This is my “trending” (surprisingly shocking, to others) Instagram photo a month a day after my thyroid operation. I got back to my wedding singing gig! Honestly, if this is God’s grace, I don’t know what it is.
What really, is courage? Is it facing a battle for others to feel safe again? Is it standing up for what is right? Is it facing the music? Is it jumping off a 50-foot cliff, or diving the deep ocean? Or is it reaching the highest peak despite not having enough supplies and tired feet?
It has been a month and 5 days since my total thyroidectomy operation. It was an overwhelming experience, yet I could not seem to find a time to sit down and write the story. But then, I told God I was ready to become a miracle worker.
This, my family and friends, is my story of courage.
For those who knew my medical condition, you may remember that I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism since 2008, with additional nodules inside (for those who didn’t, well, now you know why this voracious eater was not getting fat). It started with one nodule at the right thyroid lobe. Last summer, the ultrasound scan showed there were 7 nodules in both right and left lobes of my thyroid. It seems the visitors were not oriented much of the Reproductive Health Bill. My endocrinologist suggested for a biopsy of the biggest nodule (measuring one centimeter), which I obliged.
The pathologist said he could not commit whether it the overstaying nodules are good or bad. Based on the shape of the specimen (as seen in the microscope), he cannot clearly say if it is just a normal nodule (which is still bad because it might grow bigger and choke me. Oh geesh, small is really terrible!) or papillary carcinoma.
Upon seeing the results, my endocrinologist gave the verdict: the best option is a thyroid operation. My thyroid will be removed.
The next four months, I asked five doctors to see my biopsy results. Who knows? I may get a different answer. But I also prepared for the inevitable. I signed up for a health maintenance organization (HMO) that my company provided for its employees. A friend, whose spouse underwent a thyroid surgery, selflessly gave me tips on what to prepare (from the hospital to the schedule of operation to post-operation must-dos). I prepared a checklist of what to prepare.
All along, I was praying for a twist of verdicts. But all the doctors said the same thing: stop taking care of most likely “unwanted visitors.”
I again sat down and rethought of what took place in the last few months. Then I saw myself writing this in my prayer journal:
“I’m done dilly-dallying. Scared as I am, I am ready to have a smile on my neck. I am not worrying anymore, which was surprising even to me.
Send me and lead me to the best doctors and nurses, to the clean and best equipment, to the best medicines, and to a comforting bed with all those I love and respect surrounding me.
I promise to follow. I want to become a miracle worker.
Today, I am surrendering my ailing thyroid to protect the rest of me. You know better than I.”
This was where grace entered and the blessings just kept pouring.
The surgeon, recommended by my endocrinologist, was suddenly listed as one of the accredited surgeons of my HMO. A few months ago, his name was not included in the list. During our first meeting, he saw the possibility that the nodules are only colloids, so he could save some parts of my thyroid.
I targeted my office clearance (I had to do this because I will be out for a month) to be finished within a week. It was all signed in six days.
A week before the operation, I wrote this in my prayer journal:
“The next Monday, by the time I write this, I am in my hospital bed, part of my thyroid gone, resting from the operation. I don’t know if I am already thick-skinned in these kinds of situations (I never had a surgery before), but I just feel that everything’s going to be great. I feel that someone has to think that not all that others heard or experienced will happen to me. If somebody has to think that I am going to get through this, it should be ME.”
Then, the day of the operation came. It was Monday, the 23rd of September. It was raining hard outside the hospital.
Hours before the operation, I read the Day 23 Faith Declaration written in Bo Sanchez’s book, How Your Words Can Change Your World: “I trust in God completely even when things do not go as I expect. By waiting and by calm I shall be saved, in quiet and in trust my strength lies. In Jesus’ name.”
Somehow, I could not seem to swallow the words: I trust in God completely even when things do not go as I expect.
My surgeon’s initial diagnosis was that the nodules in my thyroid were colloids, so it is possible that a part of the organ will be left. That’s what I wanted.
What if God has another way?
I breathed deeply. I calmed myself by reading the faith declaration again.
Then I whispered, “God, I am here because I trust You. Let us get this party started.”
Then, my stretcher arrived. I was wheeled to where the party begins.
It took close to four hours before the start of my operation, as my surgeon was still finding his way to the heavy rains that day. I remembered being so asleep due to the injected medicine for relaxation, but I always woke up without the groggy feeling. During those times, I ushered prayers and songs (and I asked for linen each time because it was freezing cold).
My surgeon and anesthesiologist talked me out on my next run when they arrived. Then, as the anesthesia was about to be injected in my dextrose, I closed my eyes.
I woke up. It was freezing cold again. I was in a different room.
“Nurse, ang ginaw!”
Wait a minute. Oh gosh. Did I just hear my voice?
It was a bit hoarse, like someone held it. But it felt that nothing has changed.
The nurse placed linen on me when I said, “May boses ako.”
I continued talking, “Recovery room na ba ito?”
“Opo ma’m,” the nurse replied.
“Salamat po, Diyos ko,” I said as I tried to find my rosary. I saw it taped a few inches away from my hand. I also felt a white set of gauze below my neck. The nurse also applied cold compress in my neck.
“Ano’ng oras na?” I again asked.
“Five o’ clock na po, ma’m.”
“Maulan pa din?”
After twelve hours, I was back in my hospital room. I was confident enough to say “Hi!” to my mother with a big wave. A few minutes later, my mother told me what happened: my thyroid was removed.
Everything in me felt silent. Then I breathed calmly and said, “Ok na ‘yun. Kung anuman ang nakita nila, natanggal na.”
I continued thinking of how I would look and feel like at my recovery. Still, the events that took place still amazed me.
I had none of possible post-operation complications. Two days after my operation, I was home.
A week after the operation, I was back in my endocrinologist’s clinic. She told me that the pathology report showed that my left lobe nodules are of the colloid type. But the right lobe with the biggest nodule has papillary carcinoma. This was the reason the thyroid was removed. She added that she will get back to me within the week to confirm the report, as it stated that the papillary carcinoma is “microscopic.” She explained that if this is very small (hence, microscopic), there is no need for me to undergo a radioactive iodine (RAI) procedure.
Two days later, I received an SMS from my endocrinologist: “Hi Ann. No need for RAI. Please see me next week for your medicine.”
With this experience, I kept on thinking of what Bo Sanchez wrote about courage.
Courage is about surrendering everything to the Lord, even if you are scared.
Courage is telling God, “This is what I want,” yet adding, “Your will be done.”
Courage is holding on to God’s grace, yet taking one step forward.
Courage, indeed, means doing it afraid.
It is with hope that you found many lessons, cried, laughed, and above all, was amazed by God’s grace.
I took a month’s off from my full-time work to, get this: update this site, take FREE Brainbench exams, and read a lot of books! More on them on the next succeeding posts!