Okay. The beginning. It is August 2008 and everything is normal; I am going to Planned Parenthood for an annual check-up. I am young and healthy, no medical history. Nothing. The nurse finds a small nodule in my left thyroid lobe. It may be cancerous, but that is a distant and statistically rare possibility. Most likely the nodule is benign, and this is confirmed by my frenzied internet googling.
I think I was the most anxious then. Everything after – the wait and see – the FNA – the surgery - came in well timed, reassuring doses. The possibility of cancer seemed improbable. I believed in the statistics. Believed in the power of my normalcy and the placement of my person in the large majority of benign thyroid nodule patients. 95% is a good number. But I don’t think I’ll ever put my faith in statistics again.
I am one of 37,000 people annually diagnosed with minimally invasive follicular carcinoma.
I have cancer.
I do… and then I don’t. Again, the lure of the reassuring word. It is a treatable, curable cancer. There is pain and discomfort in my future, but no real suffering. No chemo, no hair loss, no imminent prospect of death. Another surgery, a treatment of radioactive iodine, possible complications… it seems like any option, given the time to sink-in, becomes manageable.
So I seek the significance of this blip on the pages of my life. I imagine a needle like the wand of an earthquake detector, maintaining its normal scribble until something real happens and it jumps and dances and life is interrupted from the day to day. Is this something to be thankful for? Can I appreciate the immensity of the impact this will have on the choices I will make for my future, for the day-to-day?
I am only 25. I don’t have a partner, children, a real job. I have this, what’s around me, a few friends who truly care, a family who loves me, who would sacrifice anything. I have the rest of my life to think about and suddenly it is being drawn large in front of me and the choices I make now will impact the me at forty-five, at sixty. Time is scrunched down, stretched out, depending how I look at it.
I am overwhelmed, underwhelmed, taking it one step at a time.
Yes, take a breath, take it one step at a time, otherwise you will be overwhelmed. I remember when I was diagnosed, it made me worry about what else is lurking in my body. I read a lot of books, I read about Buddhism, Catholocism, Muslim, and Judaism. I also read the book "When Bad Things Happen To Good People" (it's a fantastic book, and I recommend you get it).
This is certainly not going to kill you. My friend's mom had thyroid cancer at about 40, and she's now in her late 80's, not affected by it at all---just getting the other wonderful things old age brings (yuck).
You will have a long and healthy life with lots of good things, I have had many great things happen in the 5 years since I was diagnosed, and I guess I enjoyed them more than ever because I faced the prospect of horrible things.
Focus on getting the things you want---the career, the partner, the family, because that's what's important, and that's your future.