Saturday, June 29, 2013

Part 2: What do you mean I have Cancer

I had the very same lump checked by an Otolaryngologist several years before in the quickest appointment I ever experienced, this doctor placed his hand on the lump, and a few seconds later said that it was nothing more than a prominent artery and that I had nothing to worry about, all was good.  I figured this second appointment would go just as quickly –what did I know. I made my way to the office and was introduced to my new Otolaryngologist, a kind and gentle man. He conducted his physical examination of my neck, throat, ears, nose and eyes, describing everything he was doing as he examined me. He also asked me several questions as part of the examination. He then explained that we needed to go to another room so that he could ultra-sound my neck. He took his time narrating each step he took--I felt confident that I was in good hands. I didn't give it much thought; remember my entire focus had been on my daughter. About an hour into the appointment my doctor pointed out that he needed to take sample biopsies --At the time, I thought okay, if that's what you need to do, let's take some biopsies. He explained that he first needed to stick me in the neck with a needle in four places to numb my neck area. I'm not going to lie, this was extremely painful and we hadn't even started the biopsy extraction yet. I became extremely nervous at this point. Once the actual procedure started, Doctor took seven fine needle aspirations and even though I was nervous, this part did not hurt, and that's probably because my neck was numb. By this time, I was beginning to wonder if I should be worried. Doctor told me he had to first send the biopsies to southern California for analysis; results should be back within a week. My poor (and patient) daughter had sat waiting in the waiting room for nearly two hours while I was at this appointment. Let the waiting begin.....

And waiting we did –we waited five long days for the results. During the wait, I kept as busy as I possibly could; it was during this time that my daughter and granddaughter returned back to their home. We put a plan in place where I would check in on her several times a day by phone, run any errands needed, stop by the house once a day to check in, and take my daughter to all of her doctor's appointments. We worked out a system that worked something like this, my daughter would text before she got into the tub and then again when she got out so I knew she was okay. Finally, after patiently waiting, the results call came when my doctor phoned from his car the moment he received the results himself. He calmly told me that I have Thyroid Cancer. To be precise, I have Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid metastasized to my lymph. I was completely unfamiliar with Thyroid cancer having never heard of it. Is it treatable? Will I die from it? Doctor assured me that it was highly treatable. Okay, phew, that's good news. I asked him what the next steps were, to which, he provided that the next step was to schedule a two hour meeting with him to go over all the options, to discuss his recommendation and to develop a comprehensive medical plan and action plan. He recommended bringing a family member to the meeting. My oldest daughter lives in Las Vegas with her family and it wasn't so easy for her to make arrangements to come for the doctor's appointment, so my two younger daughters were nominated to accompany me to the appointment. I am so thankful they were present because there was this enormous amount of information thrown at us. Surgery was scheduled to occur in two weeks; with an MRI scheduled one week before. You see it was still unknown to what degree the cancer had spread, but the doctor had a good idea that the lymph up the right side of my neck to behind my right ear were more likely than not, cancer. The MRI would help the surgeon properly plan the surgery. There were a couple of small tumors on the left-side of my neck, as well as a few tumors found near my right collar bone –later X-rays showed a few concerning spots in my left lung, but the doctor was not too concerned believing that the radiation treatment I would receive later would take care of any small questionable tumors and spots.

Talk about a whirlwind. I had no real time to process all this incoming information, yet I had to spring into action once again. I had to arrange to take another leave of absence from work, I had to get all my affairs in order before my surgery date, I had so much to do –it was extremely overwhelming. Being that I am the consummate list maker, I swiftly started a working list of everything that needed to be done. I had to ensure all my personal paperwork was organized in labeled files, that my daughters all knew where to find my important documents such as insurance, property and others, even more so that all my bills were up to date, that all provisions at home were adequately stocked up because I didn't know how long it would be before I was up and about –I seriously felt like a doomsday prepper. Just knowing that all this was taken care of ahead of time would provide me with peace of mind, and I really needed peace of mind at this time.

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