. He was worried that it was a little harsh to get this news over the phone and he wanted to reassure me that this was not a ‘death sentence,’ that it was Stage One cancer, and we would do treatment after the surgery was over. That was actually very reassuring. Even though I still had lots of questions, it gave me hope.
Stay tuned for Part II, when I will tell you all about…Surgery II and The Treatment.