About six months ago, I started feeling a lump-in-my-throat sensation that was entirely unrelated to getting choked up while reading a sweet children's book, trying to hold back tears while watching my kids do amazing things, or anything else along those lines. It just felt like I had something in my throat.
The feeling wasn't constant, but from time to time I noticed it; and by August, I was wondering what exactly it was and whether I should get it checked out. I was also--I'll admit it--googling "throat cancer symptoms" and related searches once in a while. But other than mentioning it to Jeff (and eventually, to my parents), I did nothing. Why? For a few reasons...
For one thing, I wasn't experiencing any pain; and although the sensation was a little bothersome, it's a lot easier to ignore "bothersome" than to ignore "painful." For another thing, I remembered feeling a lump-in-my-throat kind of thing when I was pregnant with Tobin. That sensation went away, and I expected this one to do the same, too. Also, I felt kind of silly about the whole thing, and I did not want to be an alarmist. On top of all of that, I just procrastinated about it, plain and simple.
After months of feeling like something was stuck in my throat, I finally decided to take action and call a local ENT doctor to get an appointment, especially because I was feeling the lump more and more often (really, I felt it all the time, when I paused to pay attention to it) and I was having some difficulty swallowing. Sometimes when I was eating, I would feel like some food got stuck in my throat and I would have to take a drink to wash it down. Since things weren't getting any better but seemed to be getting worse, the only thing to do was to see a doctor and try to get some answers.
So I called.
The appointment I was given was for January 9, and I marked it on the calendar with a mixture of dread and eagerness: dread because I still wanted to be an ostrich and stick my head in the sand and forget that any of this was even happening, and eagerness because the wiser part of me knew that no matter what was going on, it was better to take the path of discovery than to ignore it.
Yesterday was January 9. The long-awaited day finally came, and I headed off with some trepidation to my appointment with Dr. A. (who happens to be the doctor that we took Josiah to years ago to have a lump in his neck examined, and a few years after that we took David to him to have a lump in the back of his head checked out...I guess it was my turn now). As I walked into the office, I felt a sense of weightiness: the next 30 minutes or so could possibly set a new course for the rest of my life. What would be revealed??
During the appointment, after our conversation about my symptoms and my family history, came the part I was dreading the most: the laryngoscopy (a word which I had to look up just now so that I could spell it; it is not, after all, a word I toss around in everyday conversation). I was sure that it would be MISERABLE, but it really wasn't that bad! Amazing. Dr. A. said that everything looked fine internally and my vocal cords are clear. I was relieved at that news, of course (because I had had fears of a growth on my vocal cords that would have necessitated surgery on them and me losing my voice forever and my children never being able to hear me speak to them again and me never being able to sing them their lullabies again and...).
But that didn't provide the answer of what was causing the lump in my throat. Then he manually felt my throat and very quickly discovered the problem: a lump in my thyroid. "Feel here," he said, "Do you feel that lump?"
Uh....no. Not exactly. Truth be told, it all feels lumpy to me.
But when he pressed on that spot and asked me to swallow, it was obvious that that was where the problem lay. OK, now what?
It felt to me like everything sped up at that point. "You need to go over to this lab and get this blood test. They'll send the results back to us. You'll need an ultrasound of your thyroid and probably a fine needle aspiration biopsy of the thyroid. The hospital is the only place to have those procedures done. The nurse here will call and get that scheduled for you. It's more convenient to schedule both of those procedures for the same day. What days and times work best for you?"
"Hang on here, I'm just trying to absorb the news that there's a lump in my thyroid. What exactly does that mean?" was one of the thoughts racing through my head although I didn't say it aloud but just kept nodding my head and acting like I knew what was going on!
To his credit, Dr. A. handled it quite well. He didn't avoid the big "C" word (and I was GLAD that he didn't, because if cancer is a possibility, I'd rather hear about it now), but he was also very reassuring, telling me that many, many women (maybe 1 out of 2?) have problems with their thyroid...and that the chances of the lump being cancerous were extremely low (maybe 99% are benign?).
As I left the office, the question pounding in my head was, "Am I the 1%?"
At the beginning of a new year, it is normal--more than that, it's delightful!--to make plans. Being a list-maker and a dreamer, I love to think about the future and envision how things might go, then set some things down on paper to help make those ideas a reality. But this year, every time I tried to do that, I stopped short, seized by the uncertainty that this lump brought to my life. "Let's just get past January 9th," I told myself every time I found myself trying to make plans for the coming months. "Then I'll be able to think further than the end of my nose."
Let's just get past January 9th.
It's January 10th.
We're past January 9th; but guess what? I still don't know what the future holds. As of right now, I'm waiting to hear back from Dr. A.'s office with the results of the TSH blood test I had done yesterday afternoon. I'm also waiting to hear when the ultrasound and (if needed) the biopsy are scheduled.
But while I wait, I pray. "God, I desire life" is the prayer that has arisen innumerable times to my lips during the past months of uncertainty; but more than that, let me say, with Isaiah, "Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."
Lump or no lump, may He be glorified!