Having had a biopsy on both sides of my thyroid, I am now officially a biopsy badass. And thanks to my coolest doctor ever, my endocrinologist, I had as pleasant an experience as possible. In fact, the first round was, dare I say, fun!
For starters, my endo is just a loving spirit. I know she’s got my back. And no matter how crammed her schedule is, I never ever feel pressed for time. She gives the impression that she has all day to sit around answering questions. Because guess what folks? She cares. And that’s something that more docs need to do. I never felt hesitant to ask for a pillow under my knees or a little more time between needle pokes. Because she creates an environment of invitation.
I prepared for the procedure by doing meditation, guided imagery, and dance in the days leading up to the big day, then taking the day off before the procedure – biking in nature and relaxing. One of my best friends came out from San Francisco to stay with me the night before and take me to the doctor the day of the procedure. He then drove me home and took care of everything I could not do myself, most notably, chopping vegetables and washing and putting away dishes.
Because as simple as it seems, a biopsy is really a mini surgery. And the body needs to recuperate. Things that seem super easy – like lifting something relatively light – suddenly not only can cause pain, but are forbidden for a few days. In my case, it took one or two weeks for the neck swelling and pain to calm down, although I was up and about within a few days each.
So here’s what happens in a thyroid biopsy: First, you get a needle stuck in you three times (for each side), injecting a numbing medication. It burns. But it’s all good, because then when you get a needle stuck in you another seven times (also for each side), it doesn’t make you jump off the table in excruciating pain. That’s convenient, because when the needles go in to get your cells out, you have to be perfectly still. No swallowing, talking, or – in my interpretation, to be on the safe side – breathing. Despite the numbing meds, however, when the cells are being taken out, it feels like that icky first part of a dental numbing injection – you know, where you’re like, “Ew, ew, ew!” I don’t know how to describe it except a strange nerve event.
Because my doctor is so awesome, she permitted me to bring in some Indian chanting music, which was essential in helping me stay calm and peaceful. That really helped transport me. While the needles were going in and out, I was swimming in a lake, running through a forest, and dancing pretty much anywhere.
I saw the event as an opportunity to optimize my handle of the power of the mind to influence the body. Plus I decided, the day before the event, that I was not going in for a biopsy, but rather, I was going in for a spa treatment.
Still, sometimes the pain grabbed my attention. That’s when I dove head-first into the music playing in the background – returning me to my “ahhhhh” place. I hope more people request playing music (I had my computer playing it, perched on a counter, so that MP3 player chords would not get in the way), because you never know when a doctor might say yes. And it truly makes a huge difference.
My doctor in fact became a fan of the music and said it helped create a sense of calm for the nurse and her. So I left her a burned copy. And you know what she did for the second biopsy procedure? She brought her iPad and the CD from home, just in case I forgot my computer. Because she knew how important it was to me to have the music, and she’s one of those people who is willing to go a little bit out of her way to make someone’s life easier.