Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

While I Wait

The only thing worse than being told by your doctor than “I want you to have…” is waiting after you have had…

I am probably well into triple digits of medical tests done to me over the years.  To the uneducated and ill-informed, I would be one of those patients putting a strain on medical costs.  To my daughters, the tests are what keep their father alive.  So for the fifth time in four years, and the fourth time over the last year, I am faced with the possibility of another medical malady thanks to the cancer treatments that saved my life.  Of course, that means another expensive test.

Admittedly, I can be a bit of a baby, in fact, go into a full-blown panic attack when it comes to the sight of a syringe.  Surgical stuff, no problem.  You want to go in through where?!?  Problem.  Needle what?  Uh oh.  There are countless stories of my scenes with syringes.  But for this particular test, the needle will be going into my neck.

An ultrasound of my thyroid reveals a nodule, a solid something something with vascular yada yada.  I actually lost all track of what was being said to me, once I heard the word biopsy.  But having had exposure to radiation to treat my Hodgkin’s Disease decades ago, especially to my neck area, left me with an increase risk of thyroid issues.  Out of all the late side effects I have had to deal with over recent years, the thyroid has not really been on the radar before.  I have been on Synthroid (Levothyroxine) for hypothroidism courtesy of my treatments, even before I finished the treatments.

A needle biopsy (technically referred to as a Fine Needle Aspiration – FNA) had been ordered a couple of weeks ago.  Clearly the needle would be going into my neck.  I had a needle in my neck before, actually it was a port, during my heart surgery, but I was out cold for that.  I knew I would be awake for this one.  It can take up to a half an hour just to draw blood from me because of my irratiional aversion to needles.  But in spite of the circumstances, there is a calmness about this particular test.  I have done my research, anesthesia, the biopsy lasts less than a minute, extremely small gauge needle (thickness).

I arrived at MSKCC yesterday, not having a good start to my day.  I overslept in spite of two alarm clocks.  So I missed my train, to catch my bus to NYC.  I now had to drive, and because it was later in the morning, I was going to hit major traffic, especially at the Lincoln Tunnel.  I needed to get to this appointment on time.

I did arrive on time, in fact a little early.  Okay, got the karma back on track.  I put the robe on so as not to get my shirt messy.  Why is it that in the same hospital network, there are different quality gowns you make us wear?  Anyway, the tech comes in, does another ultrasound to show the doctor, and then the doctor comes in.  I’ll call him, Dr. G.  He proceeds to tell me what he has probably told hundreds of patients, “I do not like to use anesthesia.”  Cue the tire sounds of screeching to a screaming halt.  Normally, I would have been back on the NJ Turnpike before he even got to the next sentence.  “It is a very small needle.  If I inject an anesthetic first, there is a chance that could cause a pocket of air, which would make it difficult to guide the needle with the ultrasound wand.  Besides, does it make sense to give you a needle (a bigger one) just to do the small one?”

Surprisingly, it is harder for me to eat vegetables than it is to have tolerated this particular test.  Although clearly one thing that made it easy, I did not check out the surroundings before I got on the table.  The last thing that I wanted to see was the equipment that would be used on me, especially the needle.  Prior to my radiation therapy, I had four tatoo dots placed on me to line up the linear accelerator (the radiation machine).  I assumed this would be the same level of discomfort, but maybe a little more intense as I have had a bone marrow biopsy and know what is involved in aspiration.  All that had to happen then, was make sure the insertion point did not swell up with blood (a hematoma), or get infected (something I do not take for granted not having a spleen).

I will be okay with any diagnosis or none.  I will be okay with any plan of treatment or correction, or none.  But some things do concern me that this has the potential to be something serious.  A needle biopsy on a smaller sized nodule than usually performed.  A phone call from a very close, trusted, and valued family physcian following up on a report for a test that was not ordered by her, but results shared.  I am trying not to get ahead of myself.  You would think with my being so cooperative in such a potentially stressful situation, karma would give me a break, and an earlier phone call with the results.  Yet here I wait.  As long as I get them before the weekend.  That really would suck.

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