Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lump in my throat

[See "UPDATE" below.]

I wish I had some good news to report, especially since many of you have written me with prayers and encouragement since I announced that my job ended two weeks before Christmas.

Today I have some news that is rather shocking.

For more than a decade, I've had a thyroid nodule. It was biopsied 10 years ago and the results said it was benign.

I had it biopsied for a second time a few weeks ago and today my doctor gave me the results: "suspicious for papillary carcinoma."

Nobody in my family has ever had anything like this so young, to my knowledge. (That is, assuming the pathologist's suspicion proves true, which I won't know 'til after at least half my thyroid's removed — more on that in a moment.) I'm 39 years old, nonsmoker and don't do drugs, drink to excess, or eat red meat. This is apparently just one of those things that happens.

My doctor recommends I have a half-thyroidectomy and get a frozen sample checked for cancer while I'm still on the operating table. If it tests positive, then the surgeons will remove the rest of my thyroid as well.

He says I should get this done within the next three months. Well, at least, if I get it done soon, I won't miss work. And I am continuing to pay my health insurance from my previous job, so that should cover it.

As you can see, I am a bit in shock. At the same time, having two friends who had full thyroidectomies — both while in their 30s, I think — I know that it is the sort of operation from which people recover very quickly and get on with a healthy life.

The 30-year cure rate, my doctor informs me — meaning the odds that cancer, if found, will not return in 30 years — is 98 percent, which is about as good as it gets, I think.

So, thank you very much for your prayers, which I still need. My main prayer needs remain the same — peace, patience, and discernment — and my main concern remains that I find and accept the right kind of full-time employment as soon as possible. (The right kind is whichever kind is God's will for me, which is why I need discernment.) The thyroid problem is a concern, but compared to getting back to full-time work, it is more like a bump (or lump) in the road.

If you or anyone you know has had a thyroidectomy and lived happily or near-happily ever after, please let me know in the comments. Would rather not hear any horror stories!

Please know that I read every e-mail that I receive and appreciate your prayers and encouragement very much. Thank you.

UPDATE, 12/28/07, 9:39 a.m.: I'm feeling much better today than I was when I wrote the above yesterday morning, when I had just learned the news from the doctor. Your encouraging comments and prayers, especially those of you who have written to tell me of your own or your loved ones' successful thyroid surgeries, have helped me enormously — thank you! Although I'm not looking forward to the operation (which I'm trying to schedule for January 29), I feel less distressed about it now.

Moreover, the circumstances couldn't be better. I'm truly surrounded by kind, helpful, and loving people, and am assured of the best possible medical care. My doctor, who will be performing the surgery, is excellent, and several family members have offered to look after me during my recovery. I'll be in the hospital only one night, and will be out of commission for less than a week, though I'll have to wear a scarf for a while.

(I know, I know; me in a scarf? Who woulda thunk it? Even I cracked up when the doctor said, "You can give a talk a week after the operation — just wear a scarf.")

As I was walking downtown yesterday after reading the first few comments and e-mail responses to this post, I smiled at the sight of a T-shirt hanging from a street vendor's display. It bore the slogan, "Too BLESSED to be STRESSED!"

I was so preoccupied pondering how true the slogan was, I probably passed up some nice scarves.