Category Archives: Waiting

Third Day Post-Op

Today is Monday, three days out from surgery.

First, a couple of details from my surgery that I haven’t recorded yet.  My parathyroid glands on that side did great, according to Dr. B.  So that’s a definite positive. Also, the “other” nodule, the one that initially was more scary on ultrasound but came back with a benign FNA still looked benign on frozen section.  Of course, I still want to see the report on it, but I am not worried about it at all.

We are still nursing in the morning.  I’m kind of glad I can provide that kind of continuity for Eleanor during this time.  Bless her heart, it’s hard when Mommy has a big boo boo on her neck and can’t pick you up.  We’ll get that last feeding gone sometime.

One thing I didn’t think through before surgery was making sure I had enough scoop-neck and v-neck t-shirts to wear for the first little while.  Down the road, I am going to be glad my scar is low enough for a regular t-shirt to cover it, but right now having something against it doesn’t feel great.

My incision is looking a little more gnarly today–more bruising etc.  But still not bad. Check it out:

IMAG1120

Also, I am not having much pain at all today. Really, my pain has not been bad from the beginning.  But I have still been feeling sort of crummy and tired.  Ever since I got home, I’ve felt like I might have a little fever.  Today I finally checked it, and it was 99.3.  Not too high, but enough to make me feel punk.  My discharge instructions say to call if I have fever over 100.4.  So I’m not too worried about it, but will keep an eye on it.

I’m also faithfully taking my antibiotic, even though I wasn’t originally sure that I would.  Dr. B, when he saw me the morning after surgery, said that it was mostly precautionary since they wouldn’t be watching me in the hospital. But that first day home, when I first started feeling a little hot, I decided to go ahead and take it.

I have been coughing some (not super comfortable, but normal, from what I’ve read), and my throat feels a bit more “gunky” on the inside today.  So I’m now sucking on On Guard throat drops.

One question I’ve had is whether I will be up to teaching my childbirth class tomorrow night.  Part of me says that I don’t feel that bad and not to be a wimp, but my rational brain is telling me that I’m still mostly affixed to the couch and don’t need to push it.  I just dread trying to make the class up.  Maybe by Friday I will be feeling better?

My follow up appointment is scheduled for Friday morning.  The old me, pre-surgery, would not have been content to just wait until my appointment to find out what my pathology report said if there was any way to know earlier.  The new, just-trying-to-get-over-this-surgery-and-a-little-scared-I-might-need-another-one me, is going to wait.  If I need to know before Friday, say, because we need to schedule a completion thyroidectomy, I am confident that Dr. B will contact me.

About that.  I am ashamed to say that I am having a hard time praying right now.  Is my faith really that wimpy?  I think I am a  scared to pray very hard that my lump is not cancer because I don’t know if God will spare me this, and it’s hard to be disappointed that way.  I  KNOW he knows what’s best and what will work out for my ultimate good.  I know he can use whatever Satan throws at me to refine and shape me into the person he wants me to be.  I just really don’t want to have Hurthle cell cancer!  “Let this cup pass from me!” I want to say.  I should say it.  I’m just afraid His answer might not be what I want it to be.

That’s not to say that I haven’t been praying at all.  I just haven’t been doing the kind of serious intervention type prayers I normally do when there is something big going on.  May He have mercy on me in my weakness and give me the strength to turn to Him the way I need to.

The really, really good news is that I know there are a lot of people praying for me right now.  Obviously, that doesn’t mean that I don’t need to pray too, but it’s very wonderful and comforting to know.  Also amazing and comforting is the meal list that Mrs. D put together for us…we will be getting meals EVERY NIGHT for the next 10 days.  I think it’s way more than we will need, but I am SOOOO thankful.  It will make things so much easier on Rusty.

My dear friend R is coming in tonight on her whirlwind visit from Brazil.  She and her kiddos will only be here in the evenings, so we decided not to cancel her stay after my surgery was scheduled right before her visit.  She generally uses us as a hotel while she visits with her in-laws in a nearby city, getting in two visits at once.  She called me to let me know that her husband’s grandmother, who has been sick for a long time, passed away this morning.  So she will likely be here another day or two beyond what she originally thought.  I am sad that they have this loss to face, but glad that I will get a little more time with her.

Note to self:

You can read and re-read all the journal articles about what percentages of Hurthle Cell Lesions are cancerous and what percentage are not.  You can memorize all the factors that predict whether a HCL/N is cancerous or not.  But NONE OF THAT can tell you whether your particular lump is malignant or not.  Only surgery and a good pathologist can make that determination.  YOU ARE JUST GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT TO FIND OUT. STARING AT SCHOLARLY WRITE-UPS ON YOUR COMPUTER SCREEN IS JUST GOING TO GIVE YOU A CRICK.  SO GO TO BED ALREADY.

One Week Obsession Remission…is over

So I have been in obsession remission for several days, and it’s been pleasant. I have been calm. I still feel fairly calm, but I can feel my obsessive tendencies creeping back up on me as my follow up appointment approaches. (T minus 6 days.)

I have a lot on my mind. I have read that when a partial thyroidectomy is indicated, but there are multiple nodules on the other side, the surgeon will often recommend doing a total thyroidectomy (TT). So I am thinking about this. Dr. B’s email did indicate this might be a possible course. Here’s the breakdown: I will be VERY unhappy if I have my whole thyroid out and they do all their dissections and pathology and find there is no cancer in there anywhere.

On the flip side, I don’t love the idea of having half out and then having to have the rest out in a second surgery. Also, I am not happy with the thought of totally ignoring all the nodules (how many are there, anyway?) on the left side. So here’s my thinking. Can we do FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration–what I had done on the other nodules) on at least the largest and/or most suspicious on the left side before surgery? ‘Cause that might make our course more clear. And if I only end up having half out, I’m still gonna be wondering about the lumps in that other side.

{Side note: Silas is practicing his memory verse, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in you…” Such good advice!}

Ok, so here’s something else: Am I going to be able to teach my childbirth class that starts next week? If (When?) I have surgery, how long will it take me to recover? This class has very little wiggle room built in because of the couple’s due date. Funny how I was really wishing for more couples to sign up; now I am kind of glad it’s just the one. So should I contact them now and give them a heads-up about the possibility of having to alter or cancel the class? Or should I wait until after my appointment when I have more info—which will be the same day as the scheduled first class. That’s one of the things I’ve allowed myself to look at online…what to expect after surgery. Looks like I may need to borrow a recliner. Recovery time seems variable, but for most at least one week before working again. Of course, I don’t have any idea how soon he will schedule surgery. If he plans it for mid-July, I have nothing to worry about–except that my recovery will run into book rush time.

Would it be really terrible to ask Aunt Sharon to come help me, like she did after Eleanor was born? I feel like I might need some assistance. One of those times I miss Mom, for SO many reasons.

Also, what about lymph nodes? Has anyone looked at these on ultrasound? Will Dr. B be on the lookout for funky looking lymph nodes in surgery?

Weaning. Is going to be. Really. Hard. I need to start…..tonight. May the Lord help me. I just don’t want things to be too difficult on Rusty if I am unable to help with bedtime for a few days after surgery. And if I do somehow end up needing RAI, I really, really need to have my breasts ready for that by being empty of milk.

And at the extreme end of my hysteria is this: I have a very faint sensation of having a lump in my throat. Has it been there for a while, and I notice it now because I know there’s an actual lump there? Or is my lump growing and starting to press on my windpipe? Or is it just in my mind because I am feeling paranoid? You won’t tell anyone how completely insane I’m becoming, will you?

Plans, Questions

I got Eleanor a CD player for her room today, step 1 in my weaning plan. I’ll work on that…sometime soon. :) I have two different things to try. One is a “Toddler Sleepy Time” Hypnobabies track. The other is just plain, old-fashioned lullabies.

I found out today that M, a friend of mine,has been diagnosed with melanoma and is going to have some kind of surgery related to that. Yet another reminder that I am not the only one with trouble in my life.

I called today and got my follow-up appointment changed to Tuesday, May 7th. That way, I don’t have to wait as long (yay!) and Rusty will be able to go with me. I want him there since we will be talking about surgical stuff.

I looked up oils that are supposed to be good for Hashimoto’s. Looks like lemongrass is #1, and also myrrh and frankincense. So I made myself up a little blend. I am starting to like this blending thing. I think it’s so interesting that I have been so drawn to lemongrass already—I was just telling K the other day that it was one of my favorites. There are many people who think that our noses will usually lead us to what we need most.

I’ve also been thinking about what else I can do to decrease the inflammation in my body. Of course, the number one thing probably needs to be cutting out sugar. *sigh* I am NO good at that. But I have known for a long time that I needed to do it. I am able to do it for a while, and then I fall off the wagon and find it SO hard to get back on. But this is now not just a matter of diabetes prevention (which should be enough), but also taking care of my thyroid. Especially if I’m only going to have half of one.

One thing I really don’t want to think about is Hurthle Cell Carcinoma. It was easier to contemplate Papillary Carcinoma cheerfully because it seemed SO curable—more like something that would change my summer than something that would change my life. Having HCC is more like having…cancer. It is harder to treat, usually resistant to RAI, and tends to metastasize to places like bone, lung, and “central nervous system.” Yuck. The good news is that it seems much more common in people older than me (and more aggressive for them, too). I hope it is just a bunch of Hurthle cells hanging out in my thyroid, just for fun. They are more the Rook-playing, movie watching crowd than the kind who go out knocking down mailboxes with baseball bats and forking people’s yards.

So should I ask Dr. B for my complete report? I feel like I already know what I need to. I think I would obsess more over the details. And STILL I am tempted to ask. But I am not going to, at least not until my appointment. I am working on my list of questions, though:
1—Which nodule had which diagnosis?
2—Where will the excised half of my thyroid be dissected and analyzed?
3—Why didn’t we biopsy at least the largest nodule in the left side of my thyroid? Should we do that before surgery, in case it turns out that I really do need to have my left lobe removed too?
4—If I need RAI, do they do that at our local hospital?
5—How long is recovery from surgery?
More questions to follow, I am sure.

“Either way, you will be fine.”

11:45 am
They’re cutting down the Toomer’s Corner Oaks today. One of them (the one on the left) looks like it’s already down. Watching on and off on the webcam. Wondering if there will be something else to mark this day as significant for me.

I am fighting edginess today. Have yelled at the kids several times. Thank you Lord for Clary Sage. I am really, really, really trying to Remain Calm. I also need to get my head around the possibility that I may not hear anything today, even though today is when the news is “due.” I will not die from waiting.

6:30 pm
Biopsy results are back.   I sent Dr. B an email this morning, and he answered me this afternoon.

One of the nodules tested as benign with inflammatory cells, which Dr. B says is consistent with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

The other nodule was a  “Hurthle Cell Lesion.” This can be because of Hashimoto’s. It is probably not cancer but since there is still a small chance it is, they usually recommend “surgical excision.”  He says we need to talk about whether to remove part or all of the gland.

“Either way, you will be fine,” he said.  I appreciate his reassuring words.  He laid out the facts, but isn’t lacking the human factor to go along with them.

Pretty Hi-larious how far off I was in my latest theory! Should teach me not to speculate. But of course I have already started looking at Hashimoto’s and Hurthle Cells on the internet. Really haven’t found much to tell me any more than Dr. B’s email. And I still have to WAIT! :) It’s probably good for me.

So I still don’t have a yes/no answer on cancer, and I will probably need surgery this summer. Some good news, for me, is that Rusty can go to Utah on his business trip this weekend without the stress of leaving behind a cancer-diagnosed wife at home.

So should I go ahead and start to wean Eleanor anyway, knowing that I will probably at least need surgery? I think I will.

Questions, Confessions, Speculations

8:10 am
Question: How can I keep myself from being on edge ALL DAY, waiting for a call, even though I know I probably won’t hear until tomorrow? (or later?)

Question: Why didn’t he biopsy the lump in my left lobe?

Question: If I get a call from his office while Rusty is at work, and they tell me I have cancer, should I call Rusty at work to tell him that?

6:10 pm
I hate waiting.

Question: Since the local hospital appears to not have a nuclear medicine department, where would I go for RAI if I needed it? I could call and ask S, a friend who has had RAI for an over-active thyroid, but I haven’t talked with her about my thyroid issues yet, and I don’t want to be a self-indulgent, attention-grabbing drama queen.

I even braved the patient website, to see if my test results showed up there, even though I told myself I do NOT want to find out I have cancer that way.

Time to go make some supper. Quiche, anyone? The hens are really laying right now.

8:27 pm
Confession: I have been scouring the internet for images of thyroid nodules that “match” what I remember. I’m back to thinking I have cancer. Current theory is that the lump in the front is actually a (pretracheal?) lymph node with metastasis from the “unfriendly” nodule. Except that I can’t seem to find whether pretracheal lymph nodes move when you swallow. I will be SO glad when all my speculating can be over with.

Just because all the bloggers have cancer, it doesn’t mean you do, too.

It’s funny. I am mentally moving away from assuming that I have cancer. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I have assumed that I do, and I think it’s because I have read several stories—both in book and blog form—of people who even after their biopsy were not really worried, because they knew that only 5% of lumps are cancerous. And then they turned out to have cancer. There need to be some stories—lots more stories—of the scenario that happens far more often—that people get their biopsy results back and find out that the lump or lumps are benign. But that story line isn’t dramatic enough to blog or write a memoir about, so it isn’t really out there. Maybe if my biopsy comes back negative for cancer, I can help fill that need.

First Real-Time Entry

(Up until now, I’ve been summing up what’s happened without dates.  From here on out it’s live, on-the-scene reporting of the thoughts in my head.  Exciting, I know.  From this point until May 4 –the day I copied all these older entries into the blog–I have edited the time stamps to match the dates on which I wrote each entry, so that they will appear in order.)

It’s Saturday. Such a beautiful, amazing Saturday. We ran to Lowe’s and got some mulch, composted cow manure—the good stuff, right?—and of course, plants. When we pulled up, Eleanor actually said, “Is this more plants, Daddy?” Smart girl.

I actually did something today—I mean outside of the bare minimum house maintenance and cooking I’ve been up to lately. I weeded my porch garden. It was nice to clear out the beds, and wonderful to discover lots of earthworms in there. I’m about to go out there and plant some garlic.

I also caught up this journal thing. It’s funny, because I might find out next week (I almost typed Monday, and then I stopped myself. But surely next week, right?) that I don’t have cancer at all and I have wasted all of this time obsessing and journaling and whatnot. Except that I am really glad that I have learned about thyroid cancer. It is, after all, the fastest growing cancer today.

I am trying to hold back from assuming I have cancer. Wouldn’t that be awesome, if I didn’t? But I admit I do kind of assume it. I also have a lot of random thoughts bopping around in my head. Here are some of them:

What if I am dependent upon artificial thyroid hormones, and the economy collapses, and the drug manufacturers quit making it? I know that’s far out. But it has occurred to me.

I am dreading weaning Eleanor. She really likes to nurse. I have already cut out all breastfeeding except for first thing in the morning, nap time, and bedtime. I contemplated preemptively starting to wean her, but decided that I wouldn’t make a real effort unless I got a cancer diagnosis. However, once a diagnosis is made, I am going to work determinedly on it, to get it done as quickly as can be humanely done. The reason is that besides the fact that I can’t let my baby have radioactive breast milk and would have to be isolated from her for at least 10 days if I had RAI treatment, iodine collects in breast milk, and then the last thing I need is radioactive material concentrated for a long time in my breasts. Having RAI would already increase my odds of breast cancer. I don’t intend to help it along.

Also, I keep running over the list of the times I’ve had x-ray radiation on my neck. What I’ve read indicates that diagnostic x-rays don’t deliver enough to cause thyroid cancer, but does that mean just one diagnostic x-ray? How many? At least one study suggests that there may be a link between dental x-rays and thyroid cancer. So here’s the run down, as I remember it:

  • As a newborn, my head was x-rayed a few times to make sure my skull sutures hadn’t already joined. I wonder if Dad remembers how many times.
  • I’ve had several sets of dental x-rays, from child hood up until…the last time I went to the dentist. I can’t remember for which of these, if any, my thyroid was protected by a lead shield.
  • I had scoliosis when I was in junior high school. I know of at least two x-rays of my spine, including my neck area, were done at that time. The irony is that I remember my doctor shielded my breasts at that time. However, since he was going for a image of my vertebrae, shielding my neck was not what he wanted to do.
  • I was in a car wreck with a minor head injury when I was in my early twenties. I know I had at least one x-ray at that time.
  • Dr. R, my chiropractor did x-rays when I first became his patient. I remember discussing whether it was a good idea, since I have always been against unnecessary radiation at any time. He told me that the radiation was minimal and that the x-rays were important to my treatment. I insisted he shield my ovaries, saying “All the eggs I’ll ever have are in there.” Again, getting a shot of my neck vertebrae was part of what he was trying to do, so shielding my thyroid wouldn’t have made sense.

I think that’s all the x-rays of my head and/or neck area that I’ve had. One thing I’ve been thinking about is that I have no idea if my children have had their necks shielded when they’ve had dental x-rays. You had better believe that I will be super vigilant about that from now on.

I guess that’s what I’m most thankful for in all of this right now. Whether I have cancer or not, I have learned a lot about thyroid cancer. I have become aware. And as the continuum concept folks are fond of saying, “Once your consciousness has been raised, it cannot be lowered.”

Getting the Family Up to Speed

All this time, I hadn’t really talked to Rusty about what a cancer diagnosis would mean in terms of what would happen next. I had avoided talking about my situation too much, because I knew it would stress him out. But I was starting to feel the need to let him know what we could be looking at over the next few months.

So Wednesday afternoon, while the boys were playing down the street with a friend, I sat in the grass while he worked in the flower beds, and I filled him in a little—surgery, radioactive iodine, quarantine. He took it all in, a little incredulous about the radioactive mommy part. But I think he was also relieved that chemo would not be on the agenda.

I told him what I had already been saying—I wasn’t that scared of cancer. But I was not looking forward to the upheaval it would cause for the family.

“Oh, we’ll be fine,” was his response to that. He was in his rock-solid-supporter role just then. I knew it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to always be so confident and to never need reassurance himself, but it was nice to hear at that moment.

After Bible study that night, T, a friend who I hadn’t caught up with lately asked, “So how’s everything in your family?” I just looked at him a minute. I could not say, “Oh, it’s fine,” knowing it was possible I would be announcing a cancer diagnosis the following week.

“I had a biopsy on my thyroid yesterday,” I finally answered. He nodded. I knew that there was a lot of health-related drama going on in his family, too. He told me he would be praying for me. M, his wife walked up. I told her about it, too. “Oh, I knew you had had a test of some kind,” she said, nodding. So I knew that at least some people outside the circle I had told knew I had something going on. She, too, offered to pray for me.

Thursday I went back to ladies’ Bible study. Afterward, I talked with Y a little more about my situation, telling her what Dr. B had said about probably having a thyroidectomy sometime. I asked her about her experience. She said that it had mostly been no big deal, except that her voice was slightly damaged afterwards and had required a few months to recover. I knew that vocal cord damage was a possibility, as was injury to the parathyroid glands that controlled the body’s calcium levels. But that seemed too far out of my control to dwell on.

Yvette had offered me the loan of a couple of thyroid books. They were sitting on the console between me and Silas as we drove home.

“Why do you have these thyroid books?” he asked.

“Mrs. Y loaned them to me,” I said, trying to sound casual. Rusty and I had not discussed the situation with our kids. We seemed to have an unspoken agreement that it was better not to worry them needlessly, especially since they had learned all too well the past few years about the transience of life. Within a three year span, he had lost two grandparents and three great-grandparents.

“Does your doctor think you might have cancer?” he asked.

Doesn’t miss anything, I thought. Should have been more careful. “Did you hear me talking to Mrs. Y?” I asked.

“Yeah, I have ears like a fox,” he said. The boys had been playing video games, and I had honestly forgotten that they were within earshot while I was talking with Y. I replayed the conversation in my head, assessing what he had most likely heard. The good news was that I had reiterated my “I am not scared of it being cancer” mantra, as well as quoting that there was about a 90% survival rate for 30 years, joking that I didn’t even think the general population had odds that good.

“Well, It’s nothing to be very worried about,” I said.

“Yeah, I heard you talking about that. It doesn’t sound too bad.”

I filled him in a little on what would happen if I did get a cancer diagnosis, answering his questions about what a thyroid did and how I could live if it was taken out. He seemed to think that having a radioactive mom would be really cool. Something to brag to his friends about for sure. I was relieved. I could tell he wasn’t scared.

Obsessed as I was, I perused Y’s books that afternoon. Both were more generally about thyroid disorders, but they each had a chapter on thyroid nodules and cancer. One of them was particularly interesting to me, because it had been written in the late 90’s. It mentioned that about 15,000 people were diagnosed with thyroid cancer each year. I had recently read somewhere else that the number was now more like 35,000, and that thyroid cancer was the fastest growing variety, in terms of new cases each year.

I went on the Thyca (Thyroid Cancer Survivors) website to check the actual figure. I was floored. In 2013, the projection was that there would be over 60,000 new cases reported, a 6% increase from 2012. I told myself that even if I don’t have cancer, I am going to start promoting thyroid cancer awareness, putting a ribbon on my car, wearing a “check your neck” t-shirt, posting on social media. Thyroid cancer might be the rarest kind, but at this rate, it won’t be for long. This is something people needed to hear about! I am going to wait until I have an answer one way or another, however.

Ultrasound and Waiting

The ultrasound was on Friday morning, April 29th. It was the day we were scheduled to leave for our “spring break” trip—even homeschoolers need a spring break!—to Panama City, Florida. I arrived at the diagnostic imaging center for an 8:00 appointment. The lobby was full. I read on my kindle while I waited. Eventually, my name was called, and I was ushered into an area plastered with pictures of….babies!

As a childbirth educator, I am fairly familiar with the OBGYN practices in our area. I knew for sure that the largest practice had their own ultrasound staff and equipment; I had assumed that the smaller practice did as well. So I was surprised to learn that the smaller practice actually sent their patients over there for their ultrasounds.

So I sat on the table in the ultrasound room and gazed at adorable art pictures of newborns while the tech dimmed the lights in the room and applied her transducer to my neck. She complimented me on wearing ideal attire for a neck scan—a blouse that left the area around my neck bare to just below my collar bone.
I am normally a chatter—I like to make conversation with the people I have interactions with, from the girl at the Publix check out to the guy that comes to work on our appliances. But with an ultrasound transducer on my neck, talking wasn’t the thing. Instead I waited in silence while the tech did her job. After a few minutes, she was done, and she started wiping the goo off my neck.

“Can you tell me anything?” I asked.

“Well, you have some thyroid nodules,” she said.

Nodules? I thought. More than one? She went on to run through what I had already learned from the limited research I had allowed myself on the internet: Thyroid nodules are common, they are usually benign, if they do turn out to be cancer, I would have to have surgery and maybe other treatments. She told me that my doctor should have the results within 24 hours. Since it was Friday, I assumed that meant Dr. G would have them sometime Monday.

After I got home, we finished loading the car and took off for our vacation. During our drive to the beach, I got a call from Dr. G’s nurse about my blood work. I was unsurprised to learn that my thyroid levels were normal, though I wished for more detailed information. She asked about my ultrasound. I told her it had been that morning.

“When we get that report, we’ll give you a call,” she said. I did the mental calculation and figured I’d have a call by Monday evening if I was lucky, but surely by Tuesday. What I didn’t know was that the imaging center was not known for their quick turnaround on reports, in spite of what the tech had told me.

I was determined not to let my thyroid nodules dominate my mind or conversation while we were on vacation. I knew that Rusty was worried, and that talking about it would make it worse for him. I am also all too aware of my own obsessive tendencies—when my mind becomes occupied with a topic, I have a very hard time thinking about anything else. It’s all I can do to keep from spending large portions of my day searching for information on the subject du jour. I tried to redirect my thoughts to my new interest, essential oils. I had brought a couple of books, as well as my small supply of oils. I had fun experimenting.

Still, I couldn’t stop myself from doing a little bit of covert investigation, both via internet on my phone and through a book that I found in the kindle store. I gathered a basic outline of the likely next steps and also got a good idea of what my current odds were of a cancer diagnosis. I knew that regardless of what the ultrasound showed, I was probably at least in for a fine needle biopsy. I learned that it made a difference whether the doctor doing the biopsy was experienced in the procedure and if he or she used ultrasound to guide the placement of the needle.

I started doing a little research on endocrinologists in the Auburn-Opelika area, as well as in Birmingham. “I want you to promise me you will find a good doctor,” my friend J said when she called me on the phone during the week.

I also learned about the different types of thyroid cancer and a little about their respective treatments and outcomes. The outlook wasn’t too bad. Even if I had thyroid cancer, odds were I could be cured. Anaplastic thyroid cancer looked pretty scary, but it is also very, very rare. I decided it was so unlikely that it was safe to ignore it as a possibility. After all, only 5% of thyroid nodules were malignant, and then, of those, only 1-3% were diagnosed as anaplastic cancer.

So I thought I could see the path ahead, at least for a few steps. I would most likely have a fine needle biopsy (FNA). If the results were benign, my nodule would probably be monitored every 6 months to a year. If the results were unclear because of an inadequate sample, I would have another biopsy done in a few weeks. If the results were inconclusive because it was too hard for the pathologist to tell if the cells were normal follicular cells or not, I would probably have at least half of my thyroid removed to be on the safe side. If the surgical results showed cancer, I would have my whole thyroid out, most likely followed up by radioactive idodine treatment (RAI) to make sure there weren’t any traces of thyroid cancer left in my body. If it was anaplastic thyroid cancer….well, I wasn’t going to think about that.

Monday passed without a call. Then Tuesday. On Wednesday, I left a message for Dr. G’s nurse, asking if my results were back. My anxiety to know what the ultrasound looked like was building. I knew enough now to be aware that some nodule characteristics, like irregular margins, microcalcifications, and centralized vascularity, were more indicative of cancer.

Wednesday also brought Rusty’s mom, and brother to join us at the beach cabin, along with their two small dogs and our nephew. My boys were thrilled their cousin was coming to play; Rusty and I were happy that his brother and mom were getting out of the house to do something recreational. His brother had come far enough with physical therapy to be walking some now.

It was a very pleasant week. The temps at the beach were a little on the cool side, but my boys at least did not find the cold water a deterrent from cruising on their boogie boards and exploring the sand bar that appeared towards the end of the week. Rusty and I read, listened to the waves, and watched the dolphins and pelicans pass by while Eleanor played in the sand. In the evenings, we went to our favorite local restaurants, hitting Boon Docks twice. Then we would shop, play mini golf, or head for the rides at the Miracle Strip.

One night, while poking around in Target, I almost bought a new nursing bra. I was still nursing Eleanor, at two-and-a-half, and my bras were a little worse for wear. I picked up a bra that looked comfortable, but quickly put it back on the rack. What if I have cancer? I thought. I’ll have to wean her for radioactive iodine treatment, and this will be a waste of money. I know some people would say I was long past the time to wean, but we had both enjoyed our extended nursing time. I had nursed each of my children longer than the one before, finally coming to the full realization that the way our culture does breastfeeding is WAY outside the norm for all cultures and all times.

On Thursday I still hadn’t heard anything, so late in the afternoon I called the front desk at Dr. G’s office to see if they could tell me anything.

The very friendly staff person took a peek in my file on the computer. “Well, it looks like we got the results in yesterday, but the doctor hasn’t reviewed the results yet.” It relieved my feelings a little to know that the report hadn’t just been sitting in Dr. G’s inbox all week. What she didn’t tell me was that Dr. G had just left for a long weekend with his family. He wouldn’t be reviewing that report until sometime next week. I thought, surely I’ll get a call before the end of tomorrow. I had no idea I still had almost a week before I would learn what the ultrasound said.

By this time, I was starting to get phone calls and texts from friends and family. Have you heard anything yet? When will you hear something? Why is it taking so long? I was glad to know that my friends cared for me, but it also ramped up my anxiety over not hearing from Dr. G. They think I should have heard by now, too, I thought.

Friday came and went. When we went out for dinner Friday night, I realized my chance to learn something was over until Monday. On Saturday, our extended family headed home. Rusty’s brother, still dealing with his neurological problems, was finding it hard to get comfortable on any of the family cast-offs that supplied the beach cabin’s furniture, and was ready to get back to his recliner.

We packed up and left for home on Sunday. Monday we worked on getting back into our regular routines—but there was still no call from my doctor’s office. My family and friends, however, kept calling. I hated not having any answers for them. I knew that a biopsy was almost certainly my next step, and I was eager to get it over with. I was on and off the internet, reading bits about nodules, ultrasounds, and biopsies. I even found out that there has been a fair amount of research done on the anxiety caused by waiting for medical test results!

I was spending increasing amounts of mental energy trying not to stress about what my ultrasound looked like and when I would hear about it. I carried my phone with me as I moved from room to room in the house, so that I wouldn’t miss a call.

On Wednesday I got to talk with my dear friend, A. A few years ago she’d had surgery to remove half her thyroid for a nodule that was causing the gland to be overactive. I asked her what she had thought of her endocrinologist. I was determined to find someone good to go see, and wanted to be ready with a name when I got a call from Dr. G.

Later that day—one week after the office had received the ultrasound report—I finally got a call from one of Dr. G’s staff. She was very kind. She informed me that Dr. G thought I needed a biopsy (Duh!) and wanted me to see Dr. B, a local ear, nose and throat specialist. I was kind of surprised—I had expected to be referred to an endocrinologist. She reassured me that Dr. G had a really high opinion of Dr. B and sent people to him all the time. I asked if she could give me any details about what the ultrasound report actually said. “I don’t have those details. You’ll be able to talk to Dr. B about it when you see him.” So my assignment was to wait on a call from Dr. B’s office to schedule an appointment.

When I got off the phone with her, I looked Dr. B up online. He was in practice with two other doctors. I saw that “thyroid nodule” and “thyroid cancer” were both listed in the conditions they treated. One thing I really liked was that I would be able to email questions to Dr. B once I was officially his patient.  In his picture on the website he looked kind of like an ex high-school quarterback, and maybe not suitably nerdy.  I decided not to hold that against him.