The words which saved my life

Sitting in my GP’s office hearing the looming words “your thyroid is enlarged”. As a nurse I new exactly what that meant, that most enlarged thyroids were benign, though a large airway risk and I would probably need to have it removed. Not too much stress right? I mean it’s a pretty common issue?  Wrong. I was stressed. I was freaking out. I began thinking about all the possibilities. As a nurse I knew the risks. The patients I had looked after over the years who had had this routine operation and had some major complications. Stressed?  Yes. Sometimes being a nurse means you know too much.

My GP wrote a referral to have a biopsy for me and off I went. I was so shocked at this point I barley even remember the Pap smear I was so stressed about having. Yes I barely even remember that uncomfortable procedure, my mind was going a thousand miles an hour.
Two days later thanks to some inside help I had my biopsy. Stressed? Yes. Painful? Not really. The painful part was the long 9 day wait for my results. Benign or malignant???

Benign!!!! Best word I had ever heard. It still needed to be removed as it was pushing my airway 2.5 cm to the right but I didn’t care. It was benign! The best news in the world

Four weeks later I saw my endocrine surgeon. She agreed that it would need to be removed and after a quick explanation of the risks involved I was put on the waiting list for surgery. Firstly I would have to have a CT though to ensure they had as much information about my airway they could. It was to be a risky operation but It had to be done. So off I went for my CT. The CT which would end up saving my life.

I wandered in to have my CT feeling great that day and not worrying at all. I’ve had plenty of CT’s to know they are nothing to be stressed about. My best friend worked at the same facility so it was a nice chance to catch up.

During the CT I remember lying there thinking about what I would have for dinner. It was late afternoon and it had been a long day already. Suddenly the CT machine moved down lower than normal, towards my chest. I remember thinking that’s odd, why would they need to scan that far away from my thyroid.  I ignored it and my mind went back to my dinner plans. Hey, I was hungry and surely nothing else would be wrong.

As soon as the CT was over a doctor arrived. He had a concerned look on his face and I knew straight away that something was wrong. I had been on the giving end of much bad news over the years to understand his face, to know he was going to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. “You have some enlarged lymph nodes in your axilla. We saw something odd when scanning your thyroid so scanned you chest as well”. The room went quiet. He may have said something else but I wasn’t listening. I suddenly remembered back a few weeks. Back to when my arm pit was swollen and I knew. I knew this was not good news. He told me he would get the report to my GP ASAP but it was probably nothing to worry about. That a lot of people have enlarged lymph nodes when they have a virus or another illness. But I knew.

I sat in my car and cried. I was hysterical and I think even at that point I knew something major was wrong. Even though I kept saying to myself that it couldn’t possible be, deep down I knew. I could not get an appointment with my GP until the next day. It was the longest 24 hours of my life


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