Signs

It’s been a minute as they say nowadays, and I’ve skipped even journaling for several months let alone this, so no idea how or where to begin , unless I leave beginnings and endings alone and start with the now.

In the now, I am at home, a tad too well fed due to the kindness of friends and family sending us food as I recover from a major surgery. Day 5 draws to an end, and I am feeling better, though still uncertain and unfamiliar with this new configuration of me.

My vocal cords feel strained, unable to produce the sounds I’m used to producing. I tried singing along a bit to an old Lata number but couldn’t emit the higher notes required. I sure hope that’s temporary.

The incision scar on my neck feels like a thick cord under my skin, though the surgeon did an impeccable job of sewing me up after removing my thyroid gland. Once it heals, I am assured it will be unnoticeable, a necklace scar. I have some nice new scarves and necklaces to look forward to acquiring as future accessories, but to be very honest they could never compensate. I feel like I’ve lost a very dear lifelong friend, and no one seemed to understand that I felt an isolating sense of deep grief as I came to terms with my diagnosis.

I had a nodule in my perfectly functioning thyroid you see, I even know when it sprung into being. It was 5 years ago and at the time it had felt like a slight obstruction somewhere in my throat and I was concerned enough to go get it checked. The doctor asked if I was sad or depressed and I was of course, since my father suddenly passed away. So I was told it was probably psychological and to forget about it, which is just what I did, though once in a while I would find it impossible to swallow a regular well-chewed-but-glutinous bite of tandoori naan. And over the next few years if I felt as if my neck looked different, I just chalked it up to ageing and stopped looking at myself too much in the mirror.

Fast forward to early 2022, I was meeting a couple of old school friends for lunch and one of them had been looking fixedly at my neck as I was talking to her until she burst out with a ‘Munira, what’s that on your neck?’ I knew what she meant of course, it was the little knobby Adam’s apple right in the centre of my throat.

Completely unconvinced by my assurance that SOME women do indeed have these masculine structures, she urged me to go have it checked, that sometimes biopsies can shrink lumps like these if they draw out fluid. Later, she told me I looked pissed off, as if she had said things I didn’t want to hear, which was indeed true. I refused to believe MY body could have grown a dubious lump that needed biopsying, and it rankled for a few days to the extent that I decided to avoid said friend henceforth, thinking uncharitable thoughts all the while. Of course I had no intention of going for a checkup, everything was fine, I had no symptoms of any kind and if people were beginning to notice changes in my neck, I’d just do a better job of wrapping a scarf.

And I suppose I may have continued to bury my head in the sand if the universe didn’t do something to get my attention…again.

I may have been gardening or perhaps scrolling Instagram when a certain woman I have followed for a couple years popped randomly into my head , and I wondered why I hadn’t seen any posts from her of late. I visited her profile and noticed I had liked her last post which was from sometime in April 2021. There had been nothing since then , and it wasn’t even as if I interacted with her much or anything of the sort. I suppose the thought of her was a mystical foreshadowing, for the very next day she finally posted. It was a picture of her with a brave smile on her face in a hospital bed, not the usual well-groomed image I was used to seeing from her. But it was the bandage on her neck that made my scalp tingle before I even read the caption , where she disclosed that she was MIA due to being diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year.

This didn’t feel like something I could ignore anymore……and I may or may not have gone to the GP the very next day. I had no idea what I would get myself into with that visit, but at that point it began to seem a lot like an inevitable I knew absolutely nothing about.