Wednesday, 1 March 2017

From Afternoon Tea to Ultrasound... Discovering the lump in my neck

I can think of worse places to start my thyca journey...

It all began on Sunday 9th August 2015, in the most unexpected of ways. A dear friend had invited me to spend a girls' chill-out weekend at her family's beach villa in Ras Al Khaimah, to catch some summer rays by the sea. I, however, with my pasty white complexion, have never been one for tanning. So I spent the majority of the day lounging in the shade, hydrating on coconut water and taking the occasional dip in the waves to keep cool in the searing UAE heat.

We had a fancy afternoon tea booking at the Waldorf Astoria at 6pm, so we headed back up to the house from the beach in suitable time to prepare ourselves. As we went to hose off our feet before stepping inside the villa, I suddenly felt a sinking feeling hit me out of the blue. I knew I was going to faint. I placed one hand on the exterior wall of the house as the world around me began to spin, and the next thing I knew, I was hitting the paving tiles. My friend carried me into the air conditioned haven of the house (good thing she's one of the strongest Crossfitters in the region!), and I woke up with an ice cold flannel on my forehead.

Putting it down to just a simple case of heat stroke, I took on plenty of water, got my body temperature back down to normal, took a cold shower, and carried on with my day. Never one to pass up the opportunity of an afternoon tea, we were perfectly on time for our booking and thoroughly enjoyed an evening of sandwiches and scones.

As if I would miss out on Afternoon Tea...

Returning home to Dubai later that night, I thought I would simply sleep off the syncopal attack (and the sandwiches and scones), but in fact it appears that what I did was grossly oversleep. I slept through my morning alarm, I slept through the first few hours of work... And when I did wake up, I had a nagging feeling that I should go to the doctor just to get checked for any adverse affects following my fainting episode.

So, on Monday 10th August, I drove myself to Medcare Hospital with the thought in mind that I may, at the very most, be suffering from a mild concussion; little did I know that my life was about to take a turn that would impact me forever. The General Doctor gave me a thorough examination - for which I am eternally grateful - and when it came to my neck, he stopped abruptly, saying: "There's something here. I need to send you for an ultrasound immediately."

He pointed out the location of the lump to me; on the left-hand side, about an inch up from the base of my neck. Not an area I would regularly touch or feel to notice any changes. He stood me in front of a mirror and told me to swallow whilst looking at my reflection. I could clearly see it move up and down as I did, like an odd sort of off-centre Adam's Apple.

Just as the doctor ordered, the ultrasound was, literally, immediate. For the reason of sheer swiftness, I am so glad that this happened to me in Dubai, where all employers are legally obligated to provide private healthcare insurance to their employees - I can't imagine how much worse the ordeal would have been had I been stuck on an endless NHS waiting list back in the UK. In fact, I don't believe my condition would have been diagnosed at all - or not nearly as early, anyway - had it happened there.

From the ultrasound it was gleaned that I had a 4.2cm x 3.6cm mass on the left lobe of my thyroid. I was then referred for a Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) biopsy - the procedure of having an enormously long, thin needle stuck into my neck and through into the nodule/tumour to collect cells for laboratory analysis - which took place a week later after receiving the approval from my medical insurance company. I was told the results would take 7-10 days to come back.

After the FNA - styling out in a hospital gown

When the hospital called just 3 days later to schedule an appointment with the surgeon first thing the next morning, it left little to my imagination. I remember walking into his office, seeing the lab results of the FNA on his desk with a 'HIGH PRIORITY' sticker at the top of the page, and 'Malignant' underlined 3 times. I knew precisely what that meant.

The surgeon was wonderful. A Syrian/German hybrid who had studied and practiced in France, he was warm, reassuring, and clear with his explanations. I felt comforted by the fact that he would be the one to do the procedure; the importance of having confidence in your surgeon when faced with something like this can never be underestimated. He told me we had two options: hemi-thyroidectomy - preferable, but not necessarily possible - and total thyroidectomy. He would schedule me for the surgery the instant an approval was received from the health insurance provider.

I remained calm, composed, and very matter-of-fact as I asked him a few questions before leaving his office. Of course I had already been Googling for all eventualities, but now I would have even more specifics to research, as that's how I like to deal with potentially earth-shattering news: by finding out any and every relative fact and possibility, and arranging them rationally in my head.

When I got to my car and drove away from the hospital, I sobbed uncontrollably for a while - but for no more than two minutes. Then I pulled myself together, met my best friend for a quick coffee and reassuring cuddle, and headed back to work. Life would go on.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this just makes me want to cry. Im so happy you can write about this put evrything in words. Im glad I have that scar that reminds me everyday all the things I have been through and helps me to be grateful for being healthy now. Keep writing please! Ariadna x