Friday, February 25, 2011


This is definitely not a running entry, but as I use this Blog mere like a personal journal, I decided to make write a little something about my experience before the memories evaporate.

Background: About 5 years ago, I went for an ultrasound of my neck because of a sore throuat. They never did find anything related to the sore throat, but they did find a nodule that was large egough to need follow up. A large proportion of the population has nodules, but mine was 1.1 cm and doctors like to follow those larger than 1.0 cm. This basically means an annual ultrasound. Because mine kept getting slightly larger every year, this also meant a biopsy pretty much every year except that the last 3 they did were inconclusive. My Doctor felt that we should take the nodule out. I took quite a long time to think about it. I don't feel any effect. If I hadn't gone for some other reason, that nodule would probably have gone undetected. On the other hand, going for a ultrasound/biopsy every year is a pain in the ass. Waiting in the doctor's office to get the result, you always feel nervous.

You would think that they would only tqke the nodule out, but in fact they take half of the thyroid out. That gave me pause. What about my energy levels? Can I run 100 miles with half a thyroid? I was assured that I could. I met the surgeon at Sunnybrook Hospital last Fall. The surgeon explained the risks and the procedure. They take half out, they test it and if they find it to be cancerous, they take the other half out a few weeks later. I was bombarded with numbers. My understanding is that the chances of the nodule being cancerous are pretty small, in the 1 to 5% range but the fact of the matter is that it either is or it isn't. The only risk that struck me about the surgery was that my voice could change.

The surgeon tells me I can get the operation done within a few weeks. What happened to our famous Canadian wait lists? Fuck, I was thinking more about late Winter or Spring not a week before Chrismas. I chickened out and to make a long story short, I met with the surgeon again in January and the surgery was scheduled for last Wednesday, February 23rd.

So here I am, 6:25AM waiting for the surgery office to open. This is my first brush (that I can remember) with big medicine. I had my tonsils taken out when I was 6. I had a vasectomy when I was 33. That's it. I had tests and probing, but nothing like this although this is only a day surgery. I'm going home this afternoon. Other people are showing up. They open the office, we check in and wait a bit. Over the next few hours, I will be asked my name, date of birth and procedure at least 10 times. Two names are called, including mine and me and this women are brought to little "rooms" where we change into our hospital gowns. We are asked to put all our personal effects in clear garbage bags, they stuff the bags in a personal locker and we go back to the waiting room. Adter maybe 10 minutes, I'm taken to what is best described as the speed dating area. We, patients, sit in numbered sections and around us stand a number of surgeons, anesthegiologists and interns. A few pople come to me and ask the usual questions. At some point, they start asking me about my shoulder. Wrong patient. Disturbing. The clockis ticking. I look around at other people. We exchange quick glances, but everyone is wrapped up in their own bubble. Then, a nurse shows up and it's time.
I enter the operating room. They ask me for my name, my date of birth and they ask me to describe what operation I'm about to have. There's a cross-shaped bed where I lay down. My arms are strapped to the arm's of the cross. They stick a needle in my left hand. The guy is obviously in training cause I can feelthe needle poking around, looking for something. I'm so tensed that I don't feel any pain. The other doctor takes over and fixes the needle. They put a mask on my mouth and nose and tell me to breathe. Then they tell me that I'm going to go to sleep. I'm about to say something...

Darkness. I hear: "Do you feel any pain?". I swallow and it hurst a bit so I say yes. Flashes, voices. Feeling of the bed being moved. "Do you feel any pain?". Sure. Didn't they just ask? Wonder how long it's been since they asked? Feels like 10 minutes. I open my eyes and see that it's past 12. Wow. They give me two blue pills and I take them. Swallowing is a bit hard. I fade in and out. My wife is supposed to pick me up at 3PM. I actually hear the nurse talking to her on the phone around 2:30 and she tells her to come a bit later, around 4 or 4:30. Good, cause I'm not standing up right now. Slowly, the world stops spinning, then I get up for a leak. The surgeon comes and says everything went great. She gives me a few prescription. It's funny how when I was at the hospital they gave me strong pain meds but they send you home with Tylenol-3. No worries, I expected that. A bit after 4PM, My wife calls the desk, I get dressed, I ask for a painkiller so I don't have to rush to the pharmacy and we drive home.

All in all, things went pretty smoothly. Everyone was nice and efficient. My only negative experience was with pain management after I leave for home.

Doctors are weird. Faced with an operation where you know they will cut you open and take a chunk out, we, as patients, are worried about pain. When I was 17, I got my wisdom teeth taken out (all of them at once), and the dentist sent me home with a prescription for Tylenol-3. What an asshole. That did absolutely nothing. My parents had to scramble to find a doctor to get me something a bit more potent. I was really worried about the pain. I explained my worries about Tylenol 3 and nobody gave a shit. They asked if I was allergic, I said no, and that was it. All is fine in the hospital, but once they sent me home you're on your own. Talking to the nurse and Doctor, if you try to talk about it, you're left feeling like a fucking drug addict trying to score drugs. "Call us if there's too much pain." Yeah, right. I wonder if they would send someone from their family home with Tylenol-3. All I needed was peace of mind.

So, no running for a few more days, until I get my stiches out on Tuesday.I'm told the scar will be pretty small and will fade over time. I keep thinking about the movie Highlander. The bad guy had this huge scar around his neck with safety pins as decorations. Hopefully, it will look a bit better.


Derrick said...

Fascinating reading your experience JD. Recover quickly and look forward to seeing you on the trails again soon.

PS. The photo definitely isn't a good look. Though I am a fan of punk, so the voice change could maybe be a good thing to go with the look ;)

Take care!

Alison said...

Fuck. But thank you for writing this. I've also never had a brush with big medicine -- though I'm only 30, and I'm sure it's coming! -- but reading something like this kinda demystifies it while humanizing it at the same time. I hope you cope with the recovery, and the doctors.. I look forward to your return to running, whenever that may be :)