I spent the better part of 2009 pregnant and on 11/17 we welcomed our 2nd little girl, Ember Lianna. My pregnancy was rather uneventful as pregnancies go, and although my labor seemed much harder than with Julia, Ember was born with only a few minor hiccups and was perfectly healthy. The next two weeks were filled with family, friends, Thanksgiving, and the late-night feedings and sleeplessness that accompany the bliss of parenting a newborn.
On December 3rd (16 days after Ember was born,) the 4 of us hopped in the car to go to Lowe’s and Pizza Hut. On the way there, I flipped down the mirror to check my makeup, something most women do while in the car. When I did, the mirror flipped down at an awkward angle and pointed right at my neck. That was when I first noticed the golf-ball size mass protruding from the left side of my throat. Needless to say I was freaked. It must not have been there long we reasoned as Josh or I surely would have noticed such a nodule. My first call was to “Dr. Mom.” She’s almost always the first person we consult when faced with a medical question. She said I needed to get in to see someone as she didn’t know what it could be. After a long call to my insurance company (we were trying to avoid the ER) we ended up heading to an urgent care clinic at CVS drugstore in West Knoxville. You see, my insurance had assigned me a primary care doctor that no longer takes patients on that insurance. It seemed pointless to get assigned a new one as I had my midwives, and would only have insurance until the end of January anyway (it was supposed to expire 2 months after Ember was born.) So our only options were urgent care or the ER. We waited patiently at CVS, Josh assuring me all the while that it was nothing to be concerned about. The CVS practitioner took one look at it, called another urgent care clinic for verification, and sent us to the ER.
With all the illness that was floating around we were reluctant to take the girls with us. We knew Ember at least would have to stay with us because I was exclusively breastfeeding, but we hoped Julia could stay with a friend. We called Mary Ann, a friend of ours who lives in downtown Knoxville. We chose to go to Ft. Sander’s hospital (out of at least 3 near downtown) because it was closest to Mary Ann’s house. She met us at the hospital and picked up Julia and we headed inside for what turned out to be a very long day.
At this point it was probably around 1pm. Neither Josh or I had eaten lunch (we were on our way to eat when I found the lump, remember?) I had eaten only a small breakfast and he hadn’t eaten anything. Josh grabbed us each a Snicker’s bar from the hospital vending machine and we sat and waited… and waited. Finally we got into a room (a very small room with a curtain and an examining table that was in an awkward upright position and one chair) and waited for the doctor. Once he came and saw us he ordered blood work and an ultrasound of the mass. He said it would probably be 1 1/2-2 hrs from this point before we were able to leave. His best guess was that my thyroid was simply swollen from the pregnancy and birth hormones (not an uncommon thing) and that it would probably disappear with time. Josh was going to go get food from the cafeteria, but then the nurse told me I couldn’t eat. This was probably around 2:30. I was also out of water. Remember, I had a nursing infant which takes up lots of extra calories and fluid. They came and took blood and then Josh waited in the room with Ember while I went for my ultrasound. Thinking I wouldn’t be gone long, he decided to wait to get himself something to eat until I got back. I was gone about 45-60 minutes. When I returned it had already been the 1 1/2 hours the doctor had mentioned, so we both agreed rather than having him leave and the doc come back with test results while he was gone, we would just wait and eat when we left, which would surely be soon. (It was at this point that I started sending our prayer request text messages on my phone.) Time continued to pass with no word. I tried to feed Ember as best I could in the awkward room and Josh and I switched seats several times trying to stay somewhat comfortable.
Finally after about 3 hours of waiting on test results we flagged someone down to see what was going on (we hadn’t seen our doc for a couple hours at this point.) The doc came back and said the ultrasound results were taking forever to come in. After another hour or so, the results were in and it showed that the mass was not simply a cyst (fluid filled) but was a solid growth of some sort. The blood work showed no abnormalities in my thyroid function, but he did tell us that the blood tests they ran were kind of basic and not as specific as a specialist would run. My next step was to schedule a needle-biopsy and an appointment with an endocrinologist. Both of these required referrals from my primary care. It was late in the day on Thursday by this time and we had been at the hospital for around 6 hours I think. We left, exhausted and unsure of what to expect next. We went and got Julia and went home. (Grabbing something to eat on the way, of course.) Mary Ann and her husband, Jesse, had done a great job of caring for Julia in such a last-minute pinch. Julia had tons of fun and I think they did too. 🙂 We were so grateful for them and were generally happy with the staff at Ft. Sanders (although it took WAY too long, especially considering there were only about 5 people in the ER when we arrived.) We had no idea at this point that we chose Ft. Sanders because this is where God had us for what was still to come.
More to come later…