My friend Colleen texted me this afternoon, out of the blue, and reminded me that six years ago this morning, I was being wheeled into surgery to have a pesky lymph node removed. It was another step on a journey that started two years before when my family doctor said the words, “Unfortunately, the biopsy showed a malignancy.”
It was thyroid cancer, which is the kind of cancer you would want to choose if we had choice in such things – most people die with thyroid cancer, not of it – but nobody ever really wants to hear the word malignancy, amirite? It’s super treatable, but you still have to be treated. It’s still nobody’s idea of a good time.
As it turned out, my particular case was, in the considered and erudite words of my endocrinologist, “very interesting and kind of weird.” Usually they take the thyroid out and do a radioactive iodine treatment and it’s gone. In my case, the bloodwork kept showing cancer hanging out somewhere in my body, but nobody could find it for a couple of years. (It was hiding in the aforementioned lymph node way up by the corner of my jaw.)
I hate surgery. I hate anesthesia. I hate the blasted IV machines that beep all night long, and the smell of that soap they use everywhere, and that you have to bother the nurses for every little stupid thing. But I hated all that less than I hated two years of going to the doctor every however many months and hearing that they still couldn’t find whatever it was that was messing up my bloodwork, and oh by the way, it seemed to be growing. So I was really hoping, and also hardly daring to hope, that this might be the end. That they might have found the leftover cancer and that they were going to rid me of it for real.
And they did.
So far, of course. I still have to be monitored, and I guess I am still technically considered a thyroid cancer patient, but right now it has all fallen to the level of an irritation. Something I have to do twice a year with the blood tests and the trying to get scheduled in a busy office and the hour-long drive to his office, and it’s annoying, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it. Or even thinking about it.
So possibly the best bit about that text was that it was a total surprise. It made my day. It was lovely to realize that it was already six years behind me, and lovelier still to realize that it was so far off my radar.
These six years. They have been wonderful and dreadful and goofy and marvelous.
I have gotten to live them largely without thinking about the word malignancy courtesy of good doctors and some luck and the grace of God, and man, how great is that?
I am so glad I got that text today. I’ve been smiling ever since.
It’s like when you have a toothache and you finally get the tooth fixed and you walk out of the dentist’s office thinking oh man, do I feel good and I will not EVER take this feeling for granted again I swear. And of course a couple of days later you’ve forgotten the entire thing and you’re mad because some jerk is tailgating you.
This happens to all of us because we are human and also because we seem to be kind of dumb.
Me, I’m just having a little visit back to the time right after the toothache goes away, and it feels glorious. I’m going to go now and live my ridiculous, awesome life while I’m still high on the feeling. If you can dredge up some post-toothache aura, you should too. (It’s pretty fun.)