Spoiler alert. I don’t have thyroid cancer.
I have hypothyroidism which means that my thyroid is a lazy motherfucker and that, along with my love for sweet, salty, and fried, as well as my disdain for exercise; it is doing its part make me “well rounded” because it can’t be bothered to produce enough hormones. So I take my drugs, do my blood work with Blonde Doctor, talk to Nadia the Nutritionist, and get manhandled by an endocrinologist. They are all skinny bitches who like to say helpful things like, “You should limit your carb intake” and “Do you like tofu?”
No. No, I do not.
In July at my 6 month check up, Thyroid Doctor was busy throttling me …examining my throat…and determined from her death grip that one lobe of my thyroid was enlarged. She said this was typical of someone with hypothyroidism, not to worry of course. She ordered a thyroid ultrasound. When I asked her what was involved, she asked if I had ever been pregnant.
“No, I have cats.” Nature’s furry birth control. Thyroid Doctor does not know her audience.
Two days later, I was laid out on a table in a dark room with my shoulders propped on a pillow and my head hanging upside down while a nurse slimed the front of my neck with gel. Sexy time.
For a half an hour the tech beeped and booped around both sides of my neck taking alien photos of the inside of my throat. Just like a pregnancy ultrasound minus that pesky fetus. The tech alleged that my photos would be reviewed within the next week and then Thyroid Doctor would give me a call.
Two weeks later, Thyroid Doctor had been in Israel for a week, I got a call while at my second stop at the World’s Longest Yard Sale outside a port-a-john somewhere near Crossville, Tennessee. One of Thyroid Doctor’s nurses was dispatched to tell me that I needed to schedule a biopsy of my thyroid. She rattled off a number of fascinating facts about thyroids, nodule sizes- one of mine was 2.3 centimeters which was a concern-, and the lack of pain during the procedure ending with “and really there is only a 5% chance that it will be cancerous. ” It sounded like a great inside line for a greeting card.
I said, “I am standing in a field in the middle of Tennessee at the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Let’s just do this. “
Nurse:”You’re what now?”
We scheduled the super quick, so painless biopsy and I focused on my yard sale opportunities. MomBert had the good sense to listen to the explanation of the phone call and then not pepper me with questions and comments that implied “OMG, you’re going to die!”
Aside from her, I kept the whole thing to myself. My friends and colleagues know too many people who have been diagnosed with cancer in the past year. At only a “5% chance,” I could do the worrying on my own. I was not interested in anxious questions or repeated explanations. Like “what’s a thyroid?” “Where is that exactly?”
The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that hangs out at the front of the throat and Thyroid Doctor planned on sticking at least 5 needles in it like some kind of 4-H bug board project.
At the biopsy appointment, I got the rundown from the nurse on how long the whole appointment would probably take- half an hour- and how long the biopsy itself would take- about 5 minutes. Again, she emphasized how super quick and painless this would all be. The needles are so thin, they won’t even draw blood. Yea! When Thyroid Doctor came in, she went through all the same talking points. Totally painless, so quick blah blah blah. Then she handed me a paper to sign that said that I understood that this could get infected and my head would fall off and/or I might bleed out from the waifishly thin needles.
Once again, I was laid out on a table in a dark room with my shoulders propped on a pillow and my head hanging upside down while Thyroid Doctor slimed the front of my neck with gel. Sexy time.
She had to do a quick ultrasound to find the correct nodule to probe. Finding it, she stuck in the first needle for the numbing shot.
Lets pause for a quick horror movie moment.
Freddy with his razor nails, Jason with his machete, Leatherface and his chainsaw….whatever. I have no real problem with those images. But start thinking about torture movies like the Saw or Hostel series where the cinematographers are really into close-ups of body parts being cut, eyes rocketing around their sockets as a sharp edge approaches….someone sticking needles into someone else’s neck. Gag reflex inducing scenes. My mental slideshow.
Also when I’m touched at the front of my neck, my response is to punch which may be why the nurse was positioned with most of her weight on my right arm.
After a few minutes for the numbing agent to kick in, Thyroid Doctor got her “super thin, totally painless, this will only take a few minutes” needles ready to rock. She stuck the first one in and I immediately yelped and jerked my head and upper body.
The nurse and Thyroid Doctor, while emphasizing the painlessness of the procedure, failed to describe the utter FUCKING WEIRDNESS OF HAVING NEEDLES STUCK INSIDE THE FRONT OF YOUR THROAT!!! Now I’ve had painful medical procedures. Having your uterus pumped full of fluid so someone can look at it better is tear-inducing-whimpering-I-have-no-dignity painful. This was just weird and uncomfortable. They chose this moment to explain that the lidocaine shot numbed the skin on my neck, but did nothing about the interior. Awesome.
I suggested that she invest in some nice, comforting head vices for her new office.
The second “super thin, totally painless, this will only take a few minutes” needle was not much better, but at least I knew what to expect this time and was able to hold it together. It felt like several fingers forcefully pressing into the front of my throat. Completely uncomfortable pressure that I just wanted to get away from. I did several sun salutations in my head and wished she had told me to bring my night guard for my clenched teeth.
On the fourth and last “super thin, totally painless, this will only take a few minutes” needle, she hit one of the “thousands of fibrous nerve endings” that are in the front of the throat. Oh, the fun things you learn by doing! Thanks, Doc. A fiery bolt radiated up my neck and into my right jaw. It felt like I took a punch.
That one earned her a, “Motherfucker.”
I expected to look in the mirror and see a hickey sized bruise, but one regular band aid covered the tiny pinpricks. In 3-5 business days, they would call with results. Take some Advil. See ya.
I drove all the way home with my body clenched and my shoulders shrugged up to my ears in a belated attempt to protect my neck. The cats and I went into nap mode as soon as I got home. The next day there was minimal bruising, but the right side of my throat felt like the beginnings of a sore throat and it hurt to swallow. Any soreness was gone after that day and the bruise progressed to a nice chartreuse.
However Brain now had 3-5 business days to ponder the possibilities of cancer.
Without a thyroid gland, I would have to be medicated and monitored for the rest of my life (even with the gland that is still true, but it seems worse if it were yanked out) and I would probably pack on even more weight. Might as well do a vagina-ectomy too because I wouldn’t be using that. No fatties.
I also had such selfish thoughts as who gives a fuck about thyroid cancer? No one knows what it is. Breasts, that’s one thing (actually two things). Everyone cares about breasts. In fact, based on the number of breasts I know who have struggled with cancer this year, I feel like a real asshole even thinking about any of this. What is a butterfly shaped gland compared to a nice rack in jeopardy?
Additionally, it was not helpful that the detectives in the audiobook I was listening to in the car had surmised that the killer they were pursuing probably had thyroid issues, possibly cancer. (Fuck) They determined that he definitely had hypothyroidism (me) and took Synthroid (me too!). They busily reminded me every chapter that if I just tried hard enough, I could be a really focused serial killer. Apparently hypothyroidism makes a person slightly edgy and irritable (me!!!!). I mean we all knew that I had it in me. Thank you, audiobook for a new career possibility.
The call came on the third business day. The nurse again rattled off thyroid facts ending with “it came back benign and that’s 97% accurate.” If I was better at math, I think there would be a percentage joke in here somewhere, but I’m not, so there you go. In six months, ultrasound number two will happen to monitor my grainy nodules and I assume we will rinse, repeat all the fun.
***P.S. If you read this and then post sappy comments are come at me with puppy eyes because I said the “C” word, I will seriously fuck your shit up because my condition makes me irritable. I didn’t write about this for sympathy. I wrote about it because it happened. The End.