The year was 2013. I thought I was going to die. A lump the size of a golf ball appeared in my throat and worry immediately began to set in. Unfortunately, my doctors didn’t say anything to turn my concern into confidence. Instead, a biopsy revealed three nodules of mysterious origins on my thyroid gland, and all three were filled with blood. There was no recent injury to my neck, no infection, no overt stress or strain placed on it, yet three clear signs that something was very, very wrong appeared on every scan my doctors ordered.
The nodules were drained in their entirety, tissue samples were extracted, and the disgusting aberrations were taken from my neck and sent off for laboratory testing. Meanwhile, my doctors began uttering the word no patient wants to hear: cancer. As time progressed, that horrible word gained a life of its own and jumped into the mouth of every doctor, lab technician, and assistant that I saw. Cancer, Mister Viverette, cancer, cancer, cancer. And, oh yes…cancer. All the while, my wife and I were scared in all-new ways each and every time.
Days passed and our fear increased. Never before had I thought of my own mortality, that the eventuality that is death would be mine after so few years on Earth. Finally, we were called to my doctor’s office, our hearts filled with the deepest dread imaginable. We sat, locked hands, and the doctor said five words that changed my life forever: “The tests detected no cancer.” And just like that, my wife and I nearly broke our ankles as we jumped and cheered throughout the office. Though there was no answer regarding the sudden appearance of the nodules, we celebrated like never before. Life never tasted so sweet!
Little did we know that Christmas Day, 2019, would bring with it another critical medical issue for me. While in the middle of Yuletide revelry with my family, terrific pains struck my chest and I found myself unable to breathe normally. Those around me responded quickly and called for an ambulance, but to my surprise, the fire department arrived instead. The firefighters verbally assessed my condition as I was still capable of speech in between surges of pain, and it was they who finally summoned an ambulance to take me and my wife to a nearby hospital.
Ah, Christmas in an Emergency Room: X-Rays, CAT scans, IV lines, nitroglycerine drops, and lots and lots of drawn blood. Meanwhile, my chest felt like it was going to explode. The ER physician and the entire staff were wonderful, and they kept us aware of all that was suspected about my condition. Woven into discussions about my health were the terms “heart attack” and “aortic dissection,” and both of them scared the hell out of us as we knew they could easily be fatal.
Again we waited for test results to tell us if I was facing death or an apparently harmless mystery. When the results arrived, we learned the issue existed somewhere between the two. There was no heart attack, no aortic dissection, and death was not in the cards; however, there was certainly damage to my heart and the doctor could not identify the cause with any certainty. Merry Christmas, Keith! Your presents are a bad ticker and yet another mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes!
The doctor stabilized my condition and I returned hours later not to a solemn household but to a Christmas celebration that resumed once I walked in. I lived! Celebrate life! Death was not coming for me that night! Sure, I couldn’t express my joy as I did years ago due to the current health issue, but I was alive, happy, and surrounded by many of those I love. What began in apparent tragedy ended as a truly happy Christmas for us all.