My first experience with a fine needle biopsy was more than twenty years ago. After a normal thyroid uptake and scan procedure, followed by an abnormal repeat of the test, (at a different medical facility), less than a year later, I had been hastily placed on the schedule of the lead doctor in a very large endocrine practice. The front of my neck was numbed with some sort of topical cream and I closed my eyes as the doctor withdraw what he later described as charcoal-y looking gunk from the nodule on my thyroid. While he later claimed to know that it was malignant based upon appearance, I had no such belief.
How could I possibly have cancer?
Less than a decade later, I was once again having surgery on my neck, this time on the side, close to my right ear. The location of this new lump made it an ENT situation, (rather than an endocrine case), and my new practitioner, post-surgery, stated with confidence that the small mass she removed was surely benign.
Which it, unfortunately, was not.
I recall waiting on those results feeling quite differently than I had the first time around with my thyroid. I knew that I wasn’t somehow magically exempt from having cancer. It most certainly could, and had, happen(ed) to me.
By the third time I had neck surgery, a couple of years later, my expectation was that I most definitely would have cancer again. I’ve conditioned myself to absolutely expect the worst. This time, however, I was happily wrong. It truly was nothing.
Because of my medical history, I’m monitored with some regularity. I see my endocrinologist annually and my ENT every couple of years for check ups. I am vigilant about receiving an annual mammogram, complete with ultrasound, and follow medical recommendations for various screening tests. Last Thursday was my annual visit at St. Peter’s Breast Care Center and the appointment went off without a hitch. My focus, in recent weeks, has been that persistent cough and accompanying pain in my chest, particularly on my left side, that I had been experiencing for nearly a month. My boobs surely were fine.
But, then I got the call.
The radiologist reading my images had noticed something that demanded another look. Trying to work around my school schedule, I booked an appointment for about two weeks away. After I hung up, though, I became uncomfortable by the thought of waiting two full weeks to be seen. The area of concern was the same location of the discomfort I’ve been feeling. Also, my guy was going to be out of town on the day of the appointment and I’ve come to rely upon his presence for comfort and strength. That appointment was going to need to be changed.
First thing in the morning, I called and changed my appointment to the very first available – midday on my first day back at school in the new year. I contacted the imaging center where I had recently had both a chest X-ray and a CT scan of my chest. The more information for the radiologist, the better.
Once you’ve had cancer(s), there’s always the specter of another waiting in the wings. It’s weird. Instead of feeling as if I’ve already had my share of cancer, thanks very much, I feel like a worse one is just waiting to pounce. Maybe this is it.
I’ve learned that bad shit happens to good people – and I’m not even talking about myself here. Too many of my friends have already lead the charge and done battle with breast cancer, multiple times even. The lessons taught to me during previous health situations have stuck with me and I can state with confidence that I have wasted little of my time since my first diagnosis. My life is full and rich and I have nothing but appreciation for that being the case. Whatever, if anything, this thing is, my feelings about my good fortune won’t change. I’m a very, very lucky person.
So, til Tuesday it is.