Friday, 30 May 2008

The Cancer Chronicles. Part 4

Clicky the links for Parts 1, 2 and 3.

I had no idea what was to come next. Which was probably just as well because if I had known I think I would have run screaming from the hospital. That day was about to fall into the "worst day of my life so far" category.

One thing you need to know at this point is that I am, or was then anyway, terrified of needles. It's a ridiculous and irrational fear I know, but one I suffer from nonetheless. I'd been through quite a few blood tests by this point and I could cope as long as I didn't think about, or see, the needles. But even now I get the shakes and cold sweats whenever I have to have a blood test.

Two technicians led me into a small room with a treatment table and some computer equipment. They got me to lie on the table and then placed a pillow under my neck so that my head fell backwards and exposed my neck. I was getting pretty nervous at this point, I knew needles were going to be involved as it was a biopsy. One thing these technicians seriously lacked was a bedside manner. Without any preamble, one of them said

"I need you to keep absolutely still, hold your breathe and do not swallow whilst the needle
is in place"

"Umm....are you not going to give me any anaesthetic or anything?"

"Oh no, by the time we've given you that injection this can be all done".


By now I was a wreck. I was shaking and sweating and my heart was thumping like a train.

The technician repeated her instructions to keep still, not breathe and not swallow. Now, breathing and swallowing are reflex reactions, and very difficult not to do, especially when someone tells you not to do them.

So I took a deep breathe and tried to lie still and then, THEN, she stuck that damn needle straight into my neck.

It felt like an eternity had passed before she finished and I was so relieved when it was over. It didn't hurt but the thought of what was happening scared me silly. I had just relaxed when the technician turned to me and said

"We haven't got a good enough sample, I'm going to have to do it again".

I have never fainted in my life but at that moment I could feel the edges of my world turning black and it took every effort to keep a firm mental grip on reality, and the side of the bed, to stop me sinking into that blackness.

Finally it was done and I could leave.

Two week later followed my first appointment with the Consultant at St George's Hospital, Mr Sharma. Oh my. I think I fell a little in love with Mr Sharma. It wasn't that he was particularly handsome, although he was quite cute, but his manner with patients was so good. He made me feel like I was the only patient he had in the world and that 110% of his focus was on me every waking moment of his day. I can't tell you how much that was to help. He began by telling me that thyroid cancer was very rare and that the chances of this lump being cancerous were very slim and that I was not to worry. Funnily enough, at that stage of events, I was not that worried. In a bizarre way having all these new experiences was all quite least, it was once I'd gotten over the biopsy episode.

The bad news, however, was that the results of the biopsy were inconclusive and he would like me to have the biopsy done again.

At which point I burst into tears. The thought of going through all that again was more than I could cope with. I explained what had happened previously and he promised me this time it would be different. He suggested I speak to the consultant and ask them to talk me through what they would do. I did and she was absolutely brilliant. She explained that I would be given a local anaesthetic and that they would use ultrasound to make sure the needles went into the right place. What a different experience! The consultant made sure there was nurse sitting right by me and she literally held my hand for the whole procedure. She talked me through what was happening and I even managed to relax enough to look at the ultrasound screen to see what was happening. I won't say it was a pleasant experience but it was a lot easier to get through than the first one.

If there was a funny side to that episode it was that over the next day or two, my neck turned some interesting shades of purple with the bruising. At the same time, Himself had had some dental work done and he was missing his two front teeth whilst he waited for crowns to be fitted. It must have looked like we'd been beating seven bells out of each other!

The following week, I saw Mr Sharma again. The biopsy was again inconclusive. He explained to me that normal procedure would be to operate to remove the half of the thyroid with the lump on it so that the lump itself could be tested. For some reason, I burst into tears again. I'm not usually prone to tears but this was going to become a regular occurrence in his office. The only operation I'd ever had was a tonsilectomy when I was 5 and this operation was most definitely considered major surgery. The decision was mine but he recommended that we go ahead.

There was only one decision to make really.


  1. Good luck & all best wishes & snufflies from us here on an Irish mountain. Stockings says that he'll give you a cuddle (if I don't mind ~ he thinks he's my boyfriend!). I'm glad that they explained everything to you eventually & took better care on the second biopsy

  2. Oh AOJ, I would have been exactly the same as you, and I can't believe the bedside manner of the first two technicians. They sometimes forget that what is routine to them is soooo not routine to their patients.

  3. jeeeeeez. inconclusive again! what agony!

  4. I'm not surprised you felt emotional, having to go through that procedure twice and still an inconclusive result!
    Mr Sharma does sound as though he has the right bedside manner~ so many doctors don't seem to have any empathy with their patients!

  5. Oh good Lord! I would have been totally batty by then. Of course you were teary; who wouldn't have been?

  6. I'm having trouble swallowing. This is horrible. So awful for you. Sorry.

  7. Ok that's horrible. Thank goodness the second time around was better. What a journey!

  8. I went through exactly what you are experiencing 10 years ago - but it was worth it. After op and treatment am still here! The surgeon was a friend of ours whom we had helped put out a house fire. When Husband left me at the hospital for op he remarked to our surgeon friend "Don't set her on fire". I was so embarrassed I wanted to hide under the bed!

  9. Lindsay, this really is an historical record as I;ve been through it all already and come out the other side. I just needed to get it all written down.


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