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??)