The Needle and the Damage Done
My first husband went with me for my first biopsy. It was a cold January day in 2003, and we were in an examination room at the Cleveland Clinic. The doctor was facing away from me, preparing his instruments. When he turned around, he held in his hand the longest, thinnest, sharpest-looking needle I’d ever seen. I froze, realizing that he was going to stick the thing into my neck. He might have given me a sedative or some sort of numbing agent, but I don’t remember.
What I do remember is reaching for my first husband’s hand. I squeezed it so tightly I was afraid it might break. If I had been biting down on a bullet I would have bitten it in two. I couldn’t believe how painful something so thin could be. After what seemed like an eternity, he pulled the needle out of my throat and that was that. We’d hear something in a week or so about what the bump at the base of my throat meant.
We left the Clinic and stopped at a restaurant in Lakewood for dinner. I was exhausted when we got home.
About a week later, my first husband took a phone call from the doctor, who told him that the lab report from my biopsy was negative for a malignancy. Amazingly, I still have an email from that doctor; I wrote him asking for a clarification about his diagnosis. Here’s his response:
And that was all he wrote.
It wasn’t cancer. I had a problem with my thyroid, to be sure, but nothing that couldn’t be managed. According to the Mayo Clinic website, lymphocytic thyroiditis, in its simplest terms, means that the immune system is attacking the thyroid gland. This explained not only the lump at the base of my throat, but also the reason why I was so fatigued all the time, and why I had been gaining weight. It wasn’t cancer. But it was a skirmish: One system of my body was attacking another system, an internal struggle that had an external analogue. By September of that year, my husband and I decided to end our marriage. On the day before Thanksgiving 2003, our divorce was final.
I was living on my own for the first time in my life. I was 47 years-old.
To be continued …
Part 1: The Baby’s Nightmare
Part 2: The Nightmare Returns
Part 3: Room 101 and the Masquerading Marauder
Part 4: The Eye as Metaphor
Part 5: The Back Story
Part 6: It’s Nature’s Way
Part 7: Help From the Man on the Street
Part 8: A DES Daughter?
Part 9: Speak, Memory