Postcards From Cancerland

Like the fantastic Borderlands series, created by Terri Windling, where neither magic nor technology work as advertised and are unpredictable when combined, so is it with Cancerland.

Worlds run parallel to our own, casting long shadows that cross with ours. We may not be affected by them directly, but we all know someone who has.

I received my first postcard from Cancerland several years ago, with a short but direct message:

I see you.

Credit: © Tim Shumate - TumblrFacebookSociety6

In that case, it was a pre-cancerous polyp discovered during a colonoscopy. Caught and removed early, no longer a threat.

The second postcard, let me tell you, felt more threatening.

It’s lump, it’s lump
It’s in my neck

I’d been experiencing progressively worse hoarseness over the past months. My window to talk without symptoms was getting shorter, until the hoarseness just was; a new normal.

I went from from doctor to ultrasound, which revealed a 1.7cm nodule, with calcification and vascularity, on my right thyroid. A Fine Needle Aspiration wasn’t conclusive, but showed vague, potentially bad things. And so I met my ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.

We didn’t have concrete evidence that anything in there was bad, but what was there wasn’t normal, either. We made the decision to take out the nodule and right thyroid and see what secrets it would reveal.

Spoilers: it’s cancer.

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen some of my post-op glamour shots. Surgery went great. I stayed overnight in the hospital, and the incision is healing nicely.

Truth be told, after surgery I felt better than I have in years. The discomfort in my jaw and throat are gone. I’m sleeping better, with less restlessness, and waking up cleaner. The chronic fatigue is fa-gone.

The biopsy confirmed papillary carcinoma, the most common form of thyroid cancer, with a great long-term prognosis.

It’s lump, it’s lump, it's lump
It might be dead

I’m not out of the woods yet, though. I still need to see a specialist, and probably have more tests done, to make sure there aren’t any more tumors hiding in my neck, and a decision about whether the left thyroid needs to be removed will have to be made.

The relationship between so many chronic health issues – improved or disappeared – and the tumor is unknown. It’s a welcome relief, but I remain vigilant, walking along the wall, waiting for the next messenger to deliver a postcard from Cancerland.

Adam Israel
Author ꞏ Genealogist ꞏ Software Engineer

My interests include genealogy, cloud computing, and all things open source.

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