Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Pain in the Neck...

A little over four years ago, I walked my mom out to her car and said goodbye. I stood there on the driveway as she pulled out, one hand resting on my lower back in the classic pregnant woman pose.

I had been feeling a sore throat coming on and massaged just under the back of my jaw assessing whether my glands were getting swollen. Phew, they were just normal size. I dropped my hand, lightly brushing either side of my neck, down to my side. Did I just feel something? I touched my neck again, this time more slowly, deliberately. I stood there looking at the mountains and realizing there was definitely something there - something that didn't belong.

I went inside, into my bathroom and looked in the mirror. Could this have happened overnight? How did I not notice this thing bulging out of my neck? It was about the size of a Globe Grape and about halfway between my chin and collarbone on the right side.

I started googling terms like "neck, cyst, tumor, larynx" and most of the results indicated that it might be something to do with my thyroid. I found a self diagnostic test for a thyroid nodule. It told me to tip my chin back (to push the thyroid out), drink a glass of water, and see if the bump moved when I swallowed (it did). I didn't wait for my husband to get home, I got that glass of water and went back into the bathroom to see for myself.

Do you know how hard it is to drink from a glass, swallow, and look in the mirror at the same time? Try it. First, tip your head back so you can see your neck, then move your eyes so they're looking at the mirror, and then swallow - several times. Not too tough? Maybe you have to be a bit anxious and also nearly 37 weeks pregnant.

I knew this was something I couldn't ignore, and was somewhat comforted by the fact that I had an ob/gyn appointment on Monday (this being a Friday, it was relatively soon). Over the weekend I read everything I could about thyroid diagnosis, it's just the kind of girl I am. And also obsessed over the feel of something foreign on my neck.

On Monday, the doctor examined me and told me the rotten news that I was only 1 cm and about 20% effaced. I told him about the lump on my neck. He felt around, said it was common and most lumps in necks are nothing to worry about, but we ought to order an ultrasound and fine needle biopsy anyway. He was able to schedule it for Friday that same week.

I read up on Fine Needle biopsies and neck ultrasounds - I wanted to know what they were looking for and I wanted to be able to tell if there was something they weren't telling me.

My husband missed work and went with me to the appointment. Usually for an utlrasound of your neck, you lie down on your back - unless you're very pregnant. They had me semi-recline and tip my head way back. I can't tell you how hard it was not to be able to see the screen and try to figure out what was going on. He gave me a sort of play-by-play. Every once in awhile, I would tick off the ultrasound tech and turn my head to see what she was doing. I knew that if the ultrasound looked 'hot' or red instead of blue where the tumor was, that it was more likely to be cancerous. I'm pretty sure I saw red.

A doctor came in and shot some lidocaine into my neck. Whenever someone tells you this will sting a bit - brace yourself, because it usually means it will burn like hell. He didn't wait very long before he had me tip my head to the left. He took out a needle (I had to peek, and wish I hadn't). The pathology tech wheeled her cart into the room and told me she was going to take a look at the sample the doctor pulled out to make sure they had enough 'material' for a diagnosis - that way I wouldn't have to come back.

Pretty much the numbing shot was pointless. I felt everything he did. There is nothing fine about a Fine Needle Biopsy. The needly is long and sturdy. And it is not one simple little poke. It seriously felt like he was fishing in there. He told me he was trying to get samples from all over the nodule. He would pull back on the syringe, and then jab some more into my neck. At the same time, the tech was using the ultrasound wand so he could have a guide. About four times it felt like he had stabbed my larynx.

I am not normally a claustrophobic person, but I was starting to panic. It really hurt and each time he hit my airway it really freaked me out. After about ten different jabs, he handed the needle over to the pathology tech. I was hoping, praying that she had enough 'material' for a diagnosis, because I did not want that needle back in my neck.

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