Stay with me right here. I’m going to tell a short story from 10 years ago that leads to a point!
I was scared of anything medical, even way before the stroke. I waited 8 years to get a sinus operation, 10 years to get a colonoscopy, and 11 years to get hearing aids. Then I broke my shoulder in December, but my upper arm was still swollen five months later. And, of course, I was worried.
Could it be blood clots again, this time in my arm, closer to my heart? So I decided, at last, to take action. Stress consumed me. Five months–I’m improving with age.
I went to the local imaging center in May, and the technician scanned my arm with an ultrasound and told me that I didn’t have clots. The doctor verified the result in a letter. But what no one told me was the technician went up too far and scanned my thyroid, too.
A few weeks later, I got another letter, recommending a biopsy because my thyroid had eight nodules, seven of them too small to worry about. The eighth one gave the doctor concern. I made another appointment.
The American Cancer Society says that cancer deaths in the U.S. continue to go down for lung, colon, breast, and ovarian cancers, which are responsible for most cancer deaths. However, some of the less common cancers were on the increase in the past decade, including pancreas, liver, kidney, and thyroid cancer.
A biopsy, a sample of tissue taken from the suspected site, is done in order to scrutinize it more carefully. Biopsies are done when an initial reading suggests an area of tissue looks suspicious on an imaging test. Lest you think I am straying from the issue at hand, here’s the reality: most often, biopsies are done to look for cancer.
So there I was, an uncomfortable stroke survivor, lying prone on a table and staring up at the ceiling, waiting for the biopsy to begin. My OCD took over. I started to count the square tiles, count the lights, count the square tiles again.
When the radiologist came into the examining room, as I was silently planning my funeral and after-party, the doctor showed me the needle (most commonly used on all biopsies) he would use to remove a small amount of thyroid tissue with the assistance of numbing medication and an ultrasound to identify the nodule.
“You will probably be sore after the biopsy, but the soreness should just last for a few days. Use an ice pack initially, 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and take Tylenol, and if the site becomes swollen and/or hot, you can call us at any time. A doctor is always on call,” the radiologist said. “There will be three samples taken, one at a time.” I started planning the inheritance, albeit meager, for each of the kids.
The biopsy was over in a few minutes and I took a nap when I arrived home. The pain that would “last a few days” lasted a week, with the intensity getting weaker every day. Mostly, I had a sore throat.
The test measured the amount of activity of 142 genes in the thyroid nodule to be performed only when cytopathology (the examination of cells used to diagnose nodules) was indeterminate.”
Three months later, according to schedule, I went to get another biopsy, this time with four samples, one at a time. The biopsy, like the other one, took a few minutes. I knew the drill by now. Ice pack on and off, Tylenol, nap, and the sore throat for a week. The results letter arrived two weeks later, and the letter said that no evidence of cancer was found because the nodule was benign.
Look at all the time I wasted, worrying about thyroid cancer. Three weeks to the first biopsy, then three months to the second biopsy, and then two weeks longer for the results to come. I couldn’t get the time back, but once again, a lesson learned: don’t worry until you know.
I told you the short anecdote, but there is more–Worry 2.0. All that worry, I later found out, is just plain awful for a stroke survivor, and for anyone else with debilitating conditions. And the stress was monumental!
This from Health Canada on what stress can do to “regular” people, let alone people with strokes and TBIs, for example. Looking back, I had insomnia for years and had serious errors in judgement mostly while I was miserable, gained weight, and stopped reading anything. Symptoms were the following:
- Irritability and sadness
- Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions
- Negative thinking
- Weight gain
- Loss of interest in something I used to enjoy
Stress is considered to be a risk factor in a great many diseases, including:
- Heart disease
- Bowel disease
- Mental illness
Here are several strategies to help you deal with stress. Because everyone is different, there is no single way to cope with stress. However, there are a number of approaches you can try to deal with short and long term stress, including:
- Identify your source of stress.
- Talk about your problems with a counselor and/or friends/family and that might be the way to nail down the source of stress if unknown.
- Reduce stress by exercise (if you can go it), meditation, deep breathing, and/or yoga, for example.
- Immerse yourself in reading, hobbies, and/or sports, for instance.
- Forget perfectionism and look to those things that give you success.
- Delegate to others because there’s absolutely nothing inappropriate with needing help.
All of this to say, I’m getting another needle biopsy on Friday on my thyroid because the results, which came in last Wednesday, looked “mildly suspicious.”
Get the friggin’ thing and be done, one way or another. One thing I don’t need is stress! Not anymore because I learned, albeit the hard way.