When we are kids it seems like most interactions with adults are just endless streams of questions focusing around what we want to be when we grow up. It’s around this time when we start to think about our personalities, what we like and what we don’t like, and what we are capable of. Over the years we develop a distinct personality and we learn what makes us happy; these things begin to define who we are. Most people manage to hang on to parts of their younger selves, but slowly lose their grip on other parts, leading to the dreaded midlife crisis. Most people trade in parts of themselves for a better job, being a good spouse, or to have children; they become the husband, mother, or boss. But what happens when you are forced to focus your energy on a chronic illness? It becomes a defining feature in your life, often taking over completely.
Humans have this interesting ability to not only adapt to pretty much anything, but to become attached.
When I was 15 my doctor felt a lump in my throat; it was a thyroid goiter. Not just any thyroid goiter though. It was so big that it’s embarrassing to say I didn’t notice it myself. The most surprising thing about it? It wasn’t cancer and all my levels were normal.
I kept that thyroid goiter for 13 years.
Over the years I had a few dates “confirm” with me that I was in fact female. I guess the combination of a low voice and a lump in my throat threw some of them off.
At the doctor’s office I was a celebrity; every time I went for a visit I would be paraded around like a prop to all the residents. Apparently it is unheard of to have a benign goiter that large causing no major health issues.
Despite the endless blood samples and the mildly lopsided reflection in the mirror, I grew to like my goiter. It became part of me. Eventually it began to grow again, pushing on my esophagus. I had it removed a couple of years ago. It’s a good thing I did- they found precancerous growths underneath it.
Now, all I’m left with now is a somewhat numb (but almost unnoticeable) scar and a normal sized right thyroid. To this day I still reach for my throat expecting my goiter to be there. I’m still shocked when I look at my neck in the mirror and it”s not there.
The goiter caused me discomfort, countless trips to the doctor, pints of blood, and the unspoken concern that it would become cancerous. I wasn’t born with it and I certainly didn’t want it. But now that it’s gone I feel like a little piece of my identity went with it.
The human mind is a strange thing.