“There’s a chance you have cancer but I don’t want to speculate until we know more.”

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“But don’t worry. Even if it is cancer, you’ve probably had it for months or years – waiting a few weeks for a biopsy isn’t a big deal. This cancer grows slowly.”

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Let’s back up.

I started noticing some difficulty swallowing in late spring. I felt like I had a lump in my throat – like when you have a cold – only I didn’t have a cold. My sinuses, ears and lungs were fine. I just had a sore throat and didn’t feel like I was running at 100%.

I couldn’t take my morning pills and vitamins all in one gulp of water like I used to. I actually choked on my medication a couple of times.

I felt like something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. June was going to be crazy – I was moving across town, my brother was getting married and I had a three-day sorority conference out of state.

I told myself that if I still felt off after I had gotten through my move, the wedding and the conference, that I’d get in to see my doctor.

On June 29, I saw my primary doctor. I told her that I felt like there was a fullness in my throat/neck and that I was concerned that there was something wrong with my thyroid. I’ve had hypothyroidism for almost six years and I am able to recognize the symptoms when I’m having a flare up. This seemed more than a flare up.

My doctor examined me and said it did feel like my thyroid was enlarged on the right side. She recommended I have an ultrasound to rule out any problems. She also ordered a blood test to see if my TSH counts were off. My counts were off, so she increased my meds again.

I had an ultrasound the following week. I was very nervous but the technician was really nice – even though it felt like I was suffocating as she pressed the ultrasound wand into my neck to get images of my thyroid. I was told that I would get the results in a few days.

I left the hospital nervous, but figured I wouldn’t worry about it until the results were in. I went and got my nails done and was headed home when my phone rang. It was my doctor’s nurse. Just 90 minutes after I left the hospital they were already calling with results.

The nurse said I had multiple nodules on my thyroid and that my doctor was giving me a referral to an endocrinologist. I was transferred to the specialty area to make an appointment.

I made an appointment (but couldn’t get in until August 19) and asked to be put on a wait list. I followed up with a friend who works at the medical college (and whose dad is a retired ER doc). My friend spoke to colleagues who recommended I make an appointment with one of the endocrinologists there (who happens to specialize in nodules and thyroid cancer). A friend’s younger sister who had thyroid cancer seven years ago also recommended this doctor so I called to make an appointment but I couldn’t get in to see him until September 28. I am also on his wait list.

I wasn’t handling this well – that i had all these nodules and I had to wait so long to even have a consultation. Meanwhile, the fullness in my throat is getting worse and every week i notice another head/neck position that makes me hyper-aware of these nodules.

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The next week, I got a call from the guy my doctor recommended – there was a cancellation and they got me in for an appointment. Dr. S. did an exam and asked me lots of questions. He said that my thyroid is very damaged and that the damage is irreversible. It’s enlarged all over with multiple nodules on the right side and there’s one on the left side that is 1.7cm. He said this one is suspicious – partially because of its size, but also because it’s by itself. He also said my personal health history as well as family history (aunt had thyroid cancer a few years ago and my grandpa had half of his thyroid removed a decade ago due to suspicious nodules) combined add to the suspicion.

The doctor said that it could be cancerous but he didn’t want to speculate until we did a biopsy. But he said the “C” word and I didn’t hear much else he said after that.

I do remember him saying that depending on the test results, we may take a variety of treatment paths: Surgery, additional biopsies on the other nodules, ultrasounds and close monitoring every six months.

I had a FNAB (Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy) yesterday. Guided by an ultrasound, the doctor inserted 25 gauge needles into the nodule and removed tissue. Four times. (For comparison, blood donation uses 16 or 17 gauge needles).

The first two biopsies were unpleasant but bearable. The last two were so painful. No anesthesia at all. My neck/throat hurt a lot when I left the clinic. Obviously after leaving, I got a frappuccino and went to acupuncture because my anxiety is through the roof and when you have giant needles shoved in your throat the obvious next step is to jab a bunch of needles all over your body.

The last seven weeks have been torture. My anxiety is getting out of control. I’m trying everything to remain calm.

I feel the nodules every time I swallow. Every time I turn my head. I frequently have a sore throat or hoarse voice.

On top of that, despite the increase in dosage, I am still suffering the effects of a prolonged hypothyroid flareup. I am exhausted. All.The.Time.

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It takes all I have to get through the work day. I come home and crash. On weekends, I wake up around 6 a.m. and then take my first nap around 9 a.m. Yes, I said first nap. I nap all day.

I even stayed home from work today because I’m just so tired. And my neck is sore. And my voice is hoarse. And my neck is swollen. And I just can’t.

I am working on the anxiety, thanks in part to acupuncture, essential oils/baths, prayers and meditation. But the chronic exhaustion is taking it’s toll on me mentally and physically.

The next few days will be torture as I try to get through the day while worrying about when I will receive a call from a doctor telling me if I have cancer or not. Or if things are suspicious and surgery is recommended for further investigation. It’s all nerve-racking.

Please keep me in your prayers. Send your positive thoughts and wishes for strength and faith that I can get through this.

Please also send ice cream. Preferably this:

Photo: LauraLeeMarx
Photo: LauraLeeMarx

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I need to learn how to share

I need to learn how to share.

Yes, I’m an adult and I know how to share just about everything in my life. But there’s something I have a hard time sharing.

Running.

This may sound odd, coming from someone who has a huge group of running friends – many of whom she MET through running. Even stranger to hear from someone who joined Team Challenge to train to run two half marathons… who went to practice every Sunday for months to go running/walking with others.

Yes, I have a REALLY hard time sharing my running time with others… besides Beep of course. She can run with me anytime.

Why do I have such a hard time sharing running with others?

Perhaps it’s that over the course of the last year, I’ve become accustomed to solo running. I’m not fast enough to run with my running besties. Well, I’ll meet for a group run, run with them for a minute and then my huffing and puffing slows my pace down to something more comfortable. Or, I’d join them on my bike on their long marathon-training runs.

I think this all started last summer when I was training for the Napa to Sonoma half marathon with Team Challenge. I was a run/walker. I aligned myself with the walkers, as I mostly walked, especially on the long “run” days. I didn’t really consider myself a runner. I could run for an eighth or quarter mile at a time, followed by quite a bit of walking. My body and my lungs weren’t ready for consistent running.

Now that I finally consider myself a runner, I have a hard time sharing this with anyone else. It’s like my private Amy time. I’m alone with God’s creation (outside) or trying to lose myself in the music on my iPod on the treadmill at the gym. Don’t even think about talking to me when I’m on the treadmill. Yes, guy at Bally’s who is crushing on me, I’m talking to you. There is nothing attractive about a 250-pound woman running on a treadmill. EVERYTHING is bouncing. Well maybe that’s what you’re liking, but I can assure you I do not feel pretty. So quit trying to get my number while I’m running.

I have an anxious nervous feeling in my chest when I think about actually running WITH someone. What if they’re faster than me? What if they get frustrated when I have to stop to walk? What if they don’t consider this a workout? What if I look ridiculous? What if I fail? What if they get frustrated that I don’t talk when I run? That I don’t want to talk because it will take up precious air that I could use to bust through my lungs on this run?

I’m sure my friends wouldn’t feel this way when running with me, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

I’ve gone to the gym for a treadmill running date with Annie… but for some reason that was different. We could each go at our own comfortable pace and it wasn’t a big deal. I think I was more comfortable with this too because she’s seen me at my very worst as my Team Challenge coach.

But then a friend, Katie, asked me to meet her for a run at the gym a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to try out the track at the gym. She’s new to running so I agreed. I warned her repeatedly that I was slow and took regular walking breaks. She didn’t care. She was excited to go with someone else, as she doesn’t have a lot of friends in the running community. We warmed up with a walk and I kept track of laps with my Garmin. I felt the need to apologize whenever I had to stop to walk, but she was amazing and would stop to walk a lap or two with me. One time I told her to continue running if she felt up to it and so she did one extra lap while I walked. Overall, I had my fastest time for a 3mi run on this workout with her. It was fun but I still felt awkward. I don’t know why, I just left feeling like a fool.

You see, when you’re out on your own… no one knows how long you’ve been running when you take a walk break. No one knows how far your run is. No one knows but you. But when you run with someone, there’s this feeling like I need to make sure I keep up so they don’t think I’m a loser. Maybe it’s just me, but this is a huge insecurity for me. I’m slightly tearing up as I write this and the fact that I’m tearing up makes me sad.

Yesterday I met up with one of my best friends, Rachel, who wanted to join me for my walk/run. She was so sweet and said, “Now, we will go at your pace. Whatever you want to do. I’ll go with you.” This was amazing. But, even though I was with someone I’ve known for almost 9 years, who knows more about me than most people, who knows my struggle with weight issues and fitness… Even with her I felt nervous about running. That and the fact that I forgot my inhaler at home had me saying, “You know, we’re walking at a pretty fast clip today. Let’s just keep walking fast and not run.”

Why did I do that?

Why?

Rachel, of all people, wouldn’t have judged me. But in the back of my mind, I was worried that she would. And so I settled for a fast walk instead of my prescribed walk/run.

By about mile 3 (of the 4.65 we did)… I was feeling guilty. But I also didn’t want to be all “hey, lets runnnnn” so I continued on the fast walk til we returned to her house.

I drove home, disappointed in myself for not even trying a run with her.

I picked up some lunch and headed home. I cuddled with Beep and watched some HGTV and fell asleep for a little afternoon nap.

When I woke up the intense guilt was ridiculous. I felt GUILTY for not RUNNING. There was really no physical reason for me not to run- except for the fear that I would have an asthma attack without my inhaler.

So, I got Beep’s leash and went out for a mile. We averaged 14:15 on the run that was just over a mile.
If my earlier morning “run” had been a good workout, I don’t see how I would have been able to so easily run just a few hours later.

I obviously have some issues I need to work out with this whole running solo business. Races are different… people are running with you but they’re really not. I just have never had to rely on anyone but myself on my runs and maybe that’s why I am so possessive of my precious running miles. Maybe I just can’t stand the thought of starting a run with a friend and then having to tell them to run on ahead… Maybe I need to just get over myself. Maybe I need to go back to therapy.

I don’t know the answers. I just know that I need to learn how to share.