Gina, Female, Mom of 3
Reason for Thyroidectomy: Multi-Nodular Goiter with Non-Conclusive FNA Results & “Suspicious” Genetic Test Results
2 Weeks Post-Surgery
I am SO thankful for this site after all of the horror stories you read about having a Thyroidectomy and the after affects. My husband reminded me that most posters on the internet are the ones who have had a bad experience and it doesn’t represent all of the good, so, thank you for this site! I’m only 2 weeks out from my surgery, but am feeling good and healing well and hoping to put someone’s mind at ease with my story. 🙂
About three years ago I began feeling a lump and some pain on the left side of my throat. When I would bring it up to my general physician she told me that she didn’t feel anything and it only hurt because I kept touching it. She tested my TSH levels a couple of times a year and they always came back “within normal limits” so nothing was done. I began to have trouble swallowing, was choking when drinking water, and my voice was going hoarse for no reason, which affected my singing voice. I was no longer hot all the time, I’m a bit overweight, and my hair was beginning to fall out. After 3 years of complaining my GP finally said, “Fine, lets get an ultrasound of your thyroid and figure this out once and for all.” When I returned to her office for my results, the look on her face was priceless and she said, “Oh, we need to get you to an Endocrinologist immediately.” I wanted to smack her!! Her office manager called my home that evening to “make sure that I had some referrals to an Endocrinologist and to let them know if I needed any help getting an appointment.” In other words, “we screwed up and we want to cover our behinds”! Needless to say, I made an appointment that week and got right in with the greatest Endocrinologist who immediately ordered another ultrasound and a Fine Needle Biopsy of my two biggest nodules of 1.5cm. The results of my FNA came back inconclusive so they had to repeat it after waiting 6 weeks for the swelling to go down. I spent the whole month of December and Christmas wondering if I had thyroid cancer. It was miserable. This time they encouraged me to also have the genetic testing to determine once and for all if thyroid cancer was a possibility. My biopsy results came back a second time as inconclusive but the genetic testing came back as “suspicious” with a >50% chance that I had the cancer. Because of these results, and the fact that I was riddled with nodules, my doctor recommended a total thyroidectomy. I met with a surgeon and he scheduled the surgery for the next week. Since I am a singer and was concerned about this surgery hurting my voice, the doctor scoped my throat to take a reading of my vocal folds to be able to determine if there was any permanent damage after the surgery.
One thing I do not recommend at this point is to go on Google and look up ANYTHING regarding your surgery!!! I freaked myself completely out and was second guessing the surgery! My husband talked me down and with much praying and support from family and friends I went through with the surgery.
When I awoke from my 3 hour surgery I had an ice pack on my neck and my throat hurt like I had strep throat! They gave me ice chips to suck on and some good pain meds during my overnight stay in the hospital. During the early morning hours I decided to forego the strong pain meds that the doctor had me on because I didn’t like feeling “loopy” and wanted to be able to stay awake so I only took Tylenol. My surgeon opts to glue your neck wound shut instead of stitches and all of the nurses were bragging that he is an artist with this stuff. I was given 2 TUMS to take and sent home because my calcium levels were 9.1, which is apparently good. All I could do at home was lay on the couch and sleep while my family watched TV and talked around me. Eating anything but Jell-O was out of the question because of my throat. I tend to get dehydrated and constipated after surgery so I made sure to drink as much water as I could swallow, which wasn’t a whole lot because of my sore throat.
The next day I felt so much better and began to talk and do some very light head turning exercises a couple of times a day. On day 3 I began to feel a tingling in my arms and hands and around my mouth and was having trouble catching my breath. My husband was diagnosed with the Flu that morning so my teenage daughter had to take me to the E.R. where by the time we arrived, I was hyperventilating and thought I was having a stroke. My hands were all cramped up and I couldn’t move my mouth. They did an EKG and said I was not having a stroke, I was having a panic attack because of the cramping which was caused by low Calcium and Potassium levels. After being given a dose of Ativan they gave me an IV of Calcium and Potassium and I slowly began to feel like myself again. Not sure why my surgeon didn’t put me on Calcium the first day, even though the pathology showed that he had sliced three of my four Parathyroid Glands during the surgery. If I had the surgery again, I would take the calcium supplements the first day until I had my levels checked again so I wouldn’t have to go through thinking I was having a Stroke and not going to make it!
My post-op visit was a few days later and I was healing well and my wound was looking good. The doctor said the glue would eventually come off as the wound sealed up. He released me back to light work and driving but told me to wait until my month follow-up to start singing again in case there was damage done to my vocal folds. He will scope my throat again at the month visit to determine that. He told me to continue to take Calicitrate +D for a month ad that my depletion was most likely temporary.
My post-op visit with my Endocrinologist was the next day where he confirmed that the pathology came back that there was a Micro Carcinoma on my right lobe, which we had never even looked at or seen, so, removing my whole thyroid was the right decision. Thank God! I would hate to have had to undergo the surgery again to get the right side out if we had done the partial removal. Phew! My cancer was Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma, Stage I, and did not have any spreading into my lymph nodes or surrounding tissue, so no radioactive iodine treatment was necessary. I will continue to have scans and blood tests every six months until they determine there is no longer any reason to keep doing them. I was started on Synthroid treatment, every morning for the rest of my life, and told it will take up to a year to feel “normal” and get my medication levels correct. I have two daughters who now need to be examined and have genetic testing done to determine if they are susceptible for this same cancer because it is now in their family medical history. 🙁
It has been two weeks since my surgery and I have returned to half days at work. Besides being exhausted when I get home, I am feeling much better. I think that I jumped back into life too quickly and need to remember that I’m recovering from major surgery. I have been having some headaches which I think I have traced to the Calcitrate, but if I take an Excedrin Migraine with the pill it gets ahead of the pain, and knowing this is temporary, I can live with that. I hope this helps you to know that not all stories are horror stories. I know I have a long way to go, but overall, it has been a good experience and I’m looking forward to being healthy and feeling better and getting on with the second half of my life!
Site note from site author: Thank you, Gina, SO much for sharing you story! PLEASE check back with us at 6 months and then 12 months. Everyone feels pretty OK at 2 weeks.. then it’ll start to hit yah. Just take it easy, and keep us updated. xoxoxoxo Sparky