Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Pins and Needles

Continued from here

The pathology tech leaned over her microscope, "We have a winner!"

All I could think was - Thank goodness she had enough of a sample and that needle didn't have to go back in my neck. I wonder what it would've felt like without the numbing agent.

I asked her what her first impression was. She said at first glance it didn't look like the ordinary stuff you'd see in a cyst, but that it didn't jump out and say cancer! either. Also, because it was Friday and just before Labor Day Weekend, I shouldn't expect the results before Tuesday morning.

On the way home, my airway started to feel numb. It was a terrifying experience and I know I obssessed about it - poor hubs, he listened to my anxiety helplessly. It felt like I couldn't swallow or turn my head without some sort of strange sensation, or for that matter, telling my husband all about said strange sensations.

(Earlier that week, he had gone to the doctor with his mom to learn the results of a biopsy she'd had - she was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma. So, not a very good week, medically speaking).

His sister and her family come every Labor Day and stay with us - a tradition we really enjoy and a nice distraction from all the waiting. But when I hadn't heard anything by Tuesday afternoon, I called my doctor's office. I was told that the pathologist had not released his report yet, but that it would be available the next day. I called again the next afternoon, all this waiting was killing me - I am not a patient person by nature.

I was at Target exchanging some shoes for Tyler when my doctor's office called me back, and it was my doctor on the line. That was my first clue. He said that the pathologist had just called him personally. That was my second clue. I already knew if he, not the nurse, was calling me that it was cancer. I was wandering around the shoe section slightly dazed, my mind brimming over with questions. The biopsy was positive for Papillary Thyroid Cancer and my thyroid would have to come out. The doctor told me who the pathologist had recommended for the surgery, and to also plan on being induced that weekend. They wanted me to have the baby earlier so I could recover sooner and have surgery within a few weeks.

I managed to hold it together during my conversation with the doctor. Ever practical, I hung up, exchanged the shoes, and called Mr. O as soon as I was in the parking lot. "The doctor just called," - long pause while my throat got a lump in it the size of an egg, "I have cancer." Then I cried.

I was not at all brave, but I think maybe the pregnancy hormone overload had something to do with it. I mean who finds out they have cancer in the shoe section of Target? And then calls their husband from the parking lot? I think cancer is really a face-to-face sort of unveiling thing, not a telephone bomb-dropping deal, and most especially not a voice mail thing.

I cried from the shock of hearing the word cancer applied to me. Cancer is the thing that happens to other people. But it was happening to me, and I felt it was going to rob the spotlight from the baby we had waited for, for so many years. At that moment, I was very upset at the universe and the unfairness of the whole thing, but I guess cancer is never a matter of convenience. No one ever says, "Hey, next year looks good - how about then?"

Mr. O and I talked briefly and agreed we needed more information from the surgeon before making any decisions or telling the kids. I regained my composure. We hung up and I called my mom. I felt like a little girl again, like I had scraped my knee and was going to my mom for comfort and the reassurance that everything was going to be okay - only there's no bandaid and a kiss big enough for cancer.

Of course I cried like a baby. I had no idea what was in store for me or what the outlook was - would I even get to enjoy this baby? I asked her to call and let my siblings know because I was in no shape to speak to anyone. One of my sisters took it almost as hard as I did. That was before we knew anything.

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