I was taking the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) back in October 2015 and was practicing my head to toe on myself at home. I closed my eyes and picture my Resus/Trauma room. (This is how I practice different medical scenarios)…: The patient is wheeled in on a stretcher, my team is around me…I'm so good at visualizing that I can hear the loud voices, rushed movements and panicked alarms from the monitors. I can feel my heart pounding, my breathing accelerating, everything becoming warp speed and then, just as it does in real life, it slows right down. Calm and collected I start my assessment of the patient. A is for airway - is the patient c-collared (depends on the protocol these days), alert and maintaining their airway? Jaw thrust or airway adjuncts if necessary. Look at the throat. Move on to B which is for breathing - look and listen for the bilateral rise and…
Is that tracheal deviation?
I can't possibly be THAT good at visualization.
I stare at myself in the mirror.
After realizing that it was likely my thyroid that was enlarged I did a quick swallow test (search the words 'neck check' and 'thyroid' in Google) and had the video sent to a doctor from my work (Thanks Mike!). Fortunately, I wasn’t in need of a chest tube (LOL - medical humor here), but I was in need of further investigations. He advised that I have blood work and said that I would likely need an ultrasound. I made my way to a QuickCare Clinic and the nurse practitioner organized my bloodwork, ultrasound and further follow-up with my family physician. (Mini shout out to the NPs working at those clinics - PEOPLE, GO TO THEM!!)
Fast forward to having had three rounds of blood work and an ultrasound and I find myself sitting in my doctor's office. I did watch the ultrasound being done and swore I could see micro-calcifications so I wasn't surprised when my doctor tells me I will need a biopsy. Things look a tad suspicious. "It's just in case", she adds.
More than two months later, I find myself at Cancer Care for a fine needle aspiration (biopsy). Not a place I ever wanted to be. I'm in the waiting room surrounded by posters on the walls and ads on the TV - "Living With Cancer", "Does Your Loved One Have Cancer?", "Join Our Support Group". I can't help but look around and wonder what everyone else in the waiting room is struggling with. The nurse calls my name and I make my way over to him. "Hello! You're a new patient here?". I nod in agreement, but in my head I'm screaming "Hell NO I'm not a patient here!". That FNA is certainly not for the faint at heart. Having a couple of needles stuck in your neck is a little unnerving. "Make sure you lay very still", the doctor adds. Right, because you're millimetres away from my trachea (nurses don't make good patients). When it's over I'm about ready to make a break for it (peace out was the first thing that coming to mind).
"We'll see you in three weeks for your results".
Ugh, I'll have to come back here.
That's an eternity. At least it felt like it. I'd love to advise my patientsthat waiting an hour for an XRAY result to confirm a clearly broken bone is NOTHING compared to waiting three weeks. Every time a patient complained to me about the wait at work I'd have to bite my tongue. Most days my patients offer distraction, albeit sad and temporary.
Three weeks later.
I've been told that I hide my anxiety well when things get crazy at work, but I was the picture of STRESS while sitting in the examination room. Silently wringing my hands, my legs crossed, foot nervously ticking away. The doctor is almost an hour late when he pokes his head in through the door "I'm sorry. I have a few more things to do, but please wait…I REALLY need to sit and speak with you".
And in that moment I relaxed.
I was able to breathe.
I was calm because I knew. I've worked long enough with doctors to know.
By the time my doctor came back and said the words "so, bit of bad news…it is cancer" I was already prepared. I kept my eyes on him, nodded and gave a whole series of 'mhm's to show that I was listening. All these words being said to me…"partial or total"…"possibly lymph nodes"…"wait for pathology"…"radiation"…"chemo not effective"…"questions? No? Great"…"so consent for surgery"….
Xray and bloodwork is done immediately (pre-op stuff). "Follow the blue lines to get to xray and the green lines to get to the lab." It's a good thing they have lines on the floor to follow. (I can see why that doesn't work in the ER though…people are too panicked). I'm not sure how non-medical people make sense of all of this. I at least understood what was happening.
My phone is buzzing away in my purse from concerned loved ones wanting to know the results. I put that off for now.
Once everything was done I high-tailed it out of there (with hubby in tow).
Him: "So…not the best news.."
Him: "Want a burger?"
Although, I hope this (now being post-op) is the end to the story I'm still waiting for further results.
FYI. The rate of thyroid cancer is increasing every year, faster than any other cancer. This is a cancer that is staring you right back when you look in the mirror. #checkyourneck
Until next time!