This year has been a roller coaster for me when it comes to the health and well-being of my family and myself. My mother is in very ill health and has long suffered from cardiomyopathy. This year she has slid into great decline. There have been three total hospitalizations this year, the most recent being two weeks ago on her birthday. My family knows that we have entered the end, but though we know she is dying it’s not exactly like there is a road map or a timeline. She is determined to live for as long as possible, but every day is a challenge. We welcome it.
As for my own health this has been the year of realizing that I’m not indestructible. It started with an odd patch of skin on my chest this spring and has turned into discovering that I am high risk for a lot of cancers. I’ve been through biopsies, mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and genetic tests. I’ve now got three separate doctors managing my preventative screenings. Each month has some sort of appointment and I’ve met my insurance deductible with ease. I thought at the outset of this adventure that this would be the most challenging aspect of the journey.
A few weeks ago I discovered that I was wrong.
My breast MRI was clear for the breast cancer we are hunting vigilantly. Instead, something in my neck lit up. This is how I came to know Frank. Frank is a thyroid nodule taking up real estate on the left side of my throat. I can feel him through the skin and I’m pretty sure he’s the thing that’s been making swallowing interesting for a few months. Had it not been for the MRI I would never have found him until he was a problem. Because of the MRI he has been found, then investigated with an ultrasound, and this week jabbed at with needles for a biopsy.
The biopsy will be the definitive answer as to what he is, but most of what we know about him right now looks grim. My doctors have said to prepare for cancer, but in the same breath point out that thyroid cancer is the “best” kind to have. I’m not without my optimism, but I’ve allowed the pre-diagnosis to settle into my bones. It’s the only way I can make the next series of choices and handle the wait for the official signature on what we mostly already know. Accepting things is what lets me breath in. It’s what has let me dig deep in myself to tolerate the unexpected pain of the biopsy as well as the fear. And make no mistake I’m scared. The pretty statistics about how thyroid cancer is easy to treat don’t work as a balm for me. My body is betraying me. There is no salve for that.
But there is something good about Frank. He’s making me truly look at myself and my feelings, to evaluate the world in terms of time and place. He’s making me present. He’s making me count my blessings. Frank is painful, but he is making me truly take the time to value things. I recognize more now than I ever have that the world is bigger than me and that I can get through anything one minute, one hour, one day at a time. I’m finding my strength deep down somewhere below where the cancer lies and this all is starting to feel like a gift.
I can do this. It’s going to be okay. Life is so much more than now.