Nothing Was Wrong
I couldn’t live with you, but can I live without you?
Of course, the obvious answer here is ‘yes’. Of course I can live without you. And it’s not because I’m “strong” or “powerful” or any of that. It’s because I don’t have a choice: you’re gone. And I have to keep going.
I don’t even know where you are right now! The last I heard, you were in Pennsylvania somewhere. We’ve been there before! You were much smaller then. I can’t believe you went back without me!
I knew there was a cyst in my neck. It’s been there for many years. But the doctors didn’t tell me it was on my thyroid. And I didn’t ask. I was young, and I knew nothing was wrong.
When I moved to England, the cyst got, larger after a miscarriage. Losing a baby at 23 weeks caused me a lot more concern than my neck cyst. A trip to the doctor told me little. He said he never seen anything like this before. He looked through a tiny medical book for a few minutes, and then told me that it was a cyst on my Ã¢â‚¬Ëœswallowing muscle’. He sent me home with antibiotics, despite me telling him that the cyst was there for years. I decided that his diagnosis was all right. I knew nothing was wrong.
Then I moved back to America. Nearly every visit to a doctor resulted in a blood test for my thyroid. It seemed almost all of them were worried. I had little signs that indicated there might be a problem. The cyst, weight gain, depression. But again, all the tests came back fine. And I knew they would anyway! Because nothing was wrong.
I started hearing about medical problems from my family. My dad had thyroid problems, and my sister had thyroid problems. I even heard that my grandmother and my aunt had thyroid problems. It was surprising, but I, wasn’t alarmed. I just had a cyst! Nothing was wrong!
But you, thyroid: you seemed to get upset when I got pregnant again. I started feeling choked by you. However I didn’t bother asking the doctors about it anymore. Why should I keep paying for the doctors to continually tell me that I’m fine? I was just hoping that the cyst would fade over time. Perhaps at this point I was just convincing myself that nothing was wrong.
Thyroid, do you remember how things changed? Do you remember the moment when I realized that I should be more concerned about you? It was during a routine prenatal visit. It all started with the look on my doctor’s face, when her eyes moved to my neck and saw the huge lump you created. The conversation moved away from my baby. I realized that something was wrong.
I had to wait until after the baby was born to get more checkups on my neck. However my doctor went on a leave of absence. I had to see another doctor. I had an ultrasound which informed me that I now had multiple cysts on my thyroid. And it all seemed like a waste of time: my new doctor told me that they “generally don’t do anything” about this condition. I was devastated. I was angry! I was depressed. You win this round, thyroid.
But you know, thyroid…. you went a little too far. You embarrassed me, in our new family photos. You gave me pain, you made it harder for me to breathe, and you prevented me from taking care of my baby as much as I wanted to. My first doctor didn’t have a scared look on her face for no reason. You had to be fixed.
So I called my original doctor. I didn’t know where she was, but she was the only one who would listen. It took me over two months, but I finally got a return call from her. She was back, and we did another blood test. I was suddenly producing too much thyroid hormone. She then scheduled me to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor.
This was getting serious! He didn’t like you much either, thyroid! In fact, he told me that you would have to go. I was certainly not expecting to hear that I would have to break up with you like that! But I knew it as well. Cysts can often come back after being drained, and there were too many. It would have been painful to get them drained, and it wouldn’t fix my new hyperthyroidism. I went to see an endocrinologist as well. She confirmed our breakup.
But should I do it, or just say no? By this point you are causing me a lot of pain. My ears are starting to hurt, and it’s painful to hum or sing. But I can’t afford to have you removed. I have no insurance. I already have a pile of bills from having the baby.
Well guess what thyroid? Not even that can stop me! I saved up the money for the down payment! You are going to go! And I’m not even worried! The surgery will be easy, just like getting my appendix out. And then I’ll feel so much better! Yeah, right.
Things have actually been scary after you left me, thyroid. This is not like getting my appendix out at all. The surgeon… he used both hands to describe your size. 125 grams! You were pulling my vocal cord nerve like a bow string. And you had grown underneath my breastplate. They didn’t see this in the ultrasound and were very surprised. It doesn’t seem good when the doctors are this surprised.
The wound is healing fine. But when I went to get the stitches removed, the surgeon mentioned another surprise. Cancer. It was found in the area under my breastplate. No one knew. The surgeon recommended a radioactive iodine treatment, and then he left the room. They really want to make sure every little piece of you is gone, thyroid!
But is this how patients are usually told about cancer? Is it silly that I expected something more? Some kind words, some emotional support? Something!?
So this is where you left me, thyroid. In-between treatments, in-between doctor visits. Scared, and unknowing of my next step. Is my journey without you going to be tougher than the one I had with you? I don’t know where I will go from here, but I know I will figure it out.
(Bio) My name is Erika Abbott. I’m 27 and just getting my life started. I have just earned my first college degree. I have just had my first baby. And I have just been told that I had cancer. I’m not ready for this! I wanted to share why I had my thyroid removed, as I hope that it will help me reach out and meet others with similar stories. This is a letter to my thyroid, where I explain my many years of misdiagnoses, up to where I am right now. My Facebook page.