I Love You, Bernie

Have I ever not taken a doctor’s advice?

(Have you? Think about it).

Maybe I’ve not followed it to the letter – not been super respectful of all the stretching reps I’m supposed to do for a shoulder injury – but I’ve always been a pretty obedient gal – a Good Girl - in all ways.

So I wonder why I am not jumping to do what Doctor S. (as I’ll call him, in the German style) has recommended. Take out my thyroid. At least, the half with the huge nodule.

I don’t even feel conflicted or guilty about this insubordination. Doctor S. may end up being right and it may be Bye Bye Thy – but I am clear I have some stuff to figure out first.

Can I shrink this big ole nodule? If I can do that, half my problem (the sheer size of it) diminishes as well.

And if I can shrink it, can I normalize those irregular Hurthle cells, too, while I’m at it?

Not 2 minutes into my Google search, the Universe gives me a powerful ally: Dr. Bernie Siegel (or just Bernie, as he prefers it).

Bernie's book, “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” is subtitled “Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon’s Experience with Exceptional Patients.”

A Western doctor talking about “self-healing”? I like it already.

And not another 2 minutes after that, my brother returns my earlier call so I can update him on my situation.  Bill has bravely and brilliantly dealt with MS with a combination of medication, meditation, biofeedback and diet. He has actually reversed lesions in his brain. That never happens.

I tell him my good news: that the cancer chance for my nodule is low (15-20%), that all my tests for thyroid function are normal.  I tell him I’m not rushing to take it out.

I ask Bill if there are any books I should read.  This is the first time I’ve been “sick.” He is a law professor who is incredibly thorough about everything and a very, very deep thinker (I say he is an oil well, I am an oil spill).

Guess his first recommendation. Yup.

Though Bernie is a surgeon, he doesn’t feel like his major job is cutting (for anyone who knows a surgeon, this is pretty extraordinary).

Bernie believes that -

We …”can change the body by dealing with how we feel.
“...emotional growth toward greater self-acceptance and fulfillment helps keep the immune system strong.”
“...most self-induced cures don’t get into the medical literature.”
Illness “can allow a person to take time off to reflect, meditate, and chart a new course.”
(All bolding is mine).

And lastly, he suggests we ask the $64 question:

Why did you need this illness?

There is no blame in his question, no fault implied. 

So - if you are not well – in ways minor or major – I ask you what I am asking myself:

Why did you need this illness?


Doctor my eyes
Cannot see the sky
Is this the prize for having learned how not to cry?


What Happens When You Stop Singing (or Thank You, Universe, for The Ear Infection) – Part II

On August 23rd, I go to the ENT for an ear infection. I’ve never had an ear infection before in my life. I'm really healthy, and don't even have a primary care doctor. 

I wouldn’t even be at this ENT if this ear infection weren’t really, really persistent, resisting 3 courses of antibiotics (which I haven’t been on in years – did I mention I’m really healthy?) and multiple visits to the GP at the Emergency Care Center.

Thank you, Universe, for getting me to a real ear doctor.

So after the ENT vacuums the wax out my ear (ouch), he catches a glimpse of my neck and says, "Whoa, that's a big mass you've got there."

It’s funny, but my reaction is a total lack of alarm.

Six days later, the ultrasound guy confirms it is, indeed, big: a  6.7 cm nodule on the left side of my thyroid (which is shaped like a butterfly, for those of us ignorant about thyroids). The size gets a Wow out of him, but also some comforting perspective (he sees nodules all the time - though maybe not this big).

I remain unalarmed.

The next day I have a biopsy (a FNA, for you detail-oriented types), and a few days later I get the results. 15-20% chance the nodule is cancerous. That's not very high, I think. ENT thinks I should take it out (the thyroid, that is, at least the left side, and maybe the right, too, while they're in there).

Really, I think? That low a risk, and take it out? Just like that? 

Better safe than sorry ( which I can get). And even if that nodule isn’t cancerous, it is really big. 

I'm not so sure. And still unalarmed. 

Three days later, I luck into a cancellation from the endocrinologist (again, thank you, Universe). His recommendation: take the thyroid out (again, Really?). Though he does say it would be safe to wait a few months, get a second biopsy, maybe even a second opinion on that biopsy, then there would be a greater degree of certainty on the cancer front. But even if it isn’t cancerous - you guessed it: it’s awful big. Get it out.

And yes – I'm unflaggingly unalarmed. Kinda strange. Kinda nice.

I do get their point of view. The nodule will (may?) keep growing. It will require regular oversight. It may be a constant cause of concern (or not).

I do hear their advice. They are excellent physicians. I like them. I trust them. They see thyroid problems all the time. This is standard operating procedure (literally). 

I ask both doctors what caused the nodule. Neither hazards a guess. It seems – irrelevant?

I ask both doctors if there’s a way to shrink the size of the nodule, since size seems as much a concern as the cancer. Neither makes a suggestion (the one option, radioactive iodine, is not an option).

They tell me the thyroid is merely a sort of factory. It manufactures certain hormones, but doesn’t decide how much of them to make or how to use them. They tell me there are manmade hormones indistinguishable from the real ones the thyroid makes, and that 95% of people take that one pill a day (for life) and never notice the difference.

The doctors believe taking out my thyroid is no biggie.

I believe the parts of the body are amazingly, magically, beautifully interconnected.

I believe the mind has tremendous control over the body.

I believe I’m not going to “take it out.” Not yet.

As Dr. Bernie Siegel says in his book, Love, Medicine and Miracles, “physical symptoms are often only the ‘tickets of admission’ to a process of self-discovery and spiritual change.”

He then quotes a poem by the French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire about taking a leap of faith:

Come to the edge.
No, we will fall.
Come to the edge.
No, we will fall.
They came to the edge.
He pushed them, and they flew.


Am I going to fly – am I going to fall? What do I do next?

(on the subject of flying - take a break with this classic Steve Miller tune. You gotta check out the lyrics. Who knew you shoed children??)