Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Fuck Happened

It was a weird couple of days.

We woke up at 4:30 in the morning - my wife, my brother, and me - and drove to the hospital. In a small room, I stripped down to just a hospital gown and was wheeled into the pre-op room.

There were maybe a dozen of us in that room, all in beds, all nervous as balls. Someone was having hip replacement surgery, and someone was having something major done to their spine. They isolated us with curtains and sent in a mini parade of surgery players; nurses and anesthesiologists and the surgeon himself. One of the nurses gave me a quick shot in the arm and then hooked up an IV drip, and even though they told me nothing was in the drip but regular fluid, I mysteriously felt very peaceful and calm.

The last thing I remember is that they told me I was going to get a cocktail in my IV, and I'd probably have some amnesia. From there? Felt like maybe five minutes passed and then I was wheeled into another room. I remember being suddenly, unexpectedly awake, and I really had to use the bathroom. They gave me a little jug to pee into, only the curtain that shut off the rest of the people in the recovery room was stuck, and I was not prepared to deal with any of it.

What's the pain level of a total thyroidectomy like? Surprisingly, not much. I did have a couple of pain pills because I was afraid it'd get worse, but it's right between Crick in the Neck and Pretty Intense Bruise. Probably the worst part was being in a hospital bed meant for someone two inches shorter than me, which left me with some aches and pains. The second worst part was the boredom, and third was having two drains poking out of my neck. I got used to them really fast, only every time I got up to go to the bathroom, I could see this open gash in my neck with bloody tubes hanging out, and it was gruesome.

I couldn't sleep. The election was going on, and no one knew what was happening, and everyone online was freaking out miserably, which is not what I needed. My brother left that evening to go home, and I spent the afternoon trying to sleep and failing, then reading a book, then checking my phone. At regular intervals, nurses came to check my blood pressure and to make me drink calcium stuff, which is surprisingly tasty. (Actually, everything at Williamson Medical Center was kind of tasty. Think passable meat and three place.)

I'm home, and I'm kind of groggy, and I had a panic attack last night, but I think that I'm already feeling ten thousand times better. About the surgery, at least. The fuck happened in this election.

Monday, November 7, 2016

It's almost over!

Twenty-four hours from now, surgery will be underway. Voting will be underway. And hopefully, by tomorrow night, all of this will be over.

Emotionally exhausting. That's what this month has been.

But everyone's been great. My team is taking over while I'm out. My family's coming up to watch Audrey. I feel like... everything is going to be okay.

I just need to get through the next 48 hours. That's doable. I'll post again once I'm out; I want to tell you about my experience in the hospital, how recovery is, and all of that. This may be the most boring entry I've ever written. BUT LOOK, I'm nervous. This is me checking in before everything goes haywire. I'm okay now. I'll be okay again in two days.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Today, I was thinking about how some comic books have one-off storylines about alternate dimensions, pretty much the same as the normal continuity except for a handful of things that are absolutely ridiculous. Like, maybe Batman is actually an enormous bat, and he dresses like a person to scare the bat criminals. I don't know.

What gets me is that no one in those alternate dimensions thinks that all their dimension's shit is crazy. They roll with it. The planet is ruled by a race of Superpeople from Krypton. Or maybe Tony Stark is a closet alcoholic who got hit with some radioactive starch and now he's Ironing Man. It sucks, but what are you going to do about it.

This whole YEAR has felt like we've all been pulled into Earth B. I saw an albino squirrel playing around at the park. Twice. David Bowie died, and he's an immortal. Prince died from an overdose! Donald Trump is running for President, and I've heard maybe ten minutes in total over the past six months where he didn't sound like a hallucination brought on by glue-sniffing.

Thyroid cancer feels like an extension of Earth-B. About 0.005% (yes, one five thousandth of a percent) men get thyroid cancer in a year. That math might not line up; I don't know. It's about ten thousand men in the United States per year, and there's a male population of around 190 million. That's some odds right there.

I met with the surgeon last Thursday, and he had the weary air of a man who has already done a dozen operations by noon. "All I do is thyroid stuff," he said. "Not all cancer. But look at my scheduling book." He flipped through page after page, and I started feeling guilty about complaining about my Outlook calendar. "All thyroid stuff." He set me up for November 8th. Election day. Thanks, Earth-B.

The plan is, they knock me out around 7 AM and start the surgery. I should be awake around, hopefully, lunchtime. Then I stay in the hospital for 24 hours, and then I go home and rest for a week. Meanwhile, they slice up my lymph nodes to see if the cancer's metastasized, and treatment continues from there - if it has, I get radioactive iodine and hide from everyone for a week, and if it hasn't, just thyroid hormone.

None of it sounds BAD, per se, but there's something about someone cutting out a pretty important organ from my neck that makes me feel... gross.

I came into work Friday, and a bunch of people on my team pitched in and filled my office with amazingness, which made me feel kind of sniffly and emotional. I don't know, LOOK AT THIS MAGIC. Sigh. Okay, Earth-B. I don't have a choice, so I'm going with this. At least it's not the nasty Earth-C where Donald Trump actually wins. 

Monday, October 3, 2016


I kind of expected to wait for days and days for an answer, but the biopsy was only Thursday and I got the call first thing this morning. It was not one of those really satisfying calls where you get a lighthearted nurse or a stern doctor. It was like, "Well, unfortunately, we don't like the signs of what we saw and it looks a lot like cancer so the first step is going to be surgery but you're going to be okay."

Papillary cancer! At least, that's what they're going on. Details were kind of scarce, which is frustrating. Like, what stage is this? "That's a good question, but we won't know until we get in there and cut." That's what I heard, anyhow. We don't know if it's a big deal or not. The doctor SOUNDED like no big deal, but then again, I *want* them to act like it's no big deal.  

But everything I've read says that it's not that big of a deal. That's good. Thyroidectomy is the next step. They scoop it out, maybe my lymph nodes if they aren't looking great, and then it's thyroid hormone medicine and annual checkups from here on out. I have a pretty good feeling about this. I plan on eating a lot of nachos and letting my thyroid party for the next month. I'm not even sure what a thyroid even does, really. I ordered a book. We'll see.

Next step: I meet with my surgeon on October 13th. Then we find out the next-next steps.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Biopsy

Yesterday, I went in for my biopsy. It was not SUPER fun, but I guess it was better than going to work for a two hour meeting.

I showed up at the hospital half an hour early, per their instructions, and then sat in the waiting room another hour. Biopsy tip number one: bring a book. Bring two, if you're a fast reader. I filled out two small stacks of paperwork and then spent the next while doing thing you do in restaurants when you see a waiter with plates and you look at them expectantly and they walk past, except this time, it was nurses. And instead of chicken tikka masala, it was more paperwork.

When I finally got called back, they had me strip down to my waist and lie down on a medical bed. The nurse checked out my nodules with ultrasound one more time, and then she drew an LT on my clavicle to make sure the doctor didn't bone this one up and go for the wrong side of the neck. Good.

So what's a thyroid biopsy like? Here's what to expect: lots of needles, and a pain / discomfort level on the order of 'getting a cavity filled.' For my two nodules, I'm pretty sure I got twelve needles. The first three were the same stuff dentists use when they numb your jaw, and it felt about the same. The doctor waited another minute and then started drawing tissue from the nodules.

Now, one of my nodules was on the side of my neck, and that was pretty okay. Kind of like someone pressing hard on my neck. The other was right on my adam's apple, and that felt kind of terrible. Imagine someone trying to shove a ballpoint pen through your throat. At least it didn't last long. Three more injections of the pain numbing stuff and three more samples, and the biopsy was done. The actual procedure lasted maybe twenty minutes, and then I was out the door in two. Total time: TWO HOURS. Then I came home with a bandaid on my neck and felt like sleeping the rest of the day.

Monday, I should know what happens next!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Two years, three months later...

The Zoloft worked so well that I haven't written in a couple of years.  I still have the drive, but life is pulling me in other directions. That sounds too passive, but... it's mostly true. I never expected to be a manager, never expected work to be so exhausting that I just wanted to turn off my brain in the evenings.

See? The days just flow into each other, just the magma of time sort of hardening into a weird... series of surprises. Like, the other day. The pharmacy called in a prescription for me, and my nurse practitioner said that before she'd fill it, she wanted me to come in for my annual checkup.

I hadn't planned on that, or for her to find a lump in my throat. One ultrasound and two suspicious nodules later, I'm going in for a biopsy next week. I really want this to be a one-off post. Like, maybe I'll post again in two years from Sweden and remember this week as an anomaly.

The nodules aren't too big - one is 11 mm, and the other is 9 mm. And a mildly prominent lymph node, I don't even pretend to know what that means. They automatically biopsy any nodules bigger than 10 mm. What's not great is that the nodules have internal calcification and 'increased vascularity.' It means probably not a simple cyst, and probably something my body thinks is foreign (that's a little calcium shell it's building around it.) Those are red flags.

Anyway. Thyroid nodules are super common. Benign nodules with the features above are ... not AS common, but still pretty common. That's good! The odds are that this is not thyroid cancer. And if it IS thyroid cancer, then looks like they caught it really early. They take out the thyroid, give me synthetic hormones the rest of my life, and I sit back and relax. The doctor didn't quite come out and say it, but she implied that the only people who die of thyroid cancer are the ones who refuse treatment.

Biopsy is on September 29th. I don't know when the results will be in, but here we go.