Again

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was right before the very first date ever in my life. Valentines dance in high school and I was only 13 (if I remember correctly). I was with my bestfriend (who went to a different school but I invited over) and we were just enjoying the day of the school fair. But as the evening approached and the inevitability of my date dawned, my insides just went topsy-turvy.

I remember it distinctly. That giddy feeling bordering on nauseous. I tried to eat a slice of pizza and finish a bottle of orange soda (Royal Tru Orange!). For some reason, I couldn’t hold it down and had to throw up everything. Everything. I blamed it on the orange soda and sort of stopped drinking that from then on.

It may have been the first time I ever fell in love. In retrospect, there’s strong supporting evidence to back that up.

Many years after, he could still remember what I wore that day. Many years after, I remember that single pink rose he gave me, the one that I took home and stuck on the ground and lived for a few years more. I still remember the songs that we slow danced to, and how much taller he was that made it a challenge to put my hands on his shoulders and around his neck.

Unfortunately, my first love never really became “us”, although the ghost of our feelings for each other haunted us beyond a decade. I guess it just wasn’t really meant to be.

I just remembered this from long ago, because I was reminded of that giddy, nauseous feeling. Here it comes again.

Old Shorts – “Too Late” (A Short Story)

It was raining quite heavily. A grey Civic drove slowly into the parking area of the airport. A young man came out. He had strong features, fair skin, and round eyes. He ran under his blue jacket through the pouring rain, towards the arrival area. At once he caught glimpse of his friend, sitting next to a pile of baggage.

“Hoy Antonio! It’s time you got here. I’ve been waiting for you for hours!” his friend jerked. His features, weaker than his friend’s, glimmered in the pale lights. He had tan skin, chinky eyes, and pale lips. “Is that the way you are going to greet me after five years we haven’t seen each other? I think the last time I saw you was at my wedding, wasn’t it?” Antonio replied, jokingly.

Yes it was, the other man thought. He remembered it bitterly, but tried not to show it. He tried to remember Andrea’s face. She seemed so happy. Very happy. And he’s giving her away to his very best friend Antonio. He tried to ask her to come back to him, but she refused.

“I’m really sorry I’m late. I got stuck in heavy traffic. So, how was your trip?” Antonio asked.

“It’s okay, but I’m really so tired. I think I’m going to be sick.” he answered.

“Maybe it’s just the weather.” Antonio said.

The rain calmed. They walked towards the car and shoved two big traveling bags and a medium sized box. They both hopped into the car, and started a long drive home. When the car got out of the airport, it began to rain heavily again. The traffic was jammed and the road was flowing with water. It will take some time for them to get home. “Are you alright, Jonathan?” Antonio asked.

“Yep, just resting.” he answered.

Antonio popped a tape into the car stereo, and the air was filled with song.

my lullaby
hung out to dry
what’s up with that
it’s over

Jonathan closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He remembered the song. It was one of the songs Andrea used to sing. He remembered Andrea. He met her back in high school. They were sophomores then. A friend introduced him to her. She was not that attractive. She’s the type that you’ll only appreciate if you look at her more closely. It also goes for her character. You’ll never appreciate her unless you know her really well. As for him, he knew her very well. He became a friend to her. He also appreciated her beauty.

The road became less congested, but the rain continued pouring. Antonio drove his car into a gasoline station, and got fueled up. Jonathan went down to find something to eat at the snack station. After fueling, Antonio parked the car in front of the snack station and got out.

Jonathan got out with a sandwich in both hands. After getting into the car, he handed Antonio the one on his left. Antonio began eating it clumsily, spilling some filling every now and then.

This is my best friend, Jonathan thought, biting into his own sandwich. They have been best friends since their first year in high school. They’re already twenty-seven, but almost nothing has changed. He could not imagine how different they were, yet how they agreed and got along with each other. He also could not imagine how Andrea got to like him. Perhaps everything Andrea couldn’t find in him, she found in his best friend. The way Antonio was so carefree about everything, while he always worried about how things will work out.

my mouth is dry
forgot how to cry
what’s up with that
you’re hurting me

The song continued playing. It lurked into Jonathan’s ears once again. He remembered the day they parted. They didn’t break up because of a terrible fight. They broke up because they realized they wouldn’t work anymore. It was before graduation. Andrea cried, but he didn’t. He was still so in love with her, and was so numb at that time to feel the pain. They broke up as friends. This was the last song that she sang to him.

An hour or so passed, without a word between the two friends. They finally got to Antonio’s house. Nobody was there. The house was so hollow, and their footsteps echoed on the walls of the spacious living room.

Antonio unloaded Jonathan’s bags into the guest room, beside the wide staircase.

“Andy! Andy! Where are you?” Jonathan searched, climbing a few steps of the stairs. Antonio glanced at Jonathan with an uncertain look.

“I really don’t know how to tell you this but,” he stuttered.

“What? Don’t tell me she’s out of town. Didn’t she even wait for me?” Jonathan asked. Long silence.

“No, Jon. She didn’t wait for you… She’s dead.” Antonio sobbed.

“Tony, you’re joking! Andrea can’t be dead! She can’t be!” Jonathan screamed. He pushed Antonio unto a wall. “You never loved her! You stole her from me! Show her to me! Where is she? Stop hiding her!” Jonathan shrieked.

“She’s dead Jonathan, and I can do no more. I loved her, if that’s what you want to know. I loved her. She’s no more now. Not yours. Not mine. Go get dressed and we’ll go to her wake together.” Antonio said.

Jonathan released his hold of his friend, and scampered to his room. Both of them dressed up and got back into the car.

why, bleeding is breathing
you’re hiding underneath the smoke in the room
try, bleeding is believing
I used to

The stereo snickered. Now he understood.

They arrived at the wake. There were many people there, with some familiar faces. Jonathan went directly to the casket. He looked into her face. She still is beautiful, even though her face was now pale and lifeless. He missed her so much. He broke down and cried. It was the first time ever he cried because of her, after the time they broke up. It has been a long time. Now it’s too late.

Antonio patted Jonathan’s back.

Old Shorts

I was trying to reorganise the document folders on my computer when I came upon one folder that contained most of the short stories that I wrote a long time ago. I used to write a lot of short stories and poetry way back in high school and university, but not so much lately. Since most of them were written in my teenage years, a lot were about love or heartaches, and usually so much drama. Unfortunately all the files of my short stories are password protected, and I no longer remember the password I used so long ago.

I tried recovering the contents some way, and was able to find a way to access a few, but not most. I’m still contemplating if I should post one or two of those stories on here.

Between home and home

A very strange feeling this is. I’ve been away from home for more than three weeks, and I mean from my current residence in Sydney. I’m coming home soon, but I’m also leaving home in the process, and I mean our family home in Manila where I grew up in and lived until less than two years ago. I am excited to get back to my place and start the rest of the year, but at the same time feel that little bit of sadness as I again leave my original home and not know when I’m coming back next.

This trip has been a great opportunity to reconnect with people who have played significant roles in my life, both in the past and at present. I also rekindled my entrepreneurial passion and will be revealing my new business venture soon. I truly savored being able to celebrate Christmas and New Year back home like years past. Met up with my truest friends (who were in town) over coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or anything in between and shared so many stories that we have missed from each other. Spent time bonding with my sister and my cousins.

I somehow feel part of this world once again. But in reality, I am not. My current life now revolves in Sydney, and this is really just a break, a holiday from it all. Back to real life for me soonest. I’m not complaining though, cos my real life is also amazing. It’s just hard to reconcile that one cannot live two different realities at the same time.

See you next time Manila. ♥

A letter to my (maybe non-existent) future husband…

I don’t really know if there is any point writing to you again. I remember writing my first letter to you many years ago. Has it been six years past? More or less.

Sometimes I don’t really know if you even exist. And if you do, where in the world have you been hiding all this time? Because I’ve been trying so hard to find you, and I’ve been through so many disappointing situations in my search. I’m extremely exhausted. I no longer want to move, because no matter how much I move, it seems like I’m not getting any nearer to you.

I am okay. I’m doing fine. Life is not perfect, and I do wish things could work a little bit better. But I don’t mind being where I am right now. And to be honest, I don’t need you. I’m confident I can make it on my own even if you do not exist. I can make things better, in time.

But how I long for you. How I long to find you and finally be able to show you all that I have saved up inside. I know that I have a worth on my own, but I have a feeling that it will be so much better to have you around.

Maybe you don’t exist. Maybe you are just a figment of my imagination and this search is all in vain. Maybe. But what if you do exist? That would be the sweetest discovery.

Tale of the nodule

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The things I write here are just based on my own personal experience, how I understand my doctors’ explanations, and some online research I did to help me understand more about what was happening to me.


It was just a lump. One fine day in July while I was putting on moisturizer on my face and neck, I felt a firm lump at the front left part of my neck near the base. It felt as big as a cherry (or specifically I described it as like having a “sinigwelas” stuck in my neck). I knew it wasn’t there before, not that big to be felt anyway. My mom was around that time so I told her about it. She told me to have it checked by the doctor.

I never thought I would be dealing with any major medical issue anytime soon, but that’s how simply I discovered it.

I went to the GP to have it checked. He did a simple physical examination of it, then sent me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed a solitary thyroid nodule in my left thyroid about 3.3cm. I went back to the GP with the results, and he sent me for more tests, blood tests to check my thyroid hormones, and fine needle biopsy (FNB) for the nodule. This entire thing, from the first GP visit to the FNB results, went on for a few weeks. When my GP got my FNB results, he referred me to a specialist.

I went for a consult with the specialist, who then sent me for another set of tests – more blood tests, and a thyroid scan (where they give you a small amount of radioactive iodine which should be absorbed by the thyroid and shows the level of function of the thyroid). Immediately after my thyroid scan (I think my specialist was around during the scan, and came over while I was still on the scanning bed) told me that my nodule was cold (or it wasn’t absorbing the radioactive tracer, thus, was non-functioning thyroid tissue) and that he would need to refer me to a surgeon on my next visit. So I went back a week after when the rest of the test results were ready, and the specialist referred me to the surgeon, who luckily had a free slot for a consult on the same day.

I went to the surgeon who checked through my previous test results. He checked my thyroid again with an ultrasound in his own clinic, and noted that the nodule was around 3.7cm (but initially he said the size difference from the first scan may just be due to viewing variances). He also did a nasolaryngoscopy to check my throat and vocal chords. He explained to me the results of my test, and why surgery was recommended to take it out. During that first visit with the surgeon he scheduled me for an operation in less than a month (which I eventually rescheduled a little bit later to time it when my mom can come over to provide support).

During the following weeks while waiting for my surgery, I was starting to feel the lump as a mild pressure inside my throat. Perhaps it was getting a little bit bigger, or maybe it was shifting positions, but I couldn’t really tell.

I don’t think I ever stopped reading any and all online references I could get my hands on on the subject of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers. I’ve read about the different kinds. I’ve read maybe a hundred times (a lot of times the same articles) about how they are diagnosed and treated. They were mostly saying the same things. And somehow, most were also pointing to the direction that all the characteristics of my nodule were somehow indicating higher risks for malignancy.

Just to review, here were the characteristics of my nodule:

  • Solitary – there were no other visible nodules in the scan
  • Cold – it was comprised of non-functioning thyroid tissue
  • Atypia of undetermined significance – it could not be determined if the mass was benign or malignant based on the FNB alone
  • Bigger than 3cm
  • Thyroid hormones normal
  • Family history – mom had her entire thyroid removed a few years ago and findings include microcarcinoma

I guess that’s the reason why all the doctors I consulted recommended to immediately remove the mass to get a definitive finding if it is benign or malignant. I was undergoing a hemi-thyroidectomy – removing the left lobe of my thyroid. The doctors told me that there is a possibility that they may need to do a second operation to remove the rest of my thyroid if the nodule turns out to be malignant. So I was also trying to ready myself for that possibility.

Mid-November, I finally had my surgery and it went smoothly. The only thing that got me is the horrible nausea and headache after the operation, which was probably the side effects of the anesthetics. Once I got over that, recovery went well.

A little over two weeks after the operation, I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon and he told me the results of the biopsy. Findings was Hurthle cell adenoma – it was benign! I was relieved. I get to keep the rest of my thyroid for now. The surgeon also told me that it was a good that we have already removed the nodule because there may be a risk of it becoming malignant if it wasn’t removed.

There is a “thin line” between Hurthle cell adenoma (benign) and Hurthle cell carcinoma (malignant).

“If vascular invasion, invasion of adjacent tissues or complete capsular penetration (if the tumor is encapsulated) is demonstrated the tumor is considered malignant” (http://www.med.harvard.edu/JPNM/TF99_00/Nov23/WriteUp.html).

“Unlike many cancers, Hürthle cell cannot be definitively diagnosed with a fine needle aspiration (biopsy). While the biopsy may be suggestive of a tumor that may or may not be cancer, called a Hürthle cell neoplasm, the large majority of these will be found to be benign (called a Hürthle cell adenoma). The only way to confirm the diagnosis of cancer is by identifying capsular or vascular invasion (that is, invasive growth that is seen with cancer). This can only be determined after the nodule is surgically removed and examined by a pathologist in the laboratory… Once there is a diagnosis of a Hürthle cell neoplasm, surgery to remove the affected thyroid lobe is typically the next step to clarify the diagnosis. Only 15-30% of patients will receive a diagnosis of carcinoma after surgery, with the remainder finding the nodule was benign.” (https://www.oncolink.org/cancers/thyroid/all-about-huerthle-cell-carcinoma)

I’m super glad that its Hurthle cell adenoma and not Hurthle cell carcinoma.

“Hürthle cell cancer has the highest incidence of metastasis among the differentiated thyroid cancers… The lungs, bones, and central nervous system are the most prevalent sites of metastases.” (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/279462-overview)

“No widely accepted paradigm exists for the pathogenesis of follicular and Hürthle cell cancer of the thyroid. Some evidence suggests that a multistep adenoma-to-carcinoma pathway may be involved; however, this concept is not universally accepted. Many of the cells probably develop from preexisting adenomas, but a follicular carcinoma in situ is not recognized pathologically.” (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/279462-overview#a5)

During that same follow-up, I also asked the doctor about the size of the nodule they removed, since I had a feeling before the surgery that it was slowly getting bigger. He told me that it was possibly around 4cm – indeed a little bit bigger than when it was first diagnosed just four months earlier. I’m so thankful for the perfect timing of when I noticed the lump, when it was diagnosed, when the doctors decided to take it out, and when I finally had the surgery. Otherwise if I or any of my doctors have ignored it, the outcome may have been different.

I’m almost back to my normal self, although I’m still avoiding heavy physical activities and my wound is still recovering from the swelling. I can move my neck, but not yet 100% back to its normal range. I have yet to see my specialist to find out if my remaining half-thyroid is producing enough hormones or if I need to take hormone supplements. But everything is good and well. I no longer need another operation or other therapies. I can start planning my life for 2017.

Christmas came early this year

There are just so many things that should excite me in the coming days. There’s the Coldplay concert next week, the family trip pre-Christmas, and most of all, spending Christmas and New Year back home. There are even more exciting things coming early next year – Adele, travels, and so much more. But somehow I feel like I’m not as excited as I should be for all those other things.

Perhaps it’s because of the health-scare I’ve had in the second half of this year. It’s quite unsettling to be face-to-face with that big word – cancer. I had a solitary thyroid nodule which was suspicious on tests. They couldn’t determine from initial tests if it was benign or malignant, and a lot of parameters were pointing to a risk for malignancy. The only way they could find out is to take out the entire lobe and do a biopsy of the entire mass.

Hence, I headed for surgery mid-November. I’m super thankful to my mom who came over to help me out pre- and post-operation. And my brother who has always been great support. I was lucky that I got myself a good private health insurance earlier this year. I am also very happy that I have good doctors and an amazing surgeon.

Christmas came early for me this year, as two weeks after my surgery, my surgeon gives me the great news that my nodule was benign! It’s the best news for me all year. Thank God.

Let me savor this moment to realise how truly blessed I am.

 

Post script:
Being the inquisitive geek that I am, I have been reading and I continue to read about my entire thyroid nodule saga. So beyond what my doctors were telling me up front, I was also researching and reading relevant references in my own time, because I wanted to know what it was all about. My surgeon just confirmed with me the findings of the biopsy, and I am also reading more about it. I might do another post later on with the more medical side-story.