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1.20.2012

Things That Go Bump In My Throat: Fear of Thyroid Cancer Recurrence



Worrying about a cancer recurrence.

Now that it is January, I cannot ignore my cancer. I was supposed to get scanned this month to see if the radiation worked or not, but I am waiting until I can get insurance. There is a lot of paper work involved. My family keeps asking me about the scan. The question in the back of my mind is on the front burner, smoking and smelling a bit overdone.

It may seem a little crazy to put this off to save money, but I am a step below flat broke right now. Also, if the cancer is still there, it probably means more radiation. No one has spoken of this as something critical, at least not critical enough where a month of waiting would make a difference.

But sometimes I get pains in my throat that alarm me. It started aching last night, so I started feeling my neck with my fingers. Before cancer, touching my neck was not any different from scratching my nose or tapping my chin. Now it repulses me. It feels different--lumpy in all the wrong places and empty in others. I imagine it would be like feeling your spine and realizing there are missing or out-of-place vertebrae.

Last night I was pressing on my neck and it felt sore and lumpy and a lot like the moment my mother-in-law felt the nodules on my thyroid. It only took the thought, “is this the cancer again?” and I was crying.

They might just be swollen lymph nodes. Or maybe the trachea feels different when not wrapped with a thyroid. But sometimes the very fact that I have to question these things makes me sad. Sometimes I am a sad, lonely, self-pitying mess. And then I feel guilty about being scared and mad about feeling guilty and—POOF—I am back at day one of my diagnosis. It has been 241 days and I am not an ounce braver.

For instance, I am cliffophobic. It is a kind of acrophobia (that I have made up). I am not afraid of heights, but put me near narrow mountain passes, or any part of a mountain where I can see straight down and I will cower in a corner. Facing cancer has not made my fear of heights go away. According to my husband, this is a fear that I should just “get over.” According to Wikipedia, it is a natural, inborn fear that many people share and a part of our evolutionary survival skillset.

I feel like the reaction we have to cancer is like that. We know how deadly it is. We know people who have suffered and died under its oppression. We know that there are yet no cures. We don’t want to believe it could happen to us but we take steps to prevent it anyway. I am not going to tell you to “get over” being afraid. I don’t think it is possible. If you give into the fear long enough to have a good cry, it will not be the end of the world. But it is good to remember that having cancer is also not the end of the world.

2 comments:

  1. After the radiation the cartilage of trachea and voice box may get inflamed and turn into bone-like tissue also, the hard fibrous tissue can form near thyroid capsule.
    The very primitive test is to check if the new mass moves during swallowing; you even can do a short video and watch it to determine that. Thyroid mass will move lymph node usually stays a the same place.
    If you cannot get WBS just get CT scan of the neck, or ultrasound which are less expensive.
    Best wishes!

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  2. Thank you Professor! This is excellent information. I forgot about the swallow test, which is usually the first step towards a thyca diagnosis. Being able to do your own inspections/ neck-checks really helps with maintaining sanity!

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