The Fear of Uncertainty

I keep sitting down to write these past few weeks and ending up with nothing.  I check my nonsensical gibberish in the notes section on my phone, think about funny or important things happening in the world, in New York or with my family.  Sometimes I just put my fingers on the keyboard and see what comes out.


Finally, I think  I have figured out the issue:  There is something else on my mind.  Something I hadn’t planned on mentioning on here.  But somehow nothing else can squeeze itself past and onto the screen.  So, I give in.

Right before our big European vacation in September Carlitos had a pretty bad cold.  My mom noticed a lump on the side of his neck just afterward.  We thought it was probably a swollen lymph node so I decided I would take him to the doctor after the trip if it was still there.  As soon as we returned, we all came down with a pretty nasty sinus infection. We literally all began sneezing on the airplane ride home.  I then noticed a lump on my neck, too, which I obviously assumed was another swollen lymph node.

To be on the safe side, we decided to have Carlitos’ lump checked out since it was still somewhat visible.  When the pediatrician checked him out and told me she was certain that it was a swollen lymph node I felt so relieved.  Lumps are scary.  Lumps on your kids are…more than scary.

I then laughed and told her that she had saved me a trip to the doctor, too, since I also had a lump that I could feel in my neck.  Having had such a doozy of a sinus infection, mine must be left over swollen lymph nodes, too.   I passed my hand over my lump as I laughed with relief and she suddenly stopped what she was doing and looked directly at me.

“Is that where you feel a lump?”


She didn’t take her eyes off of mine and calmly said, “There are no lymph nodes in that spot.”  Still a little slow on the uptake, I asked her if that meant there was no way my lump could simply be a swollen lymph node.  She told me I should still go see my doctor, again with an eerily calm voice.  Again, I asked her if there was any way that mine was also related to my recent sinus infection.

“You need to go see your doctor.”

Okay, okay, point taken.

On the bright side, Carlitos was totally fine.  On the other hand, his doctor, who has never seemed concerned a single time – no matter how many times I bring the boys in with rashes, lumps, bumps, fevers, pain, or any other symptoms – suddenly appeared pretty concerned about me.

I made an appointment with my doctor and they did all of the necessary blood work.  They also had me come back in for a sonogram.  Sidenote: Nobody on the planet has a better poker face than a sonogram technician. Man, they’re good.  I hope they spend their vacation days in Vegas making serious bank.

A week and a half later they called me in for the results.  Like a big dummy, I asked her why she couldn’t just tell me over the phone.

We all know we want a fat envelope instead of a thin one when receiving mail from college admissions offices.  And we all know we want the doctor to tell us over the phone that all tests came back fine.  Being called back into the office isn’t a great sign.

Here is where it all gets kind of blurry.  I don’t like blurry.

I already knew that I had some nodules on my thyroid.  When I was 21-years-old a doctor found them and after a bunch of tests they did a biopsy on one of them which came back benign.

This time, it seems like they found nodules and cysts of significant sizes.  I mean, there is one that I know is pretty big since I can feel it from the outside and all. Outside of that, I don’t really understand what everything means and just how nervous or calm I should feel.  Right away I asked my doctor if I would have to get another biopsy.  I was thrilled when she said no.

Well, thrilled until she told me I had to get a nuclear scan and uptake and also gave me a referral for an Endocrinologist.

What?! I thought you said this sonogram doesn’t mean anything certain concerning cancer! Why are you already sending me to a cancer doctor?!

She (barely) refrained from rolling her eyes.  She could not, however, stop herself from placing a dunce cap on my head.

Okay, she didn’t actually put a dunce cap on my head.  But there was *some* exasperation in her voice as she had to explain to me that Endocrinologists deal with thyroid issues.  Oncologists deal with cancer.

Oh. Yeah.  Totes knew that.

Next up on my ‘concerning radar’: Umm, did you say nuclear scan. What the what? That doesn’t sound fun, positive or safe, frankly.

She talked about ‘hot’ versus ‘cold’ nodules.  Thyroid issues.  Cancer.  Surgery.  She is, of course, sure I am fine. (That’s usually why people order scans with the word ‘nuclear’ in them, right?  Because they are certain you are fine. Mmm hmmm…)

All of that being said, I truly do think I am fine.  I have tried to keep my ‘Googling’ to very scientific, informative, medical websites that simply clarify what a nuclear scan is and when it is used.  It’s always best to refrain from chat threads when trying to determine how scared you should be for just about anything in life.  Betsyhearts345 with the avatar that looks oddly similar to Kate Gosselin always has a sister who died in some horrible way after having the same symptoms you are researching.  And forget about Google images.  ALWAYS a bad idea.  Google images can give you heart palpitations and a certainty you are about to die simply by typing in ‘hangnail.’

Honestly, my main concern is my kids.  The kids I already have and the third one we still want to have.  I can convince myself that everything is going to be fine, but even the slightest possibility of something being wrong is terrifying in terms of my kids.  I can’t bear even the tiniest chance of leaving them this young.  And I feel sadness at the idea of something getting in the way of us trying for a third child.

Right now everything is so confusing and uncertain that I just keep wavering in between mocking myself for feeling panicked and then chastising myself for not taking this seriously enough.  Thankfully, the test takes place today and tomorrow, so it shouldn’t be long now before I have some more concrete answers and information.  It’s much easier to manage your feelings and reactions when you know to what you are reacting.  Or so I hope.

In the meantime, I am also secretly hopeful I will be left with a bit of a nuclear glow that lasts long enough to really add some pizazz to my outer space Halloween costume.

Silver linings, folks.  They always exist.

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9 Responses to The Fear of Uncertainty

  1. sims says:

    Hey Annie, I read all of your posts and you were either brave to write this one and/or needed an outlet to let out emotion. Big scary stuff nobody wants to deal with for sure but it sounds like you have your priorities right.

    Wishing you best of luck, get nuked and go home and forget about this. My Dublin gal just had a similar scare – lumps, tests, scary stuff. She’s here now in Gozo relaxing with a clean bill of health.

    Lots of Love to you and your family
    sims (Gozo edition)

  2. Zoë says:

    I’m so glad you are taking care of yourself and seeing doctors and getting the tests you need. I think that’s all you can do–and once you’ve done that, just try to control your fears and not let your fears control you. Sounds like you’re on the right path, Annie.

  3. Shannon says:

    Praying and sending good, thoughts- feel ’em?

  4. Sims – Thanks for the comment, support and love. I do have a feeling this will all be alright in the end, but the testing and waiting is no picnic.
    Thanks again. xo

  5. Zoe –
    Exactly. Just doing my best to remain calm until we have the full picture. And thinking good thoughts. 🙂

  6. Shannon –
    Thank you. Yes, I do. I really do. 🙂

  7. Wow! That is intense! I am glad that you are taking care of yourself – both medically with the tests and mentally by writing about it. Hang in there! xoxo

  8. Erin – Thank you on both fronts. xo

  9. Integrator says:

    Hot nodules are 99% benign and cold nodules are 95% benign. The 4% difference is NOT worth the RAI test (which exposes your thyroid to subsequent amount of cancer causing radiation). The ultrasound evaluation of the nodule can show some features based upon which the FNA can be recommended:
    • Microcalcification
    • Increased blood flow in the center
    • Irreguar borders
    The combination of all features indicates 25% risk for the malignancy, not 50%
    In addition frequency shift in ultrasound machine can indicate nodule where no such nodule exists!
    Best regards!

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