Just a little over a year ago (on June 11, 2012 to be exact), I was sitting at my desk at work minding my own business when everything went a little wonky. I had just returned from a wonderful 10-anniversary road trip with my husband and my mind wasn’t quite back into the regular working flow yet.
There I was, just sitting quietly while daydreaming about being back up in the Rocky Mountains when a sharp pain shot across my chest. This was immediately followed by my heart racing at an alarming speed – I have an irregular heartbeat and take a medication to regulate it, so my heart randomly racing is quite a feat. The whole episode only lasted 2 minutes or so and I felt completely normal after, but very freaked out. Since I do have the irregular heartbeat, I take anything to do with that area very seriously. I called my doctor, but she wasn’t able to see me that day. Then I called my husband and we decided to head to the emergency room.
Once at the emergency room, everything checked out okay – the monitors all looked good, the EKG looked good, the chest x-ray looked good. Since we had just returned from the road trip, the doctor sent me for a CT scan to check for a blood clot. Thankfully, no blood clot. In the end, the episode was determined to be a fluke. As I was preparing to leave with orders to follow-up with my regular physician, the doctor off-handedly mentioned an “extra piece” on my thymus that would probably need to be monitored in the future.
Well, okay. I have an extra piece. I wasn’t worried about that – I was worried about the weird episode of a few hours early.
Two days later, I followed up with my regular doctor. She is awesome. She agreed it was probably just a fluke, but increased my regular medicine and sent me for a halter monitor just in case (in the end, everything turned out fine in the heart area). Then she escalated the situation with the “extra piece.” The “extra piece” was now rare “mass” that she really didn’t know how to best monitor. She made me an appointment with a well-regarded vascular surgeon for the following week, adding “he might just want to go ahead and remove it” as I left the office.
Okay, freaked out again, but still relatively minor. A c-section is the only surgery I have ever had – I’ve never even broken a bone! – so this kind of stuff easily worries me.
The vascular surgeon was wonderful, but as soon as the appointment started it was clearly going in a direction I did not expect. My “extra piece” turned “mass” was now a “tumor.” He went over the CT scan with me and talked about where it was located and why it was a concern. He also talked about this kind of tumor only being malignant in less than 5% of cases. He wrote everything down for me so I could google the correct terms (this doc knows his patients!). Then he dropped the bombshell – because of the location of the thymus (right in-between the heart and sternum), I would need to see a cardiothoracic surgeon. A heart surgeon. I went from a silly little extra piece to a heart surgeon in one week.
Now I was upset. I made it outside before I started to cry, but just barely.
A week and a half later I was in the next surgeon’s office and, yes, the tumor needed to come out. He talked about all sorts of details and explanations, but I sort of zoned-out through a lot of it (luckily, I had brought my husband with me). He wanted to go ahead and get it scheduled, but I put the brakes on pretty fast. I needed time to process.
I was sort of hoping someone would change their mind in the interim.
[If you have read any of the pervious posts on the blog, you know that they did not.]