Where My Mind Shouldn’t Go

Three posts in four days. That used to be the norm, but in the last year, I have gone to one or two a week and felt just fine with it.  I know I’m working something out in my psyche when I feel the need to write here more often and I also know it when I start to live in the stream of consciousness.

Stream of consciousness thinking is a way for me to dissociate. It feels like skating on a frozen pond, gliding across without any fear, gazing down below my feet and noticing fish darting about.  Every once in a while I magically breach the ice and reach in to get a closer look at one particular fish and sometimes I follow it for a while before letting go and coming back up to the surface.

I think that this process allows me to divorce myself from my normal routine or patterns of thinking and simply float through thoughts until one snags my attention.  Strings of thought emerge as I begin to notice which kinds of things are pulling me in and often I am able to come to some deeper understanding than I would have if I had diligently worked on finding a solution.

Sometimes, though, the things that catch my attention pull me in ways I’d rather not go.  At my physical yesterday, my doctor told me she felt a lump on my thyroid gland and wanted me to get an ultrasound to look at it.  She wasn’t concerned at all and figured it was simply a benign nodule, but she wanted to be sure.  I took my original cue from her calm demeanor, scheduled the ultrasound for the next day, and went on my way.

Over the next 24 hours I skated on that pond, only looking at the fish that reminded me of my mother’s thyroidectomy some 20 years ago and the one that suggested maybe my hair was thinning and that might be a bad sign.  I skated past signs that said pithy things like, “If you’re going to get cancer, thyroid cancer is the one to get.”  I read my friend Emily’s blog, Holy Sit, where she writes about spending a year eradicating her cervical cancer using alternative medicine.  I woke up a full hour before my alarm went off, wishing I were tired because when I sleep I forget.  Opening my eyes, I looked at the dark room and rattled off a list of things for which I am grateful and that’s when the shaking began.

I managed to get the girls to school without betraying my emotions, only letting tears fall as I walked the dog around the block to pee.  I wondered who would help Bubba raise my girls if I die. Or who would run the household for me if I get sick and lie in bed for a year.  I shoved the dire predictions out of my head with an impatient shake and decided to skate circles on that pond until my appointment, floating above everything else as long as I could.

When I got to the radiology department, more practical concerns entered my head.  I have a ‘thing’ about my neck.  I don’t like things touching it.  I wondered idly what would happen if I started gagging or giggling when the technician pressed the wand into my throat.  I wondered if I would be allowed to swallow while she did the exam.  I wondered if, on the off chance I started to cry, she would be able to discern the lump in my throat on her screen.  I wondered what causes that lump, anyway, when you are about to cry.

I had to lie on my back with a foam cylinder under my neck that tilted my head back and exposed my throat. I felt like a chicken on my great-grandmother’s chopping block.  ‘Make it quick!’ I imagined myself saying and felt like laughing at my own joke.  I had to turn left and then right as she swirled the wand over my throat through the warm goo, clicking keys on her keyboard and taking 40 pictures or more.  When I swung my head to the right, I could see the screen clearly and watched as she marked off measurements, “THYROID SUP,” “L LAT THYROID.”  Then she started marking off smaller areas just to the side of my thyroid and a tear slid from the corner of my eye into my right ear.

After 30 minutes, she handed me a towel and told me she saw nothing out of the ordinary.  There are nodules.  They are perfectly normal – happens to a lot of people.  It may not affect how my thyroid functions at all, but now that we know they are there, we will want to keep an eye on them.

When she left the room so I could change out of the gown, I let myself cry hot tears of relief.  I buried my face in the gown and sobbed. And then I went to the grocery store.  After all, Eve’s birthday slumber party is tonight and we have to have supplies.

5 replies
  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    What a beautiful, shocking way to describe fear. I am sorry that you had this experience, grateful for your articulation of it, hopeful that you will continue to be healthy and wise. Sending love.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Oh Kari, you describe it so well, so accurately … I remember the narrower and narrower circles and the click at every picture, why so many pictures … and the days before the exam … when my mind would go wild, remembering all family history, all I should have done or thought before … and also that you held my hand through most of it, including hearing the magic words … all is normal, and then on to celebrate with a good cup of coffee, filled with immense gratitude.

    I am so Thankful all is good for you, and now for you too, to celebrate with your thirteen years old girls 🙂

    – Isabelle

  3. Carrie Wilson Link
    Carrie Wilson Link says:

    That last line says it all. No matter what the results, you would go on doing and being, because that's what we do. Beautiful post!

  4. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    I've just spent some time catching up on your last few posts. It seems to me your writing just gets richer and richer, and your insights more powerful with each post. I'm so sorry you had to go through this valley of fear, but love the way you came through it, and am so grateful to be able to share the journey with you. I love the skating above the ice visual, and the following of fish. Really really beautiful.


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