I sat down with my iPad to fire off an email to some friends. I’d had some good news — the nodule on my thyroid was benign. Yay for me.

When I opened the tablet, though, a news bulletin awaited me. Catherine, the Princess of Wales, had just announced she was undergoing cancer treatment.

I’m not a fangirl of anyone, and only have a passing interest in the royals, but I felt my elation deflate like a pricked balloon when I saw that headline. Because I’d been obsessing about cancer for several weeks, I felt a keener sense of sorrow for Kate than I might have otherwise. I’d had the best possible outcome; she was facing the ordeal I’d dreaded.

When my primary care provider called in late February to tell me I’d need a biopsy, I had tried to remain calm. But it wasn’t the best of times. Earlier that day, I’d made an appointment with our veterinary practice. It was time to say goodbye to our 15-year-old dog, Martha.

I felt I just couldn’t deal with another emotionally fraught issue. The thyroid call came at dinnertime; I could barely finish my meal.

Eventually, I could breathe a little more easily. I’d had the nodule for a long time — maybe 15 years. When it was first discovered, I was referred to an endocrinologist. He told me from the beginning he didn’t think it was cancerous. However, I had to go through some kind of scan that required me to avoid iodine for days beforehand. Since iodine is an additive to most commercial salt, that meant I was cooking strictly from scratch. Luckily, at that time I made my own bread from time to time. I got my loaf pan out.


I believe that scan long ago was inconclusive, because I also had a biopsy afterwards. This was done by the doctor, at his office. Having needles inserted in my neck was not painful, just unpleasant. No matter. The nodule was benign.

After that, I had regular appointments with the endocrinologist. They gradually spaced out to about every three years. Then my doctor left the practice. I was told I’d be set up with someone else.

No one ever called. I didn’t care. Years had now passed. My thyroid function was normal. I didn’t think the nodule had increased in size, though I didn’t pay much attention to it.

Fast forward to January 2024. Time for a physical. My nurse practitioner examines the nodule and thinks I should have an ultrasound just to make sure everything’s OK. In February, I blithely go off to the procedure. It will be a breeze compared to the mammogram I have scheduled a few weeks later. I’m not worried about the outcome.

Now, I’m usually the kind of person who indulges in magical thinking. I believe I must worry about every possible negative outcome to every possible situation. If I don’t, those outcomes will materialize.

Whoops. I hadn’t worried and — wham — bad news.


A biopsy is a precautionary measure. The rational section of my mind (it’s in there somewhere) knows this. I’d had one thyroid biopsy; I’d once had an unrelated biopsy as well. And, years ago, a suspicious area on a mammogram warranted further investigation. I’d come through it all fine.

Of course, I had family members and friends who had not been so lucky.

This time, I also had the “patient portal.” This online repository of all my medical history from the Stone Age until two hours ago is a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful when I see the results of my routine blood work are excellent. It’s a horror show when I read the ultrasound report (prebiopsy) and see my nodule was rated a 4 out of 4. That ain’t good.

OK, deep breath. I do just a little bit of internet research to refresh my memory of my previous thyroid cancer scare. Reputable sources say level 4 nodules are usually cancerous, which is not reassuring. The bottom line, however, is most nodules are benign. Also, thyroid cancer is very treatable. It usually does not spread elsewhere in the body.

I clung to this information, but I couldn’t take the risk of not worrying. I declared I was going to postpone my mammogram. Suppose some shadow showed up on the mammogram and I had to have another biopsy? I simply couldn’t face it.

A couple of days passed. Martha was now gone, and I was bereft. Oh, what the heck. I’d do the mammogram as scheduled. Bring it on. How much lower could I go?


The biopsy was scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon. As luck would have it, I had a bone density scan in the morning. It would be a full day at MaineGeneral Medical Center. Once again: Bring it on.

It all got done, and I even managed to smile a few times. Mammogram: all good. I do have some bone loss. I’m dealing with it.

The best news: No thyroid cancer.

As I flipped my wall calendar to April earlier this week, I said a silent prayer of thanks that I wasn’t filling it with appointments for cancer treatments. Then I said one for Princess Kate, and everyone else who will be making such appointments. I’m thinking of you.

Liz Soares welcomes email at lizzie621@icloud.com.

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