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…..it 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.


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.