It was just before six o'clock the call came. The voice on the other end was friendly but nervous, polite but apprehensive.
"Mr. L___?" she asked. "This is Dr. Chang; you saw me last week? I just got the lab results back, and we need to send you in for a biopsy."
I felt a small shudder as my world moved a little bit. I don't think I showed it too much then, though I'm sure I showed it a little. My laughter was a little forced, my joking a little harsher. It's hard to be completely natural when a doctor tells you that the lump in your throat isn't there just because your wife is so beautiful, nor because your daughters fill you with delight just by the music of their laughter, their quick minds, or the never-ending procession of art they have decorated your home with for three years.
It's hard to be completely at ease when the lump in question is about 2 centimeters across, an antiseptically metric way of saying it's nearly an inch wide, about the size of a pingpong ball, and growing on your thyroid. It's hard to be completely at ease even when you use a safely medical term like "nodule," maybe especially then, since "nodule" sounds like a Trojan horse for cyst or even tumor, words that immediately conjure images of the C-word, which is unsettling to anyone in his mid-30s.
So I won't say the C-word, though I can't help but thinking it every now and then, when it runs across my mind like an unwanted refugee from the thesaurus, looking for some place safe to stay for a while. "Nodule" sounds much nicer, and given the precise speech doctors use, it's probably more accurate anyway, even if I can't help conjuring worst-case scenarios while the world spins ever so slightly from its accustomed center.
My thyroid regulates my metabolism and also helps with thermoregulation. I know that because I looked it up in the dictionary twenty minutes ago, and because a friend of mine used to tease the Frank Burns of news editors with that information when she noticed that he always liked it a lot colder than everyone else.
What does it mean to have a nodule on thyroid? It means that next week I have to get blood work done, so the doctor can make sure my thyroid is working properly. It means I have to let a complete stranger stab me in the throat with a needle so we can find out what kind of nodule I have. It means I get to flail about a little, looking for some restored stbility and taking shelter in a Rock that is higher than I, while I wait for more information, wondering how bad it really is, and telling myself I'm really overreacting to this.
It's just after ten o'clock, and I got off the phone with one of my best friends twenty minutes ago. His voice was friendly and concerned, familiar and reassuring.
A nodule on my thyroid, eh? Well, I suppose it could be worse.