This morning, I thought I’d expand the readership of my post of yesterday by sending it to a few of my cat-loving Instagram friends. As I scrolled through my DM’s picking out a handful of contacts to send the link to, I came across a friend I had messaged a couple of months ago. Out of curiosity, I opened the message to realize she hadn’t even seen it yet, let alone replied to it, which made me wonder whether she was active on Insta at all. Or had she ignored it for so long she didn’t even know it was there anymore?

The message I sent was a post by a woman we both follow, whose account is a documentation of her experiments in ice crystallography, a most fascinating and mystical glimpse into an awareness of the consciousness of water. The woman’s name is Veda Austin and she is a water researcher, author, artist and photographer with over 16.000 followers. She believes water is not a resource… is Source. Her book is called ‘The Secret Intelligence of Water’.

The post I had sent had struck me to be of significance, not the least because Veda revealed that she had been struggling with issues regarding her thyroid gland. It felt so strange and weird that I and Veda had something in common. The image accompanying the post was of a petri dish (with water from a glass she had drunk from and frozen using her special technique) showing crystals formed in the shape of a butterfly.

The thyroid gland is always described as a butterfly-shaped organ in every article you will ever read about it, and Veda didn’t understand why the frozen water showed her a butterfly until she found out that her health issues at the time involved a malfunctioning thyroid. The water knew…

My friend, let’s call her Enn, is the one who first brought my attention to the work of Masaru Emoto. It didn’t really capture my imagination back then, but it just went to show how long Enn had been aware of these concepts. Lately though, my relationship with Enn is on strange ground. I’m not sure where we’re headed, not least because she often doesn’t bother replying to my messages, or if she does, they’re often monosyllabic. The deep connection we had mutually decided we had seems to get repeatedly called into question as we both re-navigate our boundaries after years of knowing each other. Sometimes it looks an awful lot like we have lost that sense of connection. And yet…

Thirty two years ago, we had two classes in common during the two years of our A levels (Art and Business management) and even though I did not know her very well, the simple fact of us being fellow Sagittarians was enough to create a bond. She was one of the very few new people I tentatively befriended, with whom I felt relatively more at ease, and not so self-conscious, someone I could more-or-less comfortably be my middle-class self with. Those days, my solar plexus had taken a big hit, and I navigated my late teen years with the knowledge that my well-to-do friends didn’t even realize they had privileges I simply didn’t. I suppose that’s what made me hold myself a little apart from everyone, unable to reveal myself completely out of a sense of shame.

We never kept in touch after parting ways post-A’s, only to somehow re-connect in our 30’s. She had been married and divorced and was living with her parents again, while I lived with my husband and had a daughter. The re-connection brought with it a renewed sense of kinship and affinity and I loved that she lived walking distance away. Our friendship grew over the following years as we hung out, shared meals and talked over chai. I bore witness to a tumultuous relationship she went through, and I hope I was a good shoulder to cry on during those uncertain days. They broke up ultimately, she left the city and moved back to the US to pursue a masters degree, he went on to marry someone else. It was a sad time, full of heartbreak, misunderstandings and broken friendships. We didn’t speak to each other for a couple of years and lost touch again.

I’m no stranger to lost connections. Over the course of my twenties, I wrote off a bunch of friends I spent a lot of time with in school. In retrospect, using the language of today, I think I had abandonment issues. All of my friends moved away from the city, while I remained where I was. And life went on for all of us….for most of my batch-mates it was full of new experiences, new friends, new environments, new opportunities for growth. Yet they were all in other countries, where things were just….different. Better of course, I thought. I stayed in the same place, and my life didn’t change in the way it did for others. Once again, I felt less-than, unable to relate to anyone as there were no shared experiences to bind us. So I went under the radar, and stayed there, feeling happier being a loner than risk having friends again.

I found it amusing and a bit annoying that the friends who went away didn’t bother to write to me or stay in touch, but wanted to ‘meet up’ when back on home ground. I remember writing long, newsy emails to my best friend from school, only to get a short paragraph in reply. It was disappointing, and it rankled. My emails petered out, and the girl I used to talk to for hours on the phone, who warned me never to drift apart (in the last birthday card she gave me before she went off to college in the US) drifted apart.

Perhaps it’s all a question of styles of communication. I’m a dedicated communicator, a person who wrote six-page letters with paper and ink in those years without computers. I wanted my people to feel connected to me through my descriptions , and I expected the same in return. If there’s anything I adore, it’s the ability to be articulate. Of course there’s a lot more to it, time and attention being two things you can only feel in your heart, evident from the ways you are communicated with.

Now I know these are my boundaries, a much over-used word in today’s lingo, and one that has a bit of a negative feel to it, as if one must put up walls to push people away. These boundaries would perhaps be better defined as rules of engagement with others. Everyone has different rules, different deal-breakers. For me, it used to be inadequate communication, where I’d be left floundering in the dark. Tell me what’s going on with you so I can understand you, or don’t talk to me at all. Ask me questions and listen actively, and you can count on me doing the same for you. Unless of course I don’t want to.

Lately though, my boundaries are defined more in energetic terms. I feel things more in my body and i pay attention to my triggers, knowing they’re there to teach me. Ironically, it is Enn who first pointed me in the direction of not just energy work but also shadow work, her thesis for her masters degree, all such new realms for me at the time. Now, I’m a lifelong practitioner.

It’s interesting that while writing this post I have gone from doubting our friendship over unreplied messages to realizing how valuable her presence has been to me over the last six years, even though she lived in New York and I in Karachi. When we were done sorting our differences we managed to reconnect once again over long conversations on Whatsapp. I couldn’t always latch on to some of the cryptic things she said, and it frustrated me, but it always prompted me to do some research. It was the only way I could keep up with her and I learned so much as a result. She’d scoff at me if I told her she was one of my teachers. She firmly believes I am an empath with far more skills than a licensed therapist.

It is apparent to me that our connection is a psychic one, as well as a cosmic one. Fellow Sags after all, ruling planet being Jupiter and all. Jupiter, known as the planet of luck, its placement in your natal chart pointing to the area of life where you’re granted gifts and blessings, indicating your philosophical and spiritual world views, perception of wealth, and your experiences of travel and long journeys.

She once had a dream in which she saw that I had been given seven gifts by a neighbour. We still haven’t figured out the significance of this dream, but once, I had a strong craving for a Magnum, and that same night something made her get out of bed, walk to the nearest store and buy herself some. And she doesn’t even particularly care for ice cream.

Both of us have been on our own separate journeys of spiritual awakening, and both of us have embraced our natural streaks of silver hair in our individual quests to be ourselves and stand our ground. We both speak to animals, grow plants and thrive in Nature. She often messages me just when I’ve been thinking about her, and what happened this morning was no different. Within an hour of wondering why she hadn’t seen my message on Instagram for so many months, she finally replied.

I can hear you laughing, Spirit. Maybe you’re reminding me to not take things so personally? Or perhaps that our friends are really stars in our constellation. 🌟⭐✨

Cat life

Someone wise once said, ‘Cats are like potato chips, you can’t just stop at one.’

If there are two things I am very sure of in my almost-50 year life, it is that I like chips. And I like cats.

Long time readers of my blog know so much about my allergies and at least two of my cats. But a lot more of them have entered (and gone) from the picture since I lost the ability to write with joy and humor about my day-to-day six years ago, and almost all of my blog community has vanished into thin air too. When I revisit old posts and read the comment section now, I feel so happy to remember that I had so many friends here once, and I miss them and their familiarity with my idiosyncrasies, and all the conversations we got going.

I am told (and I agree) we should greet each day with enthusiasm and positivity by saying hello to everything we see, it helps to set the tone for the day. I may not always articulate it, but my heart always does send a greeting to the sun, the sky, the sunbirds that visit my courtyard, the plants in my house, each cat that graces us with its presence.

Today I met Fuzzy first, petting his soft head. He stands by the fridge patiently until he is served a tiny saucer of cold milk, which he sometimes finishes, sometimes not. Having been around the longest means he has had to get used to an increasing number of feline presences in the house, first Minnie, then Mowgli, and now Jimmy Choo. Being the only long-haired cat in the house (a little on the threadbare side now) makes him the only recipient of brushing and bathing (the others take care of their own grooming.) He is also the only one who will be hungry and there will be a bowl of kibbles at hand but he won’t touch it. However, he will happily polish off the entire bowl if I pick up a kibble at a time and let him snatch it from my fingers. Once he is satiated, he will look disdainfully at my proffered kibble and slowly back off as if to say ‘get the f*** away from me hooman’. Fuzzy likes to sleep in a corner of the kitchen and is probably very proud of the fact that he has never used a litterbox in his entire life. A few years ago, a vet told us he had only 4-5 months to live, diagnosing him with kidney failure after his pee puddles started to show some blood. I should probably go tell that vet Fuzzy is still living his best life, munching the occasional spaghetti and watermelon, french fries and little pieces of uncooked zucchini, still eating raw chicken like his life depends on it, with gusto and entirely without assistance.

Jimmy Choo gets the most love nowadays, as he is the most unfortunate of the lot. The man who guards our gate drew my attention to him earlier this year, telling me I should take him under my wing or he would surely die on the streets. One look at the little guy was enough to indicate he had some serious issues with his back legs. He could only get around by dragging his whole body using just the strength of his front ones.

I am now familiar with the feeling that comes over me just before I adopt a cat. Perhaps this is what divine guidance feels like, I don’t know. I really don’t understand this mixture of resignation and responsibility, but I knew in my heart this beautiful black and grey tabby could do with some love and care. I know there is always a choice to be made, but often if feels like the choice isn’t really available to me. Like the ‘me’ drops away and Spirit takes over. And it seems Spirit doesn’t want me to be a normal person who gets to travel with abandon or have nice furniture.

It was evident that the cat had a misaligned spine, either from birth or perhaps due to some injury. An x-ray confirmed this, and the vet said chances were he could very likely recover his mobility if he received some care. How fortuitous for this little cat to have found people like us, as Amu and I proceeded to administer lots of physiotherapy, soft food, cuddles and love. By the end of a month he was back on all fours, his personality swung from pathetic to playful, and we laughed with delight when he began to dash about with the zoomies, something we never could have imagined when we found him.

He still has issues though as he is not a normal cat, unable to use a litterbox, which means there is a lot of cleaning up to do after him. So far Jimmy has been treated for a series of afflictions which he is prone to because of his situation in life, the latest thing to strike him down being the most horrifying to witness (I cannot bring myself to go into the details as I am trying to erase the memory of it as quickly as possible.)

But I love him and I love seeing his cute little burger-face (his nickname) every day. He has brought with him plenty of distress but a lot more joy. And he welcomes and receives my morning affections happily, unlike Minnie and Mowgli who quickly turn predictably vicious when they’ve had enough. Jimmy seems incapable of snarls, and always keeps his claws retracted. I love watching him sitting quietly in the dappled sunlight under the tree, looking up at the sunbirds hopping around on the branches and the butterflies flitting by.

Minnie being a nocturnal cat sleeps all day in various locations around the house but will show up at my bedside at night, meowing for attention. She has a way of looking deeply and meaningfully into my soul with her blue eyes almost next to my face. Her sweet spots for being scratched are her cheeks and her chin, but the sweetest spot is the one right above her tail. I think she doesn’t know what to do with herself when I scratch that and will headbutt anything that’s close enough. A very vocal cat, she will even talk to me while fast asleep. I love playing with her, and she enjoys the interaction too, but things can get painful very quickly when her bunny kicks turn violent and her playfulness brings on her teeth and claws. I still let her grab my arm and have some fun with it for five seconds though, but heaven help the vet if she ever needs any kind of treatment.

Minnie is a very dangerous cat indeed, and yet the only one who gets to sleep next to my pillow. I call her my snow bear and I know she secretly adores it when I smother her with my love, picking her up and flinging her over my shoulder for a little stroll around the house. Huz only pets her tentatively on the head when she lolls around seductively on the floor inviting a belly rub, but sadly for her, her cuteness doesn’t fool him much.

Perhaps it is Mowgli’s response to my morning greeting which I find the cutest. She has a way of winding about my feet, stepping on them as I stroke her head and back, rubbing against my leg as her tail twines around in ownership. She is just as vocal as Minnie and will talk to me endlessly if I speak to her. Mowgli is blind in one eye, and I think that’s what makes her movements more abrupt, almost edgy, and I approach her slowly and gently so she doesn’t get spooked. She is the most intelligent cat in the world I think. There are so many things she does that the other cats can neither do, nor display the desire to. She will come running from wherever she is if she hears the tv being switched on , and will watch whatever I’m watching with avid and unwavering interest, especially if there are fellow animals on the screen. Mowgli has very short hair so I think that makes her the most sensitive to cooler temperatures, and she is the only cat who will purposefully climb onto a warm lap and snuggle in cozily. She can open doors by jumping up and putting her weight on the handle till she manages to turn it down, one trick that just doesn’t get old. It is astounding to me that she figured it out.

This post was meant to be an introduction to the cats that co-habit the bubble, but I haven’t even mentioned the ones that got adopted (Mano) or abandoned (Emmet, Molly and the Scruffies) or the ones that crossed the rainbow bridge (Georgie and Grey) It has been very difficult to shortlist a few pics from amongst the hundreds in my collection, but I must figure out a good way to showcase more of them here. They’re my legacy after all… After Amu of course! 😉

Bolna mana hai

I think I can quite safely declare myself to be in a rather acute state of laryngitis post-thyroidectomy, and must try and completely avoid speaking, whispering, coughing or clearing my throat. That vipassana I had mentioned earlier? It begins now.

My vocal cords have been off since day 1, and I suspect the damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve due to surgery was further exacerbated by the viral flu I contracted on day 10. It is now day 25, and last night I had to resort to painkillers as I didn’t know how else to deal with the pain and swollen feeling in my throat. This was following a cold cup of passionflower-skullcap herb tea i sipped to self-soothe.

When I google these feelings, I come across alarming words like epiglottitis and laryngitis, and I’m fairly sure I may be experiencing both to some extent. Friends and family message me every day to ask how I’m doing, if I feel better now, and I am quite literally at a loss when it comes to words. I’m still in a transition phase, still in the midst of recovery, and I’m okay, but then there’s the not-so-small matter of the cords. I don’t really know what’s going on inside my throat while Nature does its stitching up work, so all I can do is pay attention, and really effing take care of myself. If this means no visitors or talking on the phone, so be it. I really shouldn’t have to feel guilty about having laryngitis. I do have fingers though, and I can type, not just to write this post but also to communicate with the homies.

The very good news I received yesterday was the result of the blood test I was asked to get done to check my levels of serum thyroglobulin, antibodies, and TSH. There was a slight glitch when the lab sent me the antibodies and TSH result, but not the most definitive thing to rule out radio iodine therapy, which was serum thyroglobulin. We had to go back the next day and ask them if they still had some of my blood sample left, or if I would need to get more blood extracted. Thankfully I didn’t, small joy, as I’m quite tired of having my arm repeatedly jabbed in the same area, we just had to pay some more for the serum test and wait a few more days.

Serum thyroglobulin is a storage form of thyroxin, which is the hormone produced by the thyroid gland, and in a normal healthy adult it should be around 55 ng/ml. Mine came out to be less than 0.20 ng/ml, which I’m guessing indicates that all my storage was almost depleted at the end of three weeks post-thyroidectomy, and nothing was being produced by any remnants of thyroid tissue left in my body. Therefore the need for radio iodine ablation was ruled out by the nuclear physician and he as well as my surgeon said to start taking one tablet of Thyronorm 100mcg.

So this fine morning on day 25, half an hour before my usual breakfast of tea and toast, closely supervised by my sweet Huz, I swallowed my first pill. This little white pill I shall swallow every morning for the rest of my life.

It’s so strange to reflect today on this page that has been turned to start a new chapter. The chapter that started in February 2022, but which actually started sometime in 2017, has come to an end. I should probably do a little ceremony to mark this day, maybe light a candle and burn some incense. Sit in quiet meditation and breathe it in, accept gracefully what is, embrace the new, release the old, hug myself a little.

Maybe there has been no beginning, and no ending.

Maybe it has all been a journey and an adventure and it simply continues.

Maybe my life is about deeply feeling, all the heavinesses, and all the lightnesses.

Maybe life is all about moving to the beat of my own energy, owning it unapologetically, speaking my truths, owning them, loving myself.

Maybe life is all about awareness……that my happiness and peace are all within, recognizing that the subtle nuances in my environment are created by the energy I emit, and not the other way around.

I acknowledge this immense shift and surrender to it, unafraid, making space for ever-increasing love as I move along in this blessed, never-ending transition called Life.

It is all very beautiful, even the horizontal scar on my swollen, tight neck. And I predict it will become even more peaceful than it already is.

A little piece of heaven

When we moved back into our sweet old apartment after a year away, I had this idea that we really needed to focus on our wellness. I had a strong desire to create a space in the house that would be dedicated entirely to movement and yoga. I use the word ‘create’, because no such space existed heretofore. There was one room which had a lot of potential, but a lot of things needed to be done for it to feel calm and zen, and in retrospect those changes couldn’t have been made to manifest if we had never made the weird decision of moving away. But I shall leave that for another post.

Ultimately, we ended up with new flooring, a lovely medium brown tile that resembles wood, I recall it was called walnut. We removed an ugly dark brown aluminium window that overlooked a balcony, broke the wall till the floor and installed a white UPVC door that could be easily opened inwards. A white picket fence was crafted and installed along the balcony ledge to create a more sheltered haven for plants. This added a most pleasing element to the entire room, as the fence partially obscured an ugly PMT with all its accompanying jumble of wires extending every which way. It also provided the perfect trellis for a pretty yellow-flowering vine I’ve had for years, which miraculously survived the move. The balcony was painted a rather bold shade of dark grey, I just knew the green of the plants would contrast vividly against it and happily I was right. My vision was to create a little forest, with juxtaposed foliage of various shades of green, pink, yellow and maroon. Every time we draw the curtains or open the doors now, we are able to welcome in lots of nature and the outside can merge with the inside. Soundproof white windows were installed to drown out the weekend noises in our immediate neighbourhood, and the room feels a lot more peaceful for the first time in fifteen years.

We painted the room a soothing shade of white, with just one wall a light shade of lilac. It was a fraught decision because I wasn’t sure if it would look right, in fact I thought it was wrong for the longest time. But the addition of white wispy curtains on a bamboo rod, really brought it all together with the soft pastel blue of the L-shaped sofa, the vintage mint-green of the TV console, and a deep bookshelf I painted a light but bright blue. An architectural snake plant graces the corner, and a row of spotlights illumines a triptych of cloud paintings made by Amu on the wall above the sofa. A few simple hand-woven rugs in complimentary colors makes the room even cozier, and adds some padding on the floor for yoga. Our three rolled-up but ever-present yoga mats are always neatly lined up next to the TV in an old wicker basket that once housed Amu’s toys.

We removed half the four glass sliding door panels along one wall and bricked in the ensuing open space to create a greater sense of privacy. The two remaining panels were polished and re-installed, and that was it. Huz and Amu finally understood that the mind-boggling 180-degree change they were witnessing was actually the physical translation of something that was only in my head all along.

I love the fact that we get to enjoy this space so much more now, and use it with so much appreciation and gratitude. This room had always felt disordered and chaotic to me, full of furniture that didn’t belong there and added no value to a piece of prime real-estate, with its west-open breezy windows and bright afternoon sunlight giving way to golden hour before sunset.

Perhaps this is what stagnation does, when you feel so stuck with what you have but cannot change until something big happens to shake you out of your zone. We had intended to change the flooring of only one section of the house before moving back in, and it did not include this room. But then we thought, why not? We wouldn’t ever get the chance again. Of course, ultimately we ended up digging up the entire apartment , it was simply inevitable, and actually our entire home feels transformed just by changing the tiles. It was a huge, destructive, noisy, messy, labor-intensive process and it honestly felt quite scary while it was going on. And it took a lot of time, but it got there finally. It isn’t perfect, but it looks great to me.

I have often thought of our home as a spaceship, hurtling through time and space, the changing sky and seasons. That’s the feeling I get as I daydream through life, looking out the windows. God(dess) knows I have daydreamed a lot here, but the house now feels more like a ship, navigating the wild ride which is the planet in the grip of a sea change.

We refer to this newly incarnated room as our yoga room and we use it every day at different times for this very purpose. But we also end up inviting visitors here, it now being the prettiest room in the house. I think it indeed is the calm zen of the color palette and the healthy plants that made my niece recently exclaim ‘this room feels like jannat!

And so it happily is!

Post-thyroid Munira

It is exactly two weeks since my thyroidectomy, and I just finished happily watching the two and only seasons of An Astrological Guide for Broken Hearts. Dil khush kar ditta, as an old crush from my college days would say, every romantic nerve in my body all a-tingle. Well, at least some things are still functioning like pre-thyroidectomy Munira.

Nights haven’t been the best over the last two weeks, firstly because of neck discomfort and an inability to find an optimal position conducive to restful sleep. But for the last couple of days, it’s been an inopportune bout of the flu. There’s something quite nice about the initial onset of a fever though that I can’t quite explain, that halka halka suroor before the headache, the bodyache, and general feeling of malaise set in. The worst though are the little spiky gremlins that show up without fail as I hit the sack, to take up seats in the mucosa of my upper trachea, creating a great longing to cough the most violent cough that could be coughed, and the gremlins get dislodged temporarily only to come back and resettle with fiercer determination. Even a tsp of ginger honey did nothing to soothe, and it was all I could do to maintain a cough-less state of equilibrium so I wouldn’t cause any more damage than had already been done.

I don’t want to dwell on anything regarding the situation I find myself in now, this weird thyroid-less limbo. The post-op biopsy report is a good one in the surgeon’s opinion and he doesn’t seem to think I need radioactive iodine (RAI) ablation. This procedure basically obliterates all remnants of thyroid tissue that may have been missed, thereby reducing the chances of errant thyroid cells making their way into other areas and creating potential problems. We were asked to get an opinion from a nuclear physician too though, just to get some clarity.

According to the nuclear physician, if my nodule had been 1 cm or less I wouldn’t need RAI. On the other hand, if it had been 2 cm or more I would definitely need RAI. Mine was 1.5 cm, which puts me in a gray area.

Being hyper aware of the kind of unpleasant effects RAI has on my salivary glands and heaven knows what other glands, I am extremely squeamish about this hurdle in my path. (Hurdles in the path ARE the path, says someone wise) I remind myself I’ve been through a lot worse by now, and my big girl panties are hitched up so high they’ll give me a wedgie if I pull them any further. One more blood test in about 8 days will determine not only my TSH and thyroglobulin levels, but also the necessity of RAI, therefore I have a little breathing space until ……I don’t know.

What should I expect as to the ways I can fall apart? It all remains to be seen, and I’ll be watching out for signs…

I’d much rather talk about the very palpable outpouring of love I experienced as soon as word got around about what I was going through. Loving, heartfelt messages from friends and family, so much kindness and concern and support from far off ones, the prayers and duas, the food that was cooked by some very unexpected mother hens with love and sent over, the soups and juices my sisters made, the daily check-ins by someone or the other…..all of these made me feel so loved, so like I belonged, that I meant something, and if this kind of love isn’t unconditional, what is? I was even the recipient of a whatsapp prayer chain for the first time ever in my life. I had the strongest feeling that it was the combined energy of the collective that lifted me up and out of harm’s way, that kept me safe and cared for at the most vulnerable moments of my life.

And much though as I reveled in this unfathomable sea of goodwill, a very strange feeling of unworthiness also crept in. What did I do to deserve such love?

I am aware of how good it feels to give, and I am also aware of how good it feels to be received. So now that I was on the receiving end, I had to learn to accept with grace all that I was receiving. I think at some point I began to feel overwhelmed and anxious about how I would ever repay all the kindness with my current energetic limitations.

I decided to let go of these useless burdens and just feel very very grateful instead. Gratitude is such a heart-based response, I figure that if I felt it then everyone felt it too, and that is all that is required. I am grateful too, for all who read my words and come along on the journey and feel my feelings and empathize. You are my tribe, and I love you and value your presence here. Thank you so much.

I just drew my curtain aside to look out the window at the sky and saw such a wondrous cloudscape, with iridescent spots of pink and swirly blue. Dragonflies are flying around everywhere…….how very symbolic.

Off with its head

It is day 12 post-surgery, and my vocal cords have gone into protest mode.

In the weeks before surgery , when I began to glean information about potential risks and complications of thyroidectomies, I half-joked with Amu that I might be forced into lifelong vipassana. The idea felt oddly delightful to me, though I obviously didn’t want my recurrent laryngeal nerve to suffer unnecessary damage at the hands of an unsuitable surgeon.

A friend who underwent a total thyroidectomy last year due to Hashimoto’s reported changes in her voice for some time, but it’s perfectly normal now, so I am not too worried. My ex-next door neighbour was advised to get rid of her entire thyroid upon discovery of multiple nodules in it many years ago after the birth of her first child. Her biggest worry back then was the separation anxiety her little daughter would experience with her surgery and hospitalization.

I consulted a senior and well-respected endocrinologist very soon after my dismal biopsy report, and she referred me to the same surgeon who operated on my friend last year. I took my own sweet time before making an appointment to go meet him though, but followed instructions to get a few baseline blood tests as well as another, more detailed ultrasound very efficiently the next day.

We marveled at the accelerated speed and ease at which things started to unfold once the uncertainty started to give way to action. There must be a reason why I felt such equanimity, and surely, I received my confirmation of angelic help when I happened to glance at the time on my phone while walking towards the ultrasound room from the waiting lounge. It was exactly 11:11 am, and I didn’t care if anyone saw my delighted grin, wishing I could high-five Huz and Amu. All repeating numbers stop me in my tracks and make me quickly come out of my mind and into the now. And in the now, I am well, I am safe and everything will be okay, no matter what.

This spirit connection is such a beautiful source of peace for me, as even when I am all alone, I never feel as if I’m alone. And the gratitude for having this understanding made me feel deeply emotional as I lay with my head tilted in a way to facilitate the movement of the ultrasound transducer over my neck and throat, tears trickling automatically out the sides of my eyes, hidden behind my mask. I was sure my lymph nodes would be perfectly okay, and the ultrasound doctor said it seemed they were!

There is a lot to be said about keeping an open heart while navigating your way through the medical world, finding joy in the positives while releasing anything negative as quickly as possible.

I know I may sound a bit too zen to be credible, but honestly, the peace I am able to access definitely does not preclude the feelings of confusion and anxiety that often assail me at night. I’m just getting a lot better at sitting with discomfort since I know all feelings are temporary…. as of course, is the very nature of Being.

What can I say, I’m in touch with my inner mystic.

Now that I was beginning to make peace with the loss of my thyroid, a new concern reared its head….what about the parathyroids? I definitely couldn’t bear the thought of losing them too. The endocrinologist made light of having to take copious amounts of calcium and vitamin D to make up for my body being unable to regulate them, but this was a huge red flag and even my inner mystic freaked out. I mean, I really didn’t want the system of calcium-release from my bones into my bloodstream to go out of whack. And why would I want the process of calcium-absorption from the food in my intestines to go awry? I love that my kidneys perform the vital function of conserving all my calcium without me even knowing. I took all this awesomeness so much for granted all my life….until now.

After a tentative online exploration of potential candidates for thyroid surgery, I felt more uncertain than ever. How was it possible to decide who would protect my parathyroids and who wouldn’t? It turns out the best indicator of the experience of a good surgeon is, quite simply, volume. I needed someone who did at least 25 thyroid surgeries a year.

The first endocrinologist put me at a little ease by saying he would put his blind trust in anyone recommended by the second endocrinologist. And since my friend had already given me glowing reviews about her experience with the recommended surgeon, it seemed wisest to go see him first.

If meeting the surgeon and discovering that he not only specializes in thyroid surgery but that he performed over three hundred surgeries last year wasn’t enough, the beautiful forest outside his consulting clinic had me sold. It was literally a no-brainer. His manner and presence exuded a patient confidence and after explaining lots of things about thyroid anatomy and physiology, he told us to go home, think about what to do next and get back to him if we chose.

And after three days of thinking, get back to him we surely did. A week was the time-frame I had in mind to prepare myself for surgery, but there were a few things I had to consider…..the monsoons, my menstrual cycle, and Muharram. The irony of having my neck dissected in this holy month wasn’t lost on me.

There were a few other idiotic things on my mind too, like buying new sheets for my bed. I didn’t know what my life would look like post-surgery, it seemed like some kind of looming debilitation that would stop me from living despite all assurances to the contrary.

When we met the surgeon three days later, he proposed to do the operation in two days and after a paralyzing few minutes of staring alternately at Huz and the surgeon, brain going from overdrive to numb, I found myself saying ….okay. Why not? And even though Huz was in favour of sooner rather than later I heard him pipe up with a ‘But what about the bedsheet….?’ I gave him a look and he trailed off.

And so it came to be that we drove the 30 seconds it takes to reach the hospital from my home, early on the 1st of August (armed with our Covid test results and an x-ray) and got me admitted into a nice little private room for a total thyroidectomy at 2 that afternoon.

Fear is a nodule

Today I am grateful for the healing of the warm water in my shower, the freedom of zero expectations, the feeling of well-being brought on by nourishing food that I didn’t cook, and a cat that watches tv with me.

I had many questions to ask the quiet visitor sitting in my throat chakra. Why was it there, for one, and did it have a message for me? If it had been around since 2017, did it just stay the same size since it arose? Why didn’t I notice it? Was its purpose to remind me of something, and if so, why did I ignore it? Why didn’t it give me any trouble for five years? And most importantly, now that I was aware of its existence, did I really need to get rid of it?

I placed my hands around my throat and thyroid and sent it so much love and gratitude. All those years of quiet, faithful service… made me weep to think of what I may have done to it. Was it my fault though? Did I behave in ways to create an energetic block there? Did I have a repressed scream bottled up in that nodule, and if I let out that scream, would it melt away? If I were to be my authentic self, unleash my creativity, speak my truths louder, live my life fearlessly, heal my inner wounds…..could I just shrink the nodule into nothingness?

Everyone I spoke to had only this to say: get rid of the damn thing! Don’t wait!! and these words felt harsh to me, I couldn’t quite concur. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?

I was deathly afraid to get a biopsy. Allowing my neck to be injected with a local anesthetic, then jabbed repeatedly to draw out cells, was frankly the worst thing I could imagine. I just couldn’t bring myself to make that appointment. Instead, I threw myself into yoga, meditation, spirituality books, and researching things like how to make kimchi, wondering if I should incorporate more fermented foods in my diet.

Three months, including Ramadan, Eid, and a cousin’s wedding passed by and I was happily bypassing Huz and his gentle coaxing, making excuse after excuse to not go see a doctor.I wanted to buy myself some time, a little breathing space to sort out the resistance I felt, trying to hold on and protect my thyroid as long as I could perhaps? I really felt I owed it that much, considering it had been around for almost fifty years.But the monsoons arrived and Huz finally put his foot down, nagging me until I reluctantly called the endocrinologist, then accompanied me for the visit, armed with all the questions I had been raising since the first scan and ultrasound.

There’s nothing like health issues and doctor visits to bring you firmly back into the 3D. The friendly endocrinologist (who is a family doctor too) examined my nodule with gentle fingers and said it felt a bit too woody for his liking. It didn’t feel soft, like a benign nodule would. A hard little nodule like this was very suspicious and needed to get an FNAC ‘asap’. He told me not to worry at all, if he had a choice between all the various cancers one could get, he would pick thyroid any day since it was 100% curable. His own wife had had it 20 years ago and lived to tell the tale. Before we left, he apologized for bandying about with the C word so much, his intention was not to alarm me but he really didn’t believe in beating about the bush. I appreciated his candidness, his reassuring manner and sense of humour, walking away feeling grateful for his existence, strangely uplifted by the visit. Something had shifted….

The tight grip I was keeping on my precious gland loosened a little. The words that started to float into my consciousness were, ‘calm acceptance’, and all the angel number synchronicities went into overdrive. A big change was coming my way, but all was well, I was safe and I would be okay, no matter what happened.

That feeling of calm acceptance began to percolate in my cells over the next few days, and I allowed myself to go into observer mode, watching as I dressed for the FNAC appointment, drove to the hospital, parked, walked the maze of corridors of AKUH to get to the lab. When it was my turn, I watched myself being examined by a young doctor who called my nodule a lesion and told us a blind biopsy wasn’t possible in my case. What I would need is an ultrasound-guided one and for that I was directed to a different lab down a different corridor and ultimately requested to come back the next day as they were all booked already for that morning.

For the record, it was a beautiful cloudy day, there was a light drizzle, the sprawling grounds of the hospital were green and beautiful and it was impossible to walk around the premises without sending a heartfelt thanks to all the gardeners and landscapers who worked there.

The C word that comes to mind when I think about myself changing out of my t-shirt into a hospital gown and walking into the lab to lie down for the procedure, is courage. Cor, the Latin word for heart. Did my heart have enough heart, for all these scary new experiences? Perhaps the answer lay in my blood pressure, which stayed quite steady when the technician told me to take a deep breath and stuck the first needle into a spot right above my nodule. The second one didn’t even hurt since the first one had done its job. I cannot deny feeling anxious during the rest of the procedure though, when the hollow needle had to be pumped repeatedly to dislodge enough tissue to suck out four syringes of sample. There was such vulnerability tied up in this whole strength business!

Not for the lily-livered I thought, as I walked out of the lab to join an anxiously waiting Huz in the outside world, anesthesia rapidly wearing off. I think his worry about me had far surpassed mine for myself, yet I couldn’t reassure or give him details about the procedure, as the creeping pain and trauma had to be processed quietly in my own mind/body first.

It took a week for both the pain in my poor brave neck to subside… and the results.

Biopsy results can fall within one of six categories as defined by the Bethesda system for reporting FNA cytopathology results: I (non-diagnostic), II (benign), III (atypia of undetermined significance/follicular lesion of undetermined significance), IV (follicular neoplasm), V (suspicious for malignancy), and VI (malignant).

My little undefined nodule turned out to be a papillary thyroid carcinoma, category VI on the Bethesda scale.

Some like it hot

The GP looked at my throat as I moved aside my stole a bit and I instantly picked up on his reaction with my special sense. It felt like a teeny tiny registering of quickly camouflaged alarm.

He asked me to swallow a couple of times and then nodded.

Thus, I was initiated into the world of thyroid nodules by being informed that there are two kinds; hot ones and cold ones. In my fledgling understanding, it seemed hot nodules were a problem, so to rule that out, the doc scribbled me a note for a radio isotope scan. I did feel some doubt though and wondered why he didn’t ask me any questions regarding physiological symptoms that would indicate hyperthyroidism (a condition in which the thyroid produces hormone in excess of the body’s needs) or why he didn’t even feel my throat area a little bit. Based on the little I had read on the internet, it seemed more logical to get a simple ultrasound first. Nuclear medicine seemed a bit… extreme, as a first step in diagnosis, and I called up the doctor again after going home, to voice the concern I hadn’t expressed earlier. He stuck by what he had said, that an ultrasound wouldn’t reveal a hot nodule.

And so it came to be that I made an error in judgment, deciding to trust his word instead of seeking another opinion, the consequences of which drove home to me the very real importance of my inner voice.

The only place to get a scan like this in Karachi is the Atomic Energy Medical Centre. conjuring up such grand impressively science-y visuals! Going there presented a different scenario altogether. Looking around at the sea of mostly women , mostly lower middle class , I observed and felt a lot of the misery in the waiting area of the floor that was apparently dedicated to the functions (or lack thereof) of the thyroid. I couldn’t believe I had hopped out of my bubble straight into this sea, though without the distress as I suffered no symptoms of dis-ease. Striking up a few conversations with different women I stood or sat next to , I asked what they were experiencing, what brought them here, were they happy with their treatment, how hard was it to cope? Most were already on daily thyroxine pills to counter hypothyroidism, when the gland produces too little hormone for the body to function optimally. One was a young girl in her 20’s with irregular menstruation, one was an elderly woman in a wheelchair with a humungus goitre, struggling to eat and breathe, one simply felt tired all the time and wasn’t happy to be told to stop consuming rice , which was the one love of her life. One woman innocently asked me the meaning of a word written on a poster which made me feel the privilege of my education. One of the women I met disclosed that she had lost her brother recently, and that had really changed her life for the worse.

I chanced upon a very illuminating blog post titled Emotionally, Psychologically and Spiritually Decoding the Thyroid and I’ll quote a few things from there :

“If you struggle to communicate–whether the difficulty is not listening to others or not expressing yourself effectively–you likely have health issues in the areas of the mouth, neck and thyroid…people with thyroid problems are frequently very intuitive but are unable to voice what they see because they too often struggle to keep the peace or win people’s approval. 

“Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life” says that Thyroid function has to do with self-expression, but specifically about “having my turn” to do so.  She also mentions that the throat area is connected with “our ability to speak up for ourselves, ask for what we want”, and if we shy away from what we want, this “usually means we do not feel we have the right to these things.” 

“One of the most fascinating results of fifth-chakra distress that I have observed clinically is a loss of the so-called twinkle in the eye. It’s hard to define exactly what that spark in the eye is, because it’s a rather amorphous physical condition. It is not simple clarity of the sclera, nor focus of the pupil. Nonetheless, almost anyone can recognize it, and most people are attracted by it…..

Since the fifth chakra, or throat chakra, governs the thyroid gland, it would seem possible that the lack of a twinkle in the eye is merely a reflection of low levels of the stimulating thyroid hormones, T-3 and T-4. However, I believe the truth lies deeper. I think that when the throat chakra is dysfunctional, it robs us of the proverbial spark of life that ignites the twinkle in the eye.

(Makes a lot of sense then why the vast majority of those suffering from thyroid issues are female.)

To move on with my own story, I was led into a basic room (not the fancy interior I had imagined an ‘atomic energy centre’ to be) where a regular looking nurse wearing a protective apron injected my hand with a combination of radioactive iodine and some kind of dye that helps the gland show up on a screen. I felt a rather sharp pain that I don’t think I was supposed to, but my concern was casually dismissed. I hugged my hand and followed instructions to go to another floor for the scan itself. Yet another very basic room with a very used-looking yet functioning machine in which I had to lie down and be still for a few minutes while the imaging happened. The results a week later showed that It wasn’t a hot nodule and Huz and I rejoiced, not realizing that we were not only NOT out of the woods yet but were about to go even deeper. The outpatient doctor I met next discussed my results, felt my neck properly and asked me to get a blood test and an ultrasound done on the same premises. This would help in gauging the size and nature of the nodule. I drew a blank when asked by the lab doctor how long I’d had it though.

The thing with cold nodules of the thyroid is 95% turn out be benign, and mine was only 1.5 cm, a tiny one, hypoechoic and bang in the isthmus, a word I first learned in geography class. Geographically, an isthmus is a strip of land that connects two land masses, like the isthmus of Panama. In the thyroid it is a narrow band of tissue that connects the two lobes that wrap snugly around your windpipe.

I was all set to sigh with relief and settle myself safely in the benign category, but the outpatient doctor had other ideas. Keen to rule out the niggling 5% chance of it being ‘suspicious’…..I have a feeling she was hesitant to use the C word…she sincerely advised me to get a fine needle aspiration test done as soon as possible.

I went home and fell asleep while stroking my poor hand, worn out not just by scanxiety but also a general uneasiness because of the abrupt influx of words I was not expecting to hear. When I woke up, the side of my hand started to inflate rapidly as I watched in horror. The swelling took a day or so to subside, and turned into multiple shades of blue, purple and green as the days went by.

What I didn’t sign up for was an uncomfortable feeling of tightness under my chin and jaw and I didn’t know what the cause was. Something told me it had something to do with the scan injection and a little search on the internet confirmed this. I found out that sometimes the dye that accompanies the radioactive iodine can cause one’s salivary glands to swell or become inflamed.

For weeks I felt better if I wrapped a stole tight around my head to support my chin, pressing and massaging the muscles around my neck to ease the discomfort.

One thing I was beginning to learn was it helps to focus on breathing. A mindful inhale followed by a mindful exhale does a lot to take away the very physical feelings of stress and I can still access a place of calm through all the fears . It also helps to walk out the door to a nearby park, sit under a tree and hum. Humming with a deep exhale somehow brings peace. Being in nature is grounding. Being with my cats is calming. Immersing myself in focused work or gardening takes me out of an anxious state.

It’s all about regulating my nervous system through life’s vagaries is the lesson.

Also, to listen to my intuition.

The first doctor I consulted may have been misguided in advising the radio isotope scan that caused me so much needless pain and worry when an ultrasound would have sufficed, yet I’m glad I had that whole experience, not only to humbly find myself in the collective soup, but also to learn that the government hospital runs efficiently enough and that it doesn’t tax poor people with exorbitant medical costs. All the procedures I undertook that day amounted to less than five thousand rupees, crazy when you know that just a blood test at a private hospital to check for vitamin D costs the same.