Writing, waiting for a diagnosis and Grant

I don’t have a diagnosis. I just have a swelling thyroid that has nodules. And it sucks.

My doctor for the past few years has always commented on my thyroid, that it looked big to her. Blood work, however, has always come back stellar and I’d felt normal. Then this last time (this past April) in addition to blood work, she wanted an ultrasound. I heehawed about the ultrasound, thinking largely of the expense, but then my thyroid did something it hadn’t done before — it swelled. Suddenly, I’m having trouble sipping from a straw; of course, panic probably didn’t help.

I instantly scheduled the ultrasound, but couldn’t get in until after a work trip to Tampa, FL  — joy, right? So here, I was waiting and dreading.

Whenever, something malfunctions with my body, you see, the first thought is cancer. I lost my mom to leukemia when I was 19, and that fundamentally changed everything about me. There is the Sarah-Before and the Sarah-Now, and the Sarah-Now always assumes cancer.  I made it through the trip and the swelling seemed to go down in the Sunshine State. However, the ultrasound showed the thyroid was inflamed and it had a couple nodules — not uncommon, not necessarily cancer, but still requiring monitoring.

So more blood was drawn, and then nothing. No diagnosis, no solution, no real plan of attack. I’m supposed to have another ultrasound in October/November and will then need one every year for the rest of my life because of the nodules (increases risk of cancer), unless the thyroid ultimately comes out. And I hate waiting, thinking of irate cancer cells growing and spreading — because as stated above, I dread the worst-case scenario.

My writing is no where near as far as I planned to have it this summer. I find my energy at the end of many days just plummeting, any drive dwindling and caving to sleep. But the blood work keeps coming back good, so nothing . . . no medicine, no supplements. It’s particularly bad when the thyroid is swelling. For about a month, the swelling had gone down; I almost felt normal again. Hope sprang forth that it was just inflammation that was clearing up. However, within the past two weeks, it’s return, and as I type this, my neck feels like it’s on fire as the skin is stretched. It makes focusing hard.

It’s easy to surrender and lay on the sofa, giving into the darker turns of my mind–the what-ifs.

Ulysses S. Grant working to finish his memoirs in 1885.

As I’ve struggled with my swelling throat and my writing projects, I came across “Grant’s Last Victory” via Overdrive. Very few books have impacted me at just the right moment as this one. Reading Ulysses S. Grant’s struggle to finish his memoir before throat and mouth cancer took him proved both inspiring and as a rallying point. I couldn’t help but think: What is my excuse? I don’t have it as bad.

While it’s inspired me to persevere, I have not been nearly as diligent as Grant who “completed a 1,215-page tome, averaging 750 words per day”–a work that stands among the best of both military memoirs and of memoirs written by U.S. presidents. He had truly been taken by writing in that last year and took such pride in his words, even has his voice decayed, forcing him to pass notes rather than dictate.

It might seem silly, but every time I look at my Grant book I start to do something productive with my writing whether its editing or writing. With good fortune, my diagnosis will not be as bad as his. Until then, I will fight to do a little here and there.

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