Pain In the Neck

closeup photo of a senior woman's neck

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By LAVERNE H. BARDY

(50PlusWire) My primary doctor is exceptionally thorough. Every time other doctors prescribe me tests like x-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds, or CT scans, I have the results sent to him. I believe it is prudent to keep him informed of all aspects of my health.

Or is it? 

With rare exception, each time my primary doctor views my forwarded test results, he spots something unrelated to the reason I had the test, and, just like that, my life turns upside down.

I had trans aortic valve replacement surgery and had the x-rays sent to him. What made me think he was going to stuff them into his file cabinet without first scrutinizing them? The next thing I knew, he called me to his office, where he reported my chest x-rays showed something amiss with my thyroid.

Before I even had a chance to gulp, an endocrinologist took five biopsies of my thyroid. Test results showed a 50-50 possibility of it becoming cancerous.

What does someone do when test results indicate the chance of developing cancer is just as good as the chance of not developing it? Did it make sense to have surgery for something that presented itself as a “maybe, some day?” But could I live with the threat of possible future cancer dangling over my head? 

I had large nodules on both sides of my thyroid, but further tests indicated they were fine. Nevertheless, I was advised to have the entire thyroid removed. I had many sleepless, indecisive, terror-filled nights.  

I’ve had countless surgeries. Admittedly, I’m always overcome with dread beforehand, but I’d known those surgeries were necessary and would result in improving the quality of my life. This time, however, I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought of having surgery when I felt terrific, and my alleged problem might never develop into anything.

We set a surgery date, but I developed a urinary tract infection so needed to reschedule. Then, I had diverticulitis and had to change the surgery date once again. Each cancellation came with a mixture of relief and dread.  

After rescheduling for July, I soon realized the surgery would keep me from enjoying my pool. I phoned the surgeon and, with trepidation, asked if I could reschedule one more time, imploring him not to slit my throat beyond what was required for the Thyroidectomy.

We agreed the surgery would take place in early November.

Desperation can lead to unconventional thinking, and I found myself pleading for prayers and positive thoughts on Facebook. While I am not religious, I believe thoughts, messages and prayers do, somehow, travel into the stratosphere and land where they are meant to. I’d had favorable responses to prayer in the past and had faith in its remarkable results.

I received several hundred warm and loving responses, each promising to pray for my peace of mind and pain-free recovery.

As I rolled into the operating room, I heard myself joking with nurses and doctors. Miraculously, but not surprisingly, every ounce of fear had vanished. After surgery I waited for pain to creep in. It never happened. I’d had my neck slit, my thyroid, two large nodules and two parathyroids that had become tangled removed — yet I was pain-free.

It was the ugliest scar I’d ever seen. Before the surgery, I recalled someone had asked whether I preferred to be pain-free or have a lovely looking scar. At the time, pain-free had seemed like the obvious answer. But, after looking at the grotesque lumps across my throat, I now questioned my decision because, looking as I did, I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to leave my house before spring.

Eight days later I awoke to small strings of gook dangling from my sutures. I gently pulled on each stretchy piece of what I realized was glue and was left with nothing more than a thin scratch.

I asked my surgeon how it was possible he could cut my throat, remove all that he did, and leave me with no scar and zero pain. He said he didn’t know, because it was uncommon for people with this surgery to not have pain.

I, of course, knew my pain was nonexistent because of the hundreds of prayers and positive thoughts sent my way — a miracle I have come to accept.

The pathology report showed I am cancer-free, which thrills me. But, while I wait for thyroid meds to kick in, my new voracious appetite has me shoveling food into my mouth faster than a cheetah on speed. 

I will not be mentioning this to my primary doctor. ISI


Laverne began writing her column, “Laverne’s View,” for a regional New Jersey newspaper, “Fifty Plus Monthly,” in 1999. Visit her website: www.lavernebardy.com, or email her at [email protected]

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