Monday, March 1, 2010

Death by Lettuce Beginnings

Another quite ancient post that I found deep in the recesses of my hard drive. This is from August/Septemberish 2007 I think. A lot of this is probably gonna sound pretty familiar, particularly the last paragraph. But really, I wrote it all a year before I even thought of starting this blog. This was actually meant to be the start of my book that never quite panned out...

As I stood in the Ballroom of the Student Union, I looked across the faces of the 230 plus people who had decided to attend the conference. After three years I still managed to be the youngest person in the crowd. It was about three years ago this November or October… funny, I don’t really remember the exact date… that I was getting my yearly check up and my doctor felt my neck, turned to me and said, “You know you have an enlarged thyroid, right?” This single phrase has more or less turned my world upside down and inside out. That lump turned out to be thyroid cancer. I was only 21; a senior in college. Dreams of joining Ameri-corps for a year followed up with law school in D.C. It’s surprising how fast things can change; but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I almost wanted to start this next paragraph with, “The fact is someone should have figured this out earlier.” But I’m aiming not to put blame on any person because that’s really just silly, and there isn’t any clear evidence that the thyroid cancer had anything to do with other issues I was having. But there were some indications something was wrong... I first gained 30 pounds during the second semester of my senior year of high school, odd mainly because I was an athlete. I gained another 30 pounds over three months during my sophomore year of college. The following summer, unable to really drop the weight and being fairly frustrated by it I had blood tests run. Everything came back normal. That was August, and like I said the lump was discovered around October/November.

I don’t think people like to have me at support group meetings, or in cancer survival conferences. Its not that I’m not likeable, it’s more that I’m young, and they expect me to say something positive. But instead I tend to turn out to be an embodiment of everyone’s worst nightmares. Granted I fully recognize compared to many other cases I’m living a blessed life. I am lucky that it hasn’t spread to my lungs and bones. I am lucky I am young enough to bounce back from radiation fairly quickly. I am lucky because I am more or less positive that I’m not going to die of cancer at any point in the near future.

Next Friday I’m getting another ultrasound of my neck. It hasn’t even been 6 months since the last one. In all honesty it is the one part of this that scares me the most. At least the FNA (fine needle aspiration) is. The first time, they had me facing the screen and I watched in horror as the needle moved back and forth in my neck, and the doctors remarked how it was the biggest that they had ever seen. Last January I went in for one because I had felt a new lump in my neck. While it turned out to be nothing, sitting in that waiting room for the first real time, I lost my faith in God. It wasn’t that I was scared, which I was, to the point where I was doing nothing but praying in the waiting room. But I looked over at a family at a table. There was a young girl there who clearly had severe Down syndrome. But even worse than that was that she also clearly was there to get another round of chemo therapy. And the family looked tired and unnaturally old, and the girl looked innocent and ignorant of what she was going through.

Originally, Death by Lettuce was going to be a book; one of those inspirational tales told by a cancer survivor which instills hope in every other person with thyroid cancer. Its spine would be pink and the title would be in a hand written font. There would be a cartoon lettuce with sharp pointy teeth about to eat a little curly haired cartoon character of myself. It would be something Oprah would pick up, and I would go on her show and become a model poster child for thyroid cancer awareness. But books about survival tend to have a message, special survival tips, great words of wisdom and lessons learned, or at least some sort of happy ending. I’m afraid my book would end up reading more like a Steinbeck novel.


Genevieve Thul said...

What about the girl with Down syndrome made you lose your faith in God? I found that a fascinating vignette, but didn't understand from the paragraph how it destroyed your faith.

robs said...

Hey Genevieve,
It's actually really hard to pinpoint. I talked about it in a bit more detail in this post:

I just sort of lost in that instant the comfort that prayer had for me... and it's never really come back. Even another year after that post, I can say I still have my belief in God, but not so much the faith that there's a plan, or I'm being watched over, or that I expect he'll intervene. I think when I wrote this, everything was a lot more fresh, and I remember being angry that some people had to go through that much, and irritation with myself for wanting comfort when other people needed it more.

Sorry if I'm not answering your questions; it's such a squishy area to try to actually describe.

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