I’ve had a smokers cough for years but in the last few months it got so bad I had to go home from work sick once because I couldn’t talk without having a coughing fit and, later, I had to call in sick and miss work a couple of times because the cough was making me throw up.
Having to take time off work meant I needed to get a sick leave certificate from my doctor. I hadn’t seen her since I broke my ankle a couple of years ago and she had moved office twice since then but I tracked her down and went to see her.
She sent me for X-Rays of the chest which came back clear so she sent me for a CT scan of the chest. That also came back clear but showed there might be a problem with the thyroid gland in my neck so she sent me for an ultrascan to check it out.
The scan found the right lobe of my thyroid was enlarged and it contained a large “nodule” so she sent me to have a biopsy done to see if it was cancer. They used an ultrascan to guide a thin needle into the nodule and took samples of the cells inside it which they sent to a lab for testing.
My doctor called the other day to give me the results.
“It’s bad news I’m afraid”, she said, “It’s follicular cancer and the tumour will have to be removed.”
She said the next step was to refer me to one of the public hospitals as I have no medical insurance and she asked me which one I wanted to go to. After I made my choice she asked me if I was OK and expressed sympathy for the shock she was sure I must be feeling.
I told her I was quite OK with it because I have a strong faith in God and I view death as nothing more than the door to Heaven.
She snorted her contempt for that idea then suddenly changed her tune. She told me it actually may not be cancer. She said the results were just “suspicious for follicular cancer” and the only way to know for certain is to operate.
I’ve done my research so I know about “suspicious” lab findings and how they are treated. If there are no nodules in the other side of the gland they ask you to decide, before surgery, what you want them to do if they find cancer. You can choose to keep the healthy side and hope it does not develop cancer or play safe and let them remove that as well.
During surgery they remove some, or all, of the lobe containing the suspicious nodule and test it while you are still under. If it is cancer they remove as much tissue as they can. If there are nodules in the other lobe they remove the whole thyroid gland and anything else they deem necessary such as lymph nodes or vocal chords or anything else the tumour has invaded. If the tests they do during the surgery don’t give a conclusive result they err on the side of caution and take it all out anyway.
If they are sure there is no cancer they sew you back up without taking any more tissue.
Either way they could, if the surgeon is not very well skilled in this operation, damage my vocal chords and the glands that control calcium in the body. If they mess those up I could be in a whole world of trouble afterwards!
Thyroid cancer is, I gather, not as bad as most other cancers as it is less likely to spread. According to my research the thyroid gland is easy to remove, apart from the risk to the vocal chords and the four glands that control calcium, and taking a simple radioactive iodine pill after surgery usually kills any leftover thyroid cells along with any cancer they contain.
They give you a daily pill to compensate for the missing thyroid and, if they have damaged the other glands, they give you more pills to compensate for that and they send you off to get on with your life.
That’s the good news. The bad news is almost 100 percent of survivors say life is utterly miserable without their thyroid gland! A lot of them say the pills keep them alive but that’s all it does and they wish they had just taken their chances with cancer.
Many of these people had the gland removed just in case it was cancerous. A lot of the time it turned out there was no cancer and those people were the ones who regretted having surgery the most.
The worst case scenario is I could lose my voice and be unable to talk which would mean I would not be able to work and I would have to take a cocktail of pills just to stay alive every day. The list of symptoms you face if your thyroid is taken out completely is horrendous! If those other glands are damaged the list gets a whole lot longer.
I don’t want them to operate! I’d rather take my chances with cancer than suffer what some of those people are suffering!
I have always said if I get cancer I would not fight it and, if I have got cancer, I don’t want to fight it!
The problem is, this thing is growing, I already have trouble swallowing and even breathing under some conditions. I don’t want to die from slow strangulation so I guess I will talk to the specialist when the time comes and see what he or she has to say.
I’m frightened but not of cancer.
I’m frightened of arrogant, disrespectful, even abusive doctors who act as if you are too stupid to be involved in the decisions they make about what happens to you. I have suffered at such hands before and I would rather die than put myself in such hands ever again. As a medicare patient I don’t get to choose who will treat me. I can either take the surgeon I am given and put up with it if they are no good or I can refuse to let them treat me and let God decide what happens next.
The bullshit has already begun. My doctor has always been very respectful towards me before but I went from “I might have cancer” when the phone rang to “I do have cancer” at the start of the call with her and back to “I might have cancer” by the end of it.
It was a complete head fuck!
Did she tell me I have cancer because I do have it or because she thought telling me I do was best for me? Perhaps she thought it would be better for me to think the worst than to give me what might prove to be false hope?
What made her change stories? Which of the two statements she made is actually the truth? Most of all, why has she become untrustworthy for the first time ever at a time when I need her to be as honest and respectful as she has always been in the past more than ever before?
The thought of having to deal with people who think it is up to them to decide if or when or how much I should know is creating despair in me. I dread experiencing that again! I would do anything to avoid it – even die!
I want to just ignore the whole thing and leave it all in Gods hands but I really don’t want to die of slow strangulation so I will wait for the hospital to send me an appointment and I will keep the appointment.
Once I have met the person who will be responsible for my care I will decide if I am willing to let them treat me or if I will turn to God instead.