Friday, September 27, 2013

I do this to myself

The last time I found myself turning to Google to diagnose myself I swore that I had throat cancer. I texted my close friends and my sister and sister-in-law who are nurses and sent them a picture of the lump protruding from my neck; Do you think I could have cancer? I Googled some more. I stood on my bathroom vanity with a flashlight and obsessively looked down my throat, feeling the lump near my collarbone over and over and over. Photographing it. Googling more. I thought maybe I was just being a hypochondriac and almost didn't even get that lump examined.

After several ultrasounds and biopsies and one doctor telling me that in all of the fine needle aspirations he's done only about 3% of the nodules he sees turn out to be cancerous, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Last night after two episodes of Breaking Bad, one containing a pretty graphic scene of Walt's tumor removal, I sat up in bed feeling terrified. Something clicked in me and I started feeling the gaps between my ribs, tracing my ribs. I have had a dull ache in my ribs since I was pregnant with Dylan three years ago. That rib pain was severe for both of my pregnancies and it's remained a constant ache. My PCP said, "It's just pregnancy" and so I've kind of learned to ignore the pain over the years. I only feel sore when I sit a certain way or if I rub my ribs too much or if one of the kids sits on my stomach.


That's where it hurts. I've been staring in the mirror and can see that it is a bit larger than my right rib but I couldn't get a very clear picture of the size difference. (Ps. This is a photo of me sticking out my ribs as far as possible. I'm bony but not that bony)

The Internet is no place to go when you have cancer already and you think maybe you might have something else wrong with you because you might stumble upon gems like this:

"Each year, about 100,000 Americans with cancer find out that the cancer has spread to their bones. This is called bone metastasis, or "bone mets," and it's different from cancer that starts in the bone. Cancer that leads to bone metastasis may have started in your breast, your prostate, your lungs, or other parts of your body. Odds are, bone pain brought this metastasis to your attention. You may wonder how this could have happened, especially if you received early, aggressive treatment for your cancer and any "renegade" cancer cells. And you may wonder what's on the horizon for you. Cancer that has metastasized to the bone is incurable but treatable." (source)

Holy shit. Do I have bone mets? That means that my cancerous thyroid cells travel through the bloodstream to the bone and form a new tumor. But wouldn't that show up on my whole body scan? A WBS picks up a tracer dose of radiation and detects the uptake of my thyroid cells so wouldn't that show a bone metastasis? Google Goole Goole. Apparently Google says "nope", I'd need a bone density scan.

And then I think, well maybe I have osteosarcoma. A dear friend of mine died from bone cancer just a few weeks ago. She discovered her tumor after feeling hip pain post pregnancy. Today I was sitting on the couch feeling my ribs and thinking to myself, "You're just freaking out about nothing. It's a muscle strain or a fractured rib, not cancer" but instead of allowing myself to brush this fear aside I called the doctor and scheduled an appointment for Monday. Something that Scarlett wrote to me before she died is going to stick with me for the rest of my life: "I'm so happy you're doing so well post treatment. Just make sure to keep an eye on things and if you feel like something's not right don't be afraid to see your doc or at least talk to his nurse."

We've already spent so damn much on medical bills that any treatment I receive from now until the end of the year is at a greatly reduced cost so there is absolutely no reason for me to wait here, terrified, thinking that I've got an incurable cancer. This could turn out to be something as simple as a strained muscle or a fractured rib. My surgeon said something to me that gets me through moments like this. Back when I met with him to remove the stitches from my neck, about a week after my thyroidectomy, he said, "Your margins are clear. I think you are going to live a long and healthy life." And he is a total thryoid cancer expert and is chairman of surgery with every qualification under the sun, so I'm going to trust my surgeon and the results of a new body scan and not rely on Dr. Google.

It's probably nothing.