Can I Get a Discount? Part 11 in the Series "My Right Eye: A Blogger's Journey Through Cancer"
Can I Get a Discount?
I settled into my new life, unpacking boxes, shelving books, setting up my kitchen the way I wanted. I wasn't interested in dating anyone; I just wanted to discover myself first. Time passed. The following year I decided that perhaps it was time to test the waters. I explored Match.com and eHarmony without success. Friends tried to set me up, but the guy lived in Nebraska—three states separated us on the map—I knew a long-distance relationships wasn't for me. Then, nearly two years after my divorce, a friend, in town, introduced me to someone. In town. Our relationship lasted slightly more than one year. By the summer of 2006, I was on my own again. And then, that November, came the diagnosis of eye cancer—the day before I was to have my thyroid removed.
Jack: What do you say?
Joy: I'm a Jew, I'm divorced, I'm broke and I'm dying of cancer. Do you think I get a discount?
Except for the parts about being a Jew and dying, I could relate. In my own lame attempt at humor, I asked the doctor if I could get a two-for-one deal. (Ever efficient, ever thrifty, ever grasping at straws...)
The next morning, after a wakeful night, my former boyfriend drove me to the Cleveland Clinic for my thyroid surgery. He had said, when we broke up, that he would always be there for me. He was true to his word. I was grateful for his support. I would need it.
I wasn't worried about this operation. I had a great endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic, and the biopsy she performed on my thyroid, nearly three years after the first one I'd had when I was still married, did not reveal anything wrong. The ultrasound she'd taken did show that the lump that first appeared at the base of my throat in late 2002 had grown considerably; it was, in fact, pushing my trachea off to the side. I was constantly clearing my throat, and at times had difficulty swallowing. It had to go.
(What would replace the essential hormone produced by the thyroid gland? No stranger to hormone replacement therapy, I would be taking a medication called Levothyroxine. But unlike the estrogen replacement therapy I'd taken throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and much of the 1990s, I would have to take this for the rest of my life. Come to think of it, a discount wouldn't be a bad idea.)
All in all, I felt that I was in the best possible hands; the surgeon to whom my endocrinologist referred me was also wonderful. There's always the risk of complications from surgery—one concern, given the location and size of the enlarged thyroid, was whether or not my vocal nerves might be affected. But all went well, and I tolerated the operation well, spending just one night recovering at the Clinic. My son picked me up the following morning, a Saturday, and brought me home to flowers, covered casseroles, and the support of my many friends, including D, my former boyfriend.
I had created a group list on email, and D was sending updates to my friends and family. Many of them, however, expressed concern about the coincidence of my needing to have my thyroid removed and being diagnosed with eye cancer at the same time. One friend, living in The Netherlands for a year with her husband, a professor who was on a research sabbatical, sent D a reply asking for more information about the "thyroid situation" because she had been out of the loop:
"Is the malignant eye tumor associated with the thyroid problem, or is it separate? Was there a malignancy in the thyroid, also?"
To which he replied:
"Marci's thyroid enlargement was non-malignant, and (as far as anyone can tell) completely independent of the malignancy in her right eye. Marci learned about the eye cancer only Thursday, and she doesn't yet have full information, but she did use the terms "squamous" and "carcinoma." When I searched on those terms I found the sentence, 'Luckily, squamous cell carcinoma is not usually a threat to life as secondary spread (metastasis) is uncommon.'
I also wondered at the timing, but I was even more curious to know if there was any relevance to the fact that I'd had to have both of my ovaries removed 28 years earlier, in 1977. It struck me as interesting, for lack of a better word, that two pretty critical components of my endocrine system had conked out on me. When I asked my endocrinologist, she maintained that there was no connection at all. But I still wonder, even to this day.
I was recovering well. The surgery had left me with the thinnest imaginable "necklace" scar at the base of my throat. I was to take care to stay out of the sun and apply Vitamin E to minimize it. My surgeon was a true artist, and I'm grateful for her expertise. I was exhausted, but feeling more like myself with each passing day.
All I had to concentrate on now was my recovery. I had to gear myself up—physically and mentally—for my upcoming eye surgery in a few days. Oh, and await the results of the lab report on my thyroid.
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
Part 10: The Needle and the Damage Done
The Midlife Second Wife
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