The FNA Biopsy : Taking a 6-inch Needle to the Neck!

When my thyroid nodule ultrasound came back showing some signs that pointed toward a higher risk of cancer, my ENT specialist recommended a Fine Needle Aspiration biopsy, appropriately abbreviated FNA (say it fast with inflection).

I was nervous. I generally don’t have an issue with needles, but they are usually pretty small and go in my arms. Wait… that sounds like I shoot heroin or something. I don’t. That’s hood rat stuff. I snort it through my nose, ‘cause I’m a LADY. As for needles, I mean your run-of-the-mill flu shot or blood draw. But this biopsy would include several 6-inch+ needles in the neck. Eeeeek!

Lucky for me, my husband Dustin would be able to go with me. You haven’t heard much about him in my previous blogs, because he was away. My amazing husband is a helicopter aircrewman and rescue swimmer in the United Stated Navy. He was away on a detachment up until I received the results of my ultrasound. We were both still trying to remain positive.

“A 1-in-4 chance this is Cancer, means there is a 75% chance this is NOT Cancer,” I told him over the phone. “You don’t need to come home. I’m fine.”

His incredible leadership thought otherwise.

“You need to be home with your wife,” they told him. He was on a plane the next day to be with me.

And thank goodness he was. I was cool and collected on the outside, but tight and stressed with anticipation of the procedure on the inside.

6-inch needle?! You got this ALL DAY!” he assured me with a wide smile.

He was slightly less confident after I explained to him that the needle wasn’t going down my throat, but through the cartilage in my neck.

When I arrived for the procedure, I was taken to a stark white clean room with big dome spotlights. It looked like the kind of room where rednecks are taken when they are abducted from their cornfield by aliens to be anally probed. (All that technology and they haven’t figured out a simple cheek swab yet. Weird.) In the middle of the room was a table, where I was instructed to lay down. Within minutes the room was bustling with a radiology tech, doctor, and a pathologist who was rolling in a cart loaded with glass vials and a pair of microscopes.

My neck was cleaned then the injections began. The first few were lidocaine to numb me up and they burned. Just a minute or two later, the doc began poking around. “Feel that? What about that? How about here?” It took me back to my wedding night.

I was numb. Now it was time to get some samples from the growth on my thyroid.

“We are going to take at least three,” the doc told me. “The pathologist is here to examine the samples right away to make sure we get enough cells.”

If not, the needles would continue until they had enough to test.

“You won’t feel pain here, just a lot of pressure,” he said as if to console me.

Doctors and dentists always use this line, “No pain, just pressure.” Unless I’m getting a Swedish massage, nothing about this makes me feel better. Who’s getting excited about lots of PRESSURE? It still doesn’t feel good, and this pressure was on my NECK. There is a word for that…it’s strangulation.

OK, OK. It really wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t fun. Guided by ultrasound, the doctor inserted long, thin needles into my neck then, once on target, wiggled them around to scrap cells from the thyroid growth. During this I had to stay completely still. My whole body was rock solid as each muscle clenched in anticipation of the “pressure.” We got what we needed in the first three samples.

As I sat up a rush of adrenaline waved over me. Whew! I was done. They told me the pathology results should take 3-5 business days to come back. Just two days later my phone rang. “Who the heck doesn’t text?” I thought. The number on my screen was from the doctor’s office.

Dun. Dun. Duuuuuuuuuun!

More next time!

***Note: I do not do illegal drugs. Before posting, I actually had to fact check by Googling, “Can you snort heroin?” I’m such a square! Hahah

Thank you SO much for reading! If you liked it, laughed at it, or learned a little something from it, please feel free to comment, share, follow or ALL THREE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thyroid Nodule: Friend, Foe, or Remnants of a Lost Twin

Last time on “The Days of Our, Young and Restless, Thyroid Lives” – Chrissy starts to suspect the worst when a sketchy-ass radiology tech won’t let her look at the screen during the ultrasound. When the results come back CSI fast, she waits, nervously as her doc delivers the news from the other end of the phone line.

The thyroid nodule was bigger and badder than they originally thought. When the doc felt my delicate and sunspot-free neck with his hands in the office, he estimated it was about 1 centimeter. The ultrasound showed that it was more than twice that size, about 2.6 cm, and had some “irregular characteristics.”

“The reason it feels like you are swallowing around a marble, is because you kind of are,” the doc told me over the phone. “I’d like to refer you to a Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.”

The crazy thing was, by this point, the sensation of the “marble” was completely gone. My throat had loosened back up, and I felt all-in-all…normal.

So against all advice, I began Googling the crap out of “thyroid nodule”, “thyroid cancer”, and “Is 2.6 cm big?” (That last one had some interesting results.) All the stats, random studies and medical jargon left my head spinning. I called to make an appointment with the ENT specialist to find out he was booked solid for more than a month out. Ugg.

If you are reading this as a patient or caregiver, here comes my unsolicited advice. You MUST, through all of this, be an ADVOCATE for yourself. Even if you have the most amazing medical team on earth, I can promise, no one cares more about you and your health than YOU. That being said, you ALWAYS get further with some sugar and spice. Here are some easy-to-do practices that worked for me:

  1. Remember that the receptionist, scheduler, secretary, who ever answers the phone when you call, is the GATE KEEPER! The docs may get the credit, but the front desk RUNS that office. Always be pleasant and thankful, even if they are not pleasant to you.
  2. If you need something, try to be part of the solution from the beginning. Example: No appointments available for a month or more, but you’d like one sooner. Try this: “Thank you. Can we go ahead and book that? I understand you are very busy. What is the best day/time to call and see if you’ve had any cancellations sooner than my scheduled appointment?” AND/OR “Could you make a note in my file, that if you have any last minute cancellations, I can make myself available for same-day appointments, and be here within an hour of your call?” When I’ve used these, along with my unwavering manners and charm, I have a 100% success rate of getting an appointment sooner than the one I originally scheduled. I’ve found as soon as the gatekeeper realizes that you are committed to getting an earlier appointment, and not a complete asshole (for lack of a better word), often times an appointment will magically appear.
  3. Write down your Qs for the doc, nurses, and medical staff. I know you’ve heard this one, but here’s where it’s really helpful…also write down the ANSWER when they give it to you. There will be so much information thrown at you it’s hard to keep track. There is also something hypnotizing about that white lab coat. (Yum.)
  4. Be someone that someone wants to help. I have NEVER had to be nasty to anyone to advocate for what I needed during my treatment. If I was ever too sick, weak, or out of sorts to speak for myself, my husband was prepared to do it for me, in the same style.

Ok, down from my soapbox, and on with the story.

When I did finally get in to see the ENT specialist he read my ultrasound results verbatim, right off his computer screen. They meant absolutely nothing to me. But about 60 seconds later he’s talking about surgery, the risks, and the statistical chance that this is Cancer.

“I’m sorry, doc. I think you got a little ahead of me. Could you break it down a bit?”

He immediately noticed his error and backtracked.

“The mass shows calcifications and it’s own blood supply. These characteristics give us more concern that this may be cancer, about a 1-in-4 chance. I’d like to order a fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNA) to see what we can find out,” he said. “However, no matter the results, I would still recommend surgery to remove, at minimum, the mass and that side of your thyroid.”

My mind kept replaying that word. Biopsy. Biopsy. But it replayed as the crazy aunt in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “Bee-bop? Ba-bop? Bi-Bop-See! And when they did the bi-bop-see, they found little teeth and hairs. Inside the lump…was my twin.”

So we scheduled it. Not 3 weeks out, which was originally quoted to me, but using the techniques I outlined above, I was back at the hospital for my FNA just 2 days later. That biopsy was a son-of-a-gun.

But more on that next time.

Thanks SO much for reading! If you’ve enjoyed it or found it helpful, please feel free to comment, share, follow, or all 3.

How Nachos Helped Me Find My Cancer

It seems crazy to think about now, but my cancer journey only started a little more than 2 months ago. Let me lay the groundwork for you.

Life was good. I know that’s how most of these stories start, but it’s true. I wasn’t just “Facebook happy.”  I was really, in daily life, happy. Work was great. My family was busy, joyful and living life. And I was thrilled to be training for my first full marathon.

It was Super Bowl 50 weekend, Panthers vs. Broncos. I’d ran the Super Run 10k and achieved a personal best, shaving a full 4 minutes off my time. I felt on top of my game when it came to my health, and on my way there with my fitness.

So I treated myself to a full-on Super Bowl buffet binge; nachos, pigs-in-a-blanket, beer. You know how it goes. When the acid reflux kicked in around half time, my throat started to feel really tight. But that wasn’t stopping me. After all, I wasn’t painfully full yet. In my family, we are not done eating until we are unable to move or writhing in pain. We’re overachievers that way.

From there though, everything I ate or drank felt like it was taking a detour on the way to my stomach. My nacho chips moved like the sails of a cheesy, jalapeño boat navigating around a buoy in my throat. Not painful at first, but SO odd.

By the next morning at work, it became more and more difficult to swallow around the marble. So I made an appointment with my doc that day. He felt the lump on the right side of my throat with his hands.

“It feels like a thyroid nodule,” he told me. “They are very common. In fact 60% of people have them by the time they are 60 years old. Only about 1% are malignant.”

I was relieved. My doctor said he would still like to order an ultrasound of the lump, just because they are a little more rare in someone my age, just a sweet lil’ baby at 33. (I pretended not to be flattered at the equivalent of ‘being carded” by a man who has seen me naked.) And, so…it began.

A few days later I went in for an ultrasound. A little sticky goo on my neck and the tech got started. (No dinner or anything first, which I thought was messed up, but I rolled with it.) She moved the wand around slowly, pausing to take pictures and reminding me to stay still when she took video. All seemed standard, until I asked her if I could take a peek. She looked unsettled.

“You want to see it?!” she asked me.

“Yeah!” I said. “Just curious what it looks like. I’ve never seen a thyroid before.”

“Oh,” she said, turning OFF her monitor. “You wouldn’t be able to tell what anything was anyways.”

She dropped the mic, and walked out of the room. “Way to be sketchy as hell!” I thought.

The results were supposed to take 3-5 working days to come back. My primary care doc called me just 3 HOURS later. “The results of your ultrasound are already back.”

(Insert dramatic cliffhanger music here.)

Oh, and the Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10, Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, and Beyoncé did the half-time show…again.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve liked the blog entry, feel free to comment, share, follow, or all 3. More coming soon!

Lucky ME!

So I’ve got Thyroid Cancer. More specifically, I have multi-follicular papillary carcinoma. You too?! CONGRATS! You’ve got the “BEST CANCER”! If by some miracle I am the first person to tell you this, don’t worry; you’ll hear it about 1,000 more times over the next few months.

Why? Because thyroid cancer has an excellent survival rate (I’ve heard numbers from 90-95%), the most common surgery has a 1-3 week recovery time, and the continued treatment is relatively short. There is also a pretty small chance of reoccurrence if it’s treated properly.

So…are you jumping for joy yet? Of course not! It’s still Cancer and it STILL SUCKS!!! But everyone can’t stop telling you how lucky you are to have it!

“If you have to have Cancer, this is the one to have,” they say smiling and cheerful.

I actually had a doctor tell me “If I had to pass out Cancer to my family for Christmas, this is the one I’d give them.” How F-ed up is that?! I immediately imagined the next year going something like this –

A: “Hey is Tom coming for Christmas this year?”

B: “God, I hope not! You remember what he gave us all for Christmas last year?… CANCER! Yeah, the nerve of that guy. Friggin’ Cancer!”

A: “Oh yeah, he tried to play it off, all like, ‘This is the BEST Cancer, you guys! You’ll love it. Only the BEST for my family.'”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to hear that this probably won’t kill me. I’m thrilled that I won’t have to suffer the long, devastating chemotherapies I’ve witnessed friends and family endure. But it still STINKS of SHIT!

As person after person reminded me how “lucky” I was to “only” have Thyroid Cancer, it started to get tougher to share my thoughts and feelings during the tough times.

I was scared to go under the knife for surgery = “Oh, It’s like the easiest surgery, with the least risks.” Oh, good. I’ll just shut my mouth now then (rolling my eyes in my mind but not on my face).

Feeling anxiety about the Radioactive Iodine Treatments = “At least you don’t have to do months and months of Chemo.” You’re right. I’ll just keep these feelings all to myself as I put a dangerous amount of radiation into my body on purpose.

I don’t encourage anyone to ride a downward spiral into the world of constant negativity. On the contrary, I generally opt for sarcasm, laughter and inappropriate humor. Through all of this I have been upbeat –  smiling, laughing, and teasing with my docs and medical staff 90% of the time. But when that 10% comes around that I’m feeling down, scared, sad or upset..I JUST WANT TO FEEL THOSE THINGS WITHOUT JUDGEMENT. I just want to be heard. I don’t want to be “talked out of” being scared or sad. Just give me a few minutes to complain or cry or bitch, then I’ll be done. During those times please, please, please don’t tell me how LUCKY I am to have cancer. Because it still sucks for me. And that’s OK.

Sidebar: I do like to imagine going to a Cancer support group and being lumped in with the COOL Cancer chicks (Mean Girls style) for having the BEST Cancer. Maybe I’d even be voted Cancer Queen. One can dream!

Thanks for reading my first ever blog post!

Upcoming topics:

  • How Nachos Helped Me Find My Thyroid Nodule
  • Tests Leading to my Diagnosis – Ultrasound & Fine Needle Aspiration
  • Getting the call that I got the Big C
  • My Surgery – Why 12 People got to see my Cooter
  • My Hospital Stay & the Active Shooter – A True Story
  •  The RAI Prep Diet – DIE with a T
  •  and much more!!!