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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.