Monday, November 7, 2011

The Steve Jobs Tumor Issue

Last month’s New York Times article - “A Tumor Is No Clearer in Hindsight“– neatly lays out the “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” conundrum facing patients with murky health decisions.

I faced one of those decisions recently when we found out that I had a sizable mass in my left thyroid and was told I had a 20% chance of having cancer (a pre-operation biopsy wasn’t able to determine if it was or wasn’t cancerous).

So, it seemed like the only way to really determine if it was cancerous was to remove the left thyroid, do a quick test during the operation to make a determination, and then confirm that not-100%-accurate test with a pathology analysis after the operation.

As a patient, I felt like the only way to know if I needed an operation was to have an operation – which sounded an awfully lot like a “Catch-22”.

I had the operation for two reasons.

My first reason was that it would seem silly to survive a brain tumor and die from thyroid cancer - which modern medicine has a terrific track record of dealing with. (I am not so crazy, though, on being on synthetic thyroid meds for the rest of my life.)

My second reason for having the operation is that there is nothing about problems that seem to get better with age, they only seem to get worse. Said differently, I prefer action to inaction.

The question for me, pre-brain-tumor-surgery, last year was more like “how do you emotionally handle the scary thought of knowing that you have a significant problem prior to surgery?” 

I’ll talk about how I dealt with this in more detail over my next several postings.

Here's a link to the NY Times article: 

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