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Diagnosis: Unnecessary Anguish

, , , , | Healthy | July 24, 2021

In 2016, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to the cancer being estrogen-related, she opted out of chemotherapy and decided that the mastectomy and pills would be enough. I supported her 100% and even argued against doctors and my father when they tried to pressure her.

Two years later, her thyroid started acting up. She went in for multiple biopsies. While we waited for results, I started Googling if the breast cancer could have metastasized into her thyroid. A week went by, and she went to her regular doctor and was told that the results were cancer. We got a nice report that said whatever they found was malignant.

We were devastated, and I blamed myself for not pushing chemo on my mom. We got the results Wednesday and had to wait until Monday to see her cancer doctor. It was a bad week. The day of the appointment, I tagged along with my mom and dad so I could be kept informed. The doctor walked into the office smiling.

Doctor: “How are we doing today?”

Mom: “I don’t know, you tell me. Do you know what stage it is? Has it spread?”

Doctor: “Cancer?”

Mom: “In the thyroid?”

Doctor: “You don’t have cancer.”

Mom: “What? They told me it was cancer.”

That was apparently shocking enough that the doctor left the room to go talk with the other doctors who did the biopsy.

Doctor: “Well, I mean it’s not not cancer. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong. It needs to come out for sure, but it’s probably not cancer, and if it was, it’d be stage zero and not dangerous.”

I sat in silence while the doctor hashed out treatment and surgery options with my parents. I felt relieved but also annoyed and confused. 

Me: “I read the report, though. Why’d they put ‘malignant’ if they didn’t know?”

Doctor: “Oh, well, sometimes they just need to put something on the report.”

It wasn’t cancer, by the way. The thyroid was two times bigger and three times heavier than it should have been and covered in nodes, but my mom made a full recovery and is healthy.

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