So, today was fun. I spent the first half of it mostly naked and hooked up to complicated beeping machinery, laying on a gurney in a brightly lit room full of strangers whom I had given permission to wield sharp instruments in my vicinity. And you thought your Monday was rough.
Clearly, I have lived in The South too long if I am willing to discuss medical conditions in public. But maybe doing so will convince someone else secretly harboring a strange lump or bump or monster under the bed to go get it checked out.
WARNING: Graphic pictures below.
[As if that’s going to turn anyone away.]
My lump is on my neck. No, I’m not talking about my head. Specifically, my lump is on my thyroid. Highly scientific internet research informs me the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly. Here is mine — the lump is small, you might not be able to see it:
A few months ago when I first noticed the lump, my self-diagnosis involved jumping to the worst possible conclusion. I was sure the tight achy slightly swollen area must be esophageal cancer run rampant and I worried about the best way to inform people of my imminent demise. I have since learned that the wildest part of the imagination is indeed located in the thyroid gland. Who knew?
After having been seen by at least a dozen medical professionals in as many weeks (if you count the blood-letters and ultrasound techs, which I do), the most dire prediction I could get out of any of them was a cheerful, “It’s highly unlikely that it’s cancerous, but if you have to get cancer, this is the kind to get. It’s highly treatable.” They all took great pains to reassure me that it’s PROBABLY NOT CANCER.
Still. There is that slight chance.
So today, after weeks of waiting — not that I mind waiting, I’m a very patient person [ahem] — I had a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) of the lump, which they do with just a local anesthetic. Why yes, I am going to tell you about it, thanks for asking. In preparation, a nurse called last week to ask me a bunch of medical history type questions. The answers to which were almost unanimously, “No.” She seemed happy about that and said I was a good risk. At one point she asked whether I had any religious objection to any procedure they might perform on me. Which gave me pause. Because, you know, it depends on what they had in mind.
She neglected to mention that shortly after checking me in today, they’d be poking holes at random intervals and inserting tubes in my veins while simultaneously monitoring my pulse rate and blood pressure. “Oh, I see your BP is a bit high today.” No kidding. I swear, those machines are specifically designed to make it go straight through the roof. Here I am being stoically irreligious:
They kept emphasizing they’d be using a “very small needle” for the aspiration procedure. I assumed this meant it would be of sufficiently immense diameter they could use it to suck out my tonsils with no trouble at all, if they hadn’t already been removed when I was six. Why else would they tell me I’d have to stick around for “at least an hour” afterward to make sure I’d stopped bleeding? I was right:
I informed the doctor I was going to tell everyone I’d been the victim of a vampire attack and that he should make it look good. He laughed. Apparently he thought I was kidding. I’d show you a pic of the actual procedure, but it was gory and unsuitable for family viewing. Especially the part where they sort of gouge around in there, vigorously sawing the needle back and forth in the neck to get a good tissue sample. Four different times. Blood lesson: Never settle for one sample when you can get four. I didn’t feel a thing. Well, okay, I was awake, obviously I felt something. But no pain. Everyone said it went well. Here I am, almost completely recovered within mere minutes:
I HAD planned to go in to work afterward. Really. Never mind that the nurses looked a bit alarmed when I mentioned it. In fact, they all kept asking whether anyone was there to drive me home. I assured them I’d be fine. But by the time I got five minutes away from the hospital the local anesthetic had worn off and my neck hurt like hell. So I went home and spent the rest of the day reclining on the couch with an ice pack on my wound — 20 minutes on/20 minutes off, as instructed. You know, there are some parts of your body you really don’t mind having a cold heavy weight pressing down on, even when they’re injured. The neck is not one of them.
I know, you’re probably thinking at least the hard part is over. Not so. The real torture will be waiting another week for the results. But it’s better than not knowing. Seriously, if you have a lump you’re ignoring– stop it. Go get it checked out.
[All kidding aside, everyone at Duke Raleigh Hospital — and I do mean everyone, even the harried receptionist — was extremely nice and went out of their way to make sure the entire process was as pleasant and pain free as possible. They even numbed the back of my hand before they inserted the saline drip. Plus they gave me a very nice ice pack that doesn’t leak once the ice melts. Even so, I hope I never see any of them again.] <– notice the Duke blue, a small tribute