I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thinking about my thyroid

Sometimes I really wonder if I have a guardian angel who helps to arrange events in my life. This week, completely by accident, I learned that I have a lump in my thyroid gland. I mentioned this on my other blog, but I give myself permission here to deal with my thoughts and feelings in depth.

It all started with the carotid ultrasound that was ordered by my new young doctor, who does inspire confidence in me because of the way he treated me, like a colleague, interested and curious. He was concerned about the ten pounds that I had gained since last year and the rise in my cholesterol levels. With my family history of coronary artery disease, he told me that a noninvasive look at the carotids would give him an idea of the condition of my coronary arteries, as blockage in one is usually also indicative of blockage in others. I remember being secretly glad because I had never had one before and I hoped that if there really were something going on in my neck, it would show up.

For the last few months, when looking down and to the left with my chin tucked in, I thought I felt something in my neck, but since I couldn't actually feel anything after probing, it was a bit of relief that he would be taking an ultrasound in that general area. The ultrasound technician was a big gorgeous hunk of a man who was personable and very helpful. After taking pictures of the right side, he moved over to the left and almost immediately told me that he saw an anomalous lump in my thyroid and said he would take a few extra pictures. I asked him what it was likely to mean, and he said that my doctor would probably order some blood work and possibly a biopsy, but not to worry. I said, "Well, if I got any kind of cancer, I suppose thyroid would be best since it's the slowest to grow." He said that even if it were cancerous, it might not bother me for years. I knew all this from a friend who did develop thyroid cancer in her thirties. It was removed and she takes thyroid medication daily.

I was a bit thrown for a loop. He showed me a picture of the lump when I asked; it is perfectly round and 1.1 centimeters in size. No wonder I could feel it. Driving home from the appointment, I was so distracted I missed my turn and got temporarily lost. That was my first clue that I was really worried. However, once I reached my trusty computer and looked up information on the internet, I learned that thyroid nodules are usually NOT cancer and that many people, especially women, develop them over the years. That was a relief.

The very next day I received a call from my doctor's office telling me that my carotid arteries are in very good shape. Waiting expectantly for the next part, I was floored to find that nothing in the radiologist's report even mentioned the thyroid lump! I told her what I had seen and been told by the technician, and she said they would order pictures from the lab and would get back to me. As of today, I have been scheduled on February 11 for another "enhanced" ultrasound of my thyroid, and the promised blood work has already been drawn.

What if the technician had not mentioned what he saw? It makes me realize how important it is not to remain in the dark about my health, to be proactive, and to follow up with health issues instead of hoping things are not what I suspect. My mother was somewhat of a hypochondriac, but it saved her life when she insisted that the lump under her arm was not right, although she had no lump in her breast. A biopsy showed it was a very virulent form of breast cancer (inflammatory) and she was treated and survived, when only 5% of patients with that particular cancer do. I should have mentioned the sensation in my neck, but it was so nebulous I didn't even think of it when I chatted with Dr Whitehead.

So, there you go, my guardian angels were busy thinking how I might discover this nodule and become aware of the health issues going on in my body. If I had not gotten a new physician because of the need to change insurance carriers, if he had not ordered the ultrasound, if the technician had not mentioned what he saw and shared it with me... all of these decision paths followed to bring me sitting here in the dark on Sunday morning, writing about it, hopeful that it will be benign, but preparing myself for whatever the truth of it is.

22 comments:

Mel said...

I too had a thyroid nodule discovered during an arterial ultrasound. I've had followups and it has gotten slightly larger and slightly smaller over the years, and my blood levels are fine. It has not been a problem beyond the fact that I can feel it and it creeps me out. Hopefully yours is nothing beyond a mild annoyance too. I verge on hypochondria, but I've found that vigilance has saved me from doctors who diagnosed both my neck herniations and my menopause symptoms as stress. I kept getting stuck in the loop of you have pain because you have stress, and I kept saying NO, I have stress because I have pain. I was right, but it took years to get the neck diagnosed and get treatment, and I wonder how much better I'd be now if I had pushed even harder and gotten treatment 3 years sooner.
I believe your thyroid nodule will be benign, and hope you get a clean bill of health.

Linda said...

I find it odd that the technician was so open about what he was seeing . It's been my experience technicians don't usually talk about what they're seeing. Thank goodness this one did, especially since he didn't mention it in your report. Was he playing doctor? Did he consider it too minor to mention? Sorry, that's not his job. His job was to make pictures, not play doctor. I would hope for another technician next time I needed something done. But it does make you wonder how often this kind of thing happens.

Linda Reeder said...

Call it good luck, Karma, the right alignment of the stars and planets, whatever, so long as you are getting the medical attention you need! We'll all be hoping for a good result.

Retired English Teacher said...

I think we get so many mixed messages from the health care system, the technicians, the nurses, and finally, the doctors anymore that it is a wonder that anything ever gets diagnosed correctly. I am a very firm believer in taking charge of our own health care. No one else will. No one else cares. No one else really has to deal fully with the outcomes and diagnoses. Stay with it. I'm also hoping that you get complete answers and not multiple choice!

Donna B said...

I totally agree DJan. YOU have a Guardian Angel. It is highly unusual, for the Tech to tell you about the lump. They are not allowed to do it. Thank goodness he did. Maybe it was over looked, or maybe the Radiologist Doctor reading it thought it was not worth upsetting you over, but personally, I think the doctors need to give us the information so we can be aware and become part of our treatment.

Your young doctor sounds like he is one of the exceptional doctors, so I believe you are in good hands.

I will be sending positive,benign, healing thoughts your way. Thank you for keeping us, who care for you, informed.

hugs and continued blessings to you my dear friend...

Rae said...

Thyroid nodules are very common and the majority are benign. I have lived with several for a long time. I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis - fancy name for a malfunctioning thyroid. I have had several biopsies done on my nodules and the biopsies are a pretty simple non-painful procedure. Your nodule is probably in the same category. Relax and don't let your mind wander. If I can answer any questions just email me.

Whitney Lee said...

Good for you for following up on that, and thank goodness the technician was so vocal. My husband and his family attribute his mother's death to misdiagnosis and lack of communication. I know that doctors are fallible, just like anyone else.

I'm so glad that it appears to be something non life threatening. I'm sure you're still frightened. I'm thinking about you.

gayle said...

It's always good to be proactive where our health is concerned! Just think if your mom hadn't been. Your new doctor sounds great!

Gigi said...

Thank goodness that tech said something! Yes you have to be proactive with your healthcare. Keeping you in my thoughts while you wait for the results.

SquirrelQueen said...

It's a good thing the technician mentioned what he saw to you since it did not make it into the report. It does make you wonder what kind of things get overlooked when tests are done.

Joanna Jenkins said...

You are living right :-) So glad your Guardian Angel is on the job and you're getting good medical attention to get to the bottom of things.
I'm cheering you on through your tests! Cheers, jj

#1Nana said...

Several weeks ago I was awakened by a phone call from the hospital at 7:30 in the morning. My doctor had seen something in a routine ultrasound and had ordered an MRI. The hospital was calling to schedule the test ASAP. I had it done and I've heard nothing. As much as I like to stay in denial, your post has reminded me that I need to call the doctor tomorrow and ask for the results. Thanks for the reminder to stay informed!
I'm sending positive thoughts your way.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I believe you will be just fine, the odds are in your favor. I am thinking positive for you!
All these Doctors are just practicing you know..and they are not perfect. You should always advocate for the best health care for yourself and ask lots of questions..if you are not feeling up to doing it because you are too ill then you have to count on your husband to ask all the right questions and keep a handle on things. Teamwork!
Some Techs will say more than others, it sounds like you got a nice one who liked to talk..he is probably in big trouble:(

Arkansas Patti said...

Technicians aren't supposed to talk to you but I always find the chatty ones for which I am glad. Had he not said anything to you, you would never have known.
I am sure you have no worries but am so glad you are seeking further tests to put your mind at ease.
Let us know.

TechnoBabe said...

Linda's comment is what I thought too. My experience has been no info from the tech at all. We never know what prompts people to share info, and the angel standing beside you during the ultrasound is still with you. I await further info on your situation, my friend.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Your doctor sounds like a real human being! Too many of them function by rote. I think you do have a guardian angel, DJan!

Friko said...

I had a large thyroid ump removed aout 10 years ago. The operation is complicated because of the narrowness of the neck and things like vocal chords being in the immediate vicinity, but it can be done and is usually successful, acc. to my information.

I have had no further trouble with my thyroid since then.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Crossing my fingers for you. My new insurance carrier is forcing me to change doctors as well. Who knows, maybe this is a good thing.

Grandmother said...

Health and blessings to you. May it be easily dealt with.

Ginger*:) said...

I found your blog today, by way of the illustration friday challenges...don't ask me how or why, but the posts here are so honest and giving that I wanted to thank you. I am sorry about the losses in your life and applaud your courage.

Lily Robinson said...

We do have to be proactive about our own health care. So many people never ask their doctors any questions. I do.

I'm so glad that the tech informed you and they are following up on that node. Keep us posted. Hopefully, it's a big nothing.

Anita said...

My thyroid was biopsied when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the mid-1990's. Thyroid disease is very treatable. That is why I don't want to lose hope. I am currently taking bovine thyroid as part of my health care. Hoping for the best.