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A Chaplain’s Thyroidectomy – First Chapter in his Journey

I am still in the middle of this. I am a 50 year-old male who is active, competing in 5K and 10K races over the past twenty years or so. I participated in a Sprint Triathlon in April 2013. I plan to do another in 2014. I tell people that the thyroid thing has pretty much been a non-event for me, an inconvenience at most. My wife disagrees. But, it is really how I feel. It has taken three days from me and forced me to take a week off of work; because my boss pretty much insisted.

I am a corporate chaplain for four companies and see approximately 500 people per week. My hours are somewhat flexible and I love what I do. I look forward to going to work every day. I love to see the folks I get to serve. Currently, I only have one early morning per week (get up at 4:00 AM on site by 6:00AM); the rest of the week I don’t start until 9:00 AM. One night, I work until 10:00 PM. I have not shared my diagnosis or surgery with any of them because it is my job to serve them and help them through these types of things. If I start to share, it becomes about me. I am sure there will come a time that sharing my story with someone will be helpful to them; but that hasn’t happened yet. I have been able to hide my scar with high neck crew t-shirts (a big jump after 30 years of low v-necks). I usually wear button down collars; so, often the t-shirt doesn’t even show.

My thyroid was partially removed for nodules 7/12/2013. The doc removed the isthmus and most of the right side. First surgery was a breeze. Surgery started at 6:00 pm; out by 9:00 PM; home by 10:00 pm; back to work on Monday. Pain killers on Saturday and Sunday and at night before bed on Monday and Tuesday.

I had the rest of the thyroid removed due to papillary carcinoma on Friday, 8/23/2013. The second surgery had some complications due to a lot of lymph nodes. I needed a drain in my neck and had to stay in the hospital until Sunday, 8/25, due to calcium levels. I took pain killers in the hospital over the weekend and one on Monday. The attending physician only prescribed half the dose of pain killers as the first time. They took the edge off and I was OK.

If not for the drain, I could have gone back to work on Monday. I am still doing everything I can, work-wise, from home. I walked the quater-mile to the grocery store and back on Monday. My 68 year-old mother cut my grass on Monday because the doc said light duty for two weeks.

I went to the doc on Wednesday, 8/28, to have the drain out. The doc had received the pathology – no cancer in the left side, 3 out of 21 lymph nodes malignant. He pulled the drain and released me to cut the grass next week. My energy levels are as good or better than before the surgery.

I saw the endocrinologist yesterday. That was a blessing. I received a call from the scheduler at 1:30. She explained that she was just given instructions to set me up with the endocrinologist and when she looked at the schedule, there was an appointment that just opened up at 2:00. She asked if I could make it. Of course I could. The doc was surprised too. She said she had looked at her schedule and didn’t have any openings until November. She looked at my chart, made some calculations and upped my Synthroid dose, which I went on in the hospital. We also set up the RAI treatment plan – which starts when I get back from a vacation I have planned in September.

My treatment for RAI will be:
Week 1 – Go off Synthroid, go on Cytomel
Week 2 – Low iodine diet starts
Week 3 – Stop Cytomel
Week 4 – Start getting labs done
When TSH is above 30 call for treatment which will be administered 1.5 days later
2 Days after dose – stop Low iodine diet, resume Synthroid and Cytomel (for two weeks only)
7-10 Days after dose – Thyroid Whole Body Scan

I should be done before Thanksgiving.

I hope this was helpful and that your experience is as good or better than mine.

Blessings,
Bill C.
Chaplain

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