Over the past many months, I’ve been wrestling with what seemed to be a persistent sinus/lung infection combo, and an endless cough. Endless. After rounds of antibiotics and several Covid tests, just to be sure, no relief was found, so some imaging was ordered.
A couple of ultrasounds and a CT scan later, the culprit was revealed. It turns out the cough was not ever going to be squelched by antibiotics. Instead, it turned out to be a by-product of a rather sizeable tumour on my thyroid gland, just at the base of my neck. To complicate matters, instead of pushing outward and causing a large visible bump on my neck, the tumour grew inward, pressing on my trachea, eventually pushing it to the left and causing compression. At the end of August, the airway had a thirty-five percent reduction in space available for breathing. Since then it has grown slightly and I suspect if we did a new CT scan, we’d find it is more than thirty-five percent compressed now.
There is good news in all of this. For starters, I was immediately sent for a biopsy. The very kind pathologist who performed it, had my results to my doctor in less than twenty-four hours. My windpipe may not have expanded during that time, but I was able to breathe a HUGE sigh of relief when the results revealed a non-cancerous tumour.
Another bit of good new is that it felt so good to find out I hadn’t been losing my mind. All those months with symptoms that weren’t responding to ‘regular’ protocols had me wondering. I knew something was wrong. I’d classify myself as a well-behaved patient, but all my behaving with antibiotics, nasal rinses, steroid mists, allergy tests, asthma tests, pulmonary functioning tests, acupuncture, dental xrays and herbal teas had failed. As I was biking in the summer, I climbed one particularly tough hill three separate times; once early in July, once at the end of July and once in mid-August. In early July I climbed it with a normal amount of difficulty – it’s a tough hill. At the end of July, I really struggled and had to stop at the top. Two weeks later while climbing it, I experienced ‘striders’ on the climb. I now know this frightening high-pitched sound and accompanying awful feeling of breathlessness is a sure indicator of an airway obstruction. At the time I had no idea; I just knew something was wrong.
Needless to say, the difficulty breathing is a problem; the tumour needs to come out. If all goes according to plan, and Covid cases don’t overwhelm the hospitals, I’ll have my hemi-thyroidectomy and tumour-removal surgery next week. I am not looking forward to it, but I am looking 100% forward to feeling more like myself again.
When the results of the CT scan showed the thirty-five percent blockage of the airway, it made it really, really easy for me to picture exactly what was going on inside me. Since then, I’ve been playing with the notion of how valuable it would be if other things in my life came with percentages.
For instance, how would it be if we could get a clear idea, in percent form, how we are impacting others and what impact others are having on our life. Do they make life twenty percent better, or sixty percent worse? What if we received some private message telling us we were only paying forty-five percent attention to important people in our lives when they were talking to us? Or if we were putting eighty percent effort into a workplace that was only returning twenty percent appreciation? What if we recognized we have one-hundred percent compassion for others but only fifty percent for ourselves? Or if it was revealed we spend seventy percent of our energy thinking about how we will improve, but only fifteen percent actually making those improvements? I’m imagining what it could be like if I could see I was eighty percent happy, or eighty-five percent stressed or ten percent discouraged.
I love numbers. I find them comforting. They give me a place to operate from. When I know the number, I have the sense I can get some control over it. I think this has been shown to be true in health care. When patients’ hearts are beating quickly, they can bring their heartrate down by seeing the number and regulating their own breathing. That’s powerful knowledge.
Over the past months, I’ve been putting focus on the numbers in my life. I’m really just making them up, but I suspect I’m not far off. As I’m talking on the phone, I notice my ‘attention’ number. Just noticing it gives me the opportunity to choose to change it. Same with my ‘kindness’ number, my ‘thoughtfulness’ number, my ‘integrity’ number, my ‘family’ number, and my ‘I need to give myself some slack’ number.
Next week, competent doctors will be watching my numbers for me. Once they are finished their part, I’m going to continue to watch my numbers. I want my ‘attention to healing’ number to be very high. I’ve already stocked up on some nice, quiet projects that will help me enjoy my down-time. And I can’t find much wrong with trying to ‘up’ my ‘ice-cream eating’ number too.
I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be away from this blog. I suspect for at least a month. I’m trying put my ‘let’s see how I feel’ number to good use here.
In the meantime, hopefully you too, will find some time to enjoy watching your numbers and figuring out how to balance them in the best way for you.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What’s my number?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to create the numbers you want for success.