Deep Throat

Clearing up my long pending mess of papers, I stumbled upon my tome of medical reports. I think the crown for 2005's calamity queen should rest on my head, going by the number of mishaps I had -- a car accident (I was so preoccupied I didn’t realise I was on speed and breaked into a car ahead crashing the bonnet -- my first in so many years of driving), and then, of course, the major surgery on my neck. The latter is funny. It was also the year when the identity of Deep Throat, the man who broke America's Watergate scandal, was revealed. But for reasons dissimilar, I was 'the Deep Throat' of my office, courtesy my boss, Pro, who also called me 'slit throat' when he was in an extra jovial mood!

But being a hypochondriac helps. During one of my homecoming parties (after my Africa stint) thrown by a friend, I was taking a drag of a cigarette -- I am not a habitual smoker though, when I felt a pain somewhere in the throat the next morning. I wasted no time in going to an ENT specialist at the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, where the doctor after inserting an almost 8-inch thin, long mirror-like instrument into my throat and asking me to do a horse-like bray 'EH EH EH' said all was fine. A month later, I felt a slight lump and a dull ache and headed straight to AIIMS. I have to add that it helps to have a supportive boss, who told me "to fix my body" first and come to work. I took a week's off and did the rounds of AIIMS. Friends advised me to go to a clean, private hospital and get over with it but I believed that AIIMS with its lakhs of patients per day, its experience and expertise would come up with an accurate report. Only part of it will be true.

When I visited their ENT (like any other layman I thought anything to do with the throat was in their domain), the specialist after examining me sent me to the endrocrinolgy section, where I had to undergo a series of tests. The tests I did in private labs, much to the annoyance of doctors there. Well, AIIMS believes that none can match their labs, but if you look at the queue and the filth in this premier institute of the country, you would never have second thoughts of going there. On their insistence, however, I got the last test, the fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) done there. The experience was harrowing, to say the least. First, the nurse wouldn't take my case the same day until I pulled strings (one ends up wasting two days for one test otherwise), next I am put on a blood-stained dirty bed where the doctor doesn't realise he is dealing with a human being. He pricks my neck precisely four times with the narrow guage needle callously saying 'oh, there isn't much material coming out' while I writhe in pain. After all that, the report the next day says "sample not adequate for opinion". Not willing to trade my neck for a second dose of their incompetence, I bade AIIMS an honourable goodbye.

The private lab which conducted the FNAC was way better -- cleaner place, sympathetic doctor and quick service, plus they pricked my neck only twice! This is being part of India's growing economy, I thought. You earn, you spend and you get a good service. But the report was damning. I had a variant of papillary carcinoma and follecular neoplasm, which means cancer of the right thyroid gland. While I was pragmatic about the whole thing and busy consulting doctors about the next course of action, the reactions of people around me, in retrospect, were hilarious and heart rending too. My eldest sister broke down while conveying the news to my family and in her incoherence they assumed she'd had an accident instead. So my youngest sister rushed back from work only to find that the news was a different one altogether. And the husband of my buddy Geeta over phone said "she is not in a position to speak right now". Hello, patient is waiting! Shocked, my oldest friend Deepika said she was catching the next flight to Delhi, so the next couple of hours were all about "hello I am coming by SpiceJet... hello my flight no is XXX... hello I am already on my way to the airport... hello is anybody picking me up...?"

But Deepu was truly a welcome break. While my near and dear ones were grieving, we were having our quiet laughs. Sympathies were pouring from all over. I told her how much I was enjoying the new celebrity status and the new found attention. When a neighbour suggested that I go in for Ayurvedic medicine, Deepu asked her if the reason was because 'Bill Clinton ka bhatija ka bhi cure hua Ayurveda se". At least, that's what her mother-in-law thinks! Hillarious! In all this melee, I was speaking with different doctors and checking my comfort level. So Dr Dewan it was from the Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute, apparently the best hand in Delhi. And with a confused nurse asking till the last moment which among us was the patient, I was wheeled in exhausted by my own querries, phone calls and a sea of visitors. Nice feeling...

Surgery over. The doctors had a conflict of opinion with the pathologists and didn't remove my perfectly alright left gland, as is the normal procedure with all cancer of the thyroid gland. Now that I see as divine intervention. I found out that the recurrence rate with thyroid cancers, perhaps the most welcome form of cancer, being so little, even 99 per cent less, most doctors in developed country and elsewhere leave the unaffected gland alone. Otherwise, I would have been on a lifelong supplement of thyroxin and never ending monitoring of hormones. I don't know why doctors in India still insists on complete removal.

And for the other bombshell of a news. When I finally went to remove my stiches and take my report, I was given a clean chit. I had no cancer. Apparently, FNAC reports are still a matter of debate in medical circles today because they are often controversial. The throat I am told, in layman terms, is surrounded by so many veins that it is impossible to collect enough lesion to diagnose accurately. And if that is some consolation, I was told I had hashimoto thyroidititis, an auto immuno disease. So, was surgery neccessary? Any abnormal growth is best nipped in the bud, say doctors. They know best. As for hashimoto, quite an "an apt name for an apt face", so I told my friends. Between us.
Deep Throat Deep Throat Reviewed by Indira on February 13, 2007 Rating: 5

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