The Twenty-Five Days that Changed My Life by Genevieve St-Yves

My story begins with a lump. During a routine physical earlier this summer, the doctor found a lump on the left side of my thyroid while doing an ultrasound on my neck.  The clinic was not looking at the thyroid.  It was just chance it captured the growth on the image. It had reached nearly three centimeters in size.  Without my ever knowing, without my feeling it, without any complications.  That is large for a thyroid nodule. Big enough to practically overwhelm the side it’s on. Big enough to be very worrisome.  Neck pain, trouble breathing and swallowing, swelling and tenderness of the throat, continual coughs, hoarseness and voice changes.  And yet I had no ill effects!  How long had it been there, growing larger and larger?  The dreaded word Cancer was mentioned.   I was referred to a specialist.

Thyroid nodules are very common.  Over the course of a lifetime, many people get one and don’t suffer any health issues.  However, when it gets over a certain size it can cause problems with swallowing and breathing and the risk increases greatly that it is cancerous. As my growth had gone undetected as it grew, there was no way to determine how long it had been in my neck, how rapidly it was growing or if it was cancerous and if it was cancerous if it had spread to other parts of my body. The endocrinologist I was referred to did a blood-draw, another ultrasound, and then asked me to come back in a week to do a fine needle biopsy.

The statistic that gets thrown around when talking about thyroid lumps to lend peace of mind to the people that have them is that only between 3 – 7% turn out to be cancerous. Those are actually very good odds – between a 93 – 97% chance that everything will turn out alright – but I am a pessimist by nature.  I was born on a Wednesday, that child is full of woe or so the nursery rhyme goes. So since someone has to be in the unlucky percent. You guessed it.  My mind went into overdrive!

With Cancer on the table, even at a 3 – 7% probability, I was crushed. It took me two days before I could keep myself from bursting into tears whenever I thought about it.  When that bomb has been dropped on you, it’s hard not think about anything but. My thoughts would constantly ping-pong between reassurances that everything was fine, the odds were on my side after all, and what happens if the worst case scenario comes to pass. The worst case of the worst case is that I might not have a lot of time left on this planet.

The scariest thing is that you want answers right now and you have to do a lot of waiting to get anything concrete. I was five days between discovering the lump and the appointment with the endocrinologist. Then it was another six days before the biopsy, and after that fourteen more days to get the results back from the lab. Altogether that is twenty-five days of waiting.  It seemed like forever.  Each day had at least 48 hours.  Sleep was so fleeting.

It was enough to trigger a mini-existentialist crisis as it is hard to live in that state. My emotions were all over the place. There was fear, sorrow and anger. Sometimes I felt like I’d get to a point of acceptance, that even if my worst fears were realized that I could reach a state of Zen facing whatever came with the calm solemnity of a bodhisattava.  Sometimes I’d convince myself I didn’t even need to bother worrying because the test results would come back negative. After all I am only 31 and that ups my chances of a good result. Right?

While cycling between the extreme ends of optimism and pessimism, life was going on while inside I was at a stand-still. To get a shock like this is to be held in stasis. Decisions that once seemed simple become quite fraught when you don’t know if you will be alive at any given point in the future. I heard that Kresley Cole’s next entries in the Immortals After Dark series were up for preorder with release dates in early 2017. Normally, this would be a no-brainer, but suddenly, six months was a terribly long time in the future and it made me very uncertain about what to do.  I could be dead by then or so sick that I no longer cared to pick up a book so I almost felt like I should not do anything until closer to release time.  At the same time, I thought that not putting in a pre-order was giving up on myself and admitting that I had no future. All while this was playing out internally, I had to maintain a front to keep functioning at my job (which seemed beyond pointless some days) and to keep my family from worrying too much. It was a constant fear of mine that I’d snap at somebody who annoyed me too much.  If you know me, you know that is totally not me and then everyone would know something was up.  I did not tell anyone in the family, except the immediate family, and no one at work except my boss.

After taking four jabs from a needle to my neck, the biopsy was done, and a calm came over me. In truth, I had been really worried in the run up to the second appointment about how much it was going to hurt.  I have a very vivid imagination.   I’m not sure if I was emotionally exhausted at that point or if I was just very relieved that I’d gotten over one of the big hurdles, but I started to feel optimistic for the first time since my ordeal began.

I’ve only had a couple of big dreams in my life.  I feel I’ve been lucky enough to cross all the items off my big to do list of life goals except for one: I’ve always wanted to write books that other people would want to read. This has been my big dream since high school where I learned by writing short vignettes, snippets of things that couldn’t really even be called stories.  Even if I theoretically understood the elements of fiction writing, it was extremely hard to make the various parts of a story congeal into a coherent whole. I kept writing throughout college and produced a few novel length manuscripts that are never going to see the light of day again. After a many years hiatus, I started writing the Remnas books and I finally felt like everything that I’d learned over thirty plus of reading and analyzing stories fell into place.

Even though I felt confident that I finally had something good on my hands, I never shopped the Remnas books around for professional publication. It takes hundreds of hours of careful deliberation to write the thousands upon thousands words that comprise a novel, but it takes more than a little bit of luck to get a publishing house to bite, especially for a never been published author. You have to convince the gatekeepers that you are a producer. How do you do that? By publishing. If not, by finding that one in one thousand opportunity, where someone is willing to take a chance on an unknown. My thought process at the time was why not write multiple books so when you eventually try to shop these around you can show them you are a producer who has multiple novels in her. One novel turned into two and then into three and so on.

After entering the post-biopsy optimism phase, I came to a decision. It was time to act. I needed to stay distracted from the waiting and I needed normalcy. It was time to make the dream a reality. The independent publishing scene has really taken off, and it is an avenue that allows a writer to go directly to the people. There are resources available that allow independently published novels to be produced that are indistinguishable quality wise from novels originated through more traditional channels. I felt that I didn’t have anything to lose by trying it too. If my results came back good, I would finally be doing something with the World of Remnas instead of consigning it to a murky future plan of a distant someday. If the news was not good, then I could at least get the last item off my bucket list.

After twenty-five hellish days, I finally got my answer. I don’t have Cancer, but I do have a new perspective on life. It’s good to be alive.  Too good to defer a dream and spend so much time planning for the future that I don’t plan for today.  I still have surgery to face but I look forward to bringing the exciting World of Remnas to you this winter.

 

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