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Reply and Update

I just received the following comment and wanted to write a proper response, so I thought I’d make it a post rather than a short comment. I’ve been meaning to write anyway, so this is a great reason to do so. I swore I would keep up, but alas, life keeps moving swiftly.

Hi Kat

I’m curious how you’re doing now. I’m having a TT for Graves Disease on Jan 3rd and I’m soooo anxious about life without my thyroid. All of the horror stories on the Internet have me so scared. Your story seems like a positive one so far. How are you doing now? I’m hoping that the few posts/updates means you’re out there living your life and not worrying about your thyroid anymore!!! Please let me know there is hope after TT!!!

Jen

Hi Jen, thank you for the comment and for the nudging me to update my story. I have indeed been living life like crazy for the last few months, which is why I haven’t written. Since July, I’ve done/am doing the following:

  • moved from my apartment of 6 years into my boyfriend’s house
  • studied for/took the GMAT
  • quit my job (to travel and move)
  • received immunizations for Polio, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, etc.
  • traveled within Africa for 3 weeks
  • was on anti-malarial preventative medication for a month
  • sold my car and half of my furniture
  • traveled back and forth from Atlanta to Denver/Boulder three times to piece together a multistage, cross-country move
  • moved from Atlanta to Colorado via moving van for three days
  • finishing up my application for an MBA program

I’m still in the process of getting settled, looking for a job, finding my way around, writing application essays, dealing with car insurance bureaucracy for a complicated car-borrowing situation, looking for a new endocrinologist, etc….

Indeed, living life.

Things have been a little irregular with my TSH levels, but I attribute that to the travel and transition from Atlanta to Colorado that is still in a bit of upheaval.  I realize you probably deal more with T4 and T3, as I did since my TSH was pretty much at a constant .01, so relying more on TSH is something you’ll get used to after your TT.

I started with 112mcg of Synthroid (brand specific!) and my TSH shot up to about double the “normal” range.  I was then put on 137mcg (two notches up in dosage) and at 6 weeks my TSH was headed back down toward hyper-range, and I was put on 125mcg.  This seemed like the Goldilocks method (too little, too much, just right) so I figured we’d found our stable dosage.  The catch is, I left for Africa the week I started on 125mcg and had little control over what I was eating – and we were all eating A LOT!  Go figure.  There could have been soy oil in everything for all I knew.  When I did my labs (at only 4 weeks due to out of state circumstances) my TSH was way up and she wanted to put me back on 137mcg.  This did not make sense to me because I was headed toward hyper on that dosage just weeks earlier.  (I may be one of the few people you hear of that refuses a higher dosage, but I was having heart palpitations on 137mcg like I did when I was hyper naturally)  So I held off and did my labs a couple of weeks later (again, still too soon, but necessary due to circumstance) and it appears as though my TSH is headed back in the right direction on 125mcg.  Another kink in the chain, I was on Malarone – an anti-malarial for almost 30 days and that could’ve had an impact on my absorption.  The color of the pill looked like it had pigment made from iron oxide – and that could have interfered with absorption.

As you can see, there were way too many variables to really be messing with dosage.  I have to say, I’ve felt great and not great on each level of medication I’ve been on.  It’s been so long since I’ve lived without an awareness of thyroid levels that I forgot what used to be “normal” for me.  I’ve always been hyper-aware of changes in my body and when my levels fluctuated while I still had my own thyroid hormone, I could predict my lab results based on various physical symptoms, my menstrual cycle, and anxiety levels.  With Synthroid, my T4 hasn’t fluctuated as much as my TSH, and perhaps that’s why I don’t feel the changes as subtly as I did previously.

Since my surgery, my menstrual cycle is exactly 28 days no matter where my levels are.  That’s kind of weird.

Since I’ve stopped living out of a suitcase, remained in one time zone, and resumed cooking for myself, I am starting to feel better.  I had put on a couple of pounds before I left for Africa, looking back, it seems stress related, but nothing anyone besides myself might notice, and then added about four more in Africa.  I started to freak out, wondering if this was going to spiral out of control.  I think indeed it easily could if I continued to eat road and restaurant food I while remaining sedentary as I couldn’t help but do, whether due to the moving truck, sitting on one of my 13 plane rides or even in Africa where it wasn’t safe or possible to go out for a jog among the hyena of the Masaai Mara or get lost out in the the middle of the Great Rift Valley in a little place called Ewaso.

So, as my life begins to stabilize, I predict that so will my TSH.

If I could offer some words of encouragement…

I would tell you not to be scared, but I know that’s impossible.  I was absolutely terrified before my surgery.  The best thing that I did for myself was finding a way to just let go.  It was the ultimate lesson in learning to stop trying to control.  You are the only one who knows what your personal lessons are surrounding this and it is a huge opportunity for personal evolution and growth that many people do not have the chance to undertake.  Perhaps that sort of perspective can help calm your mind as it did mine.

Aside from the fact that I wake at 4 a.m. to take my pill every day, Graves’ Disease has been MUCH less intrusive in my life than it has been the last six years.  I still feel relief.  I still am thankful and find it difficult to believe that I have already gone through surgery.  It still feels like a weight has been lifted.  I still have $14K in debt, but after the initial sticker shock, that even feels okay.  I’m alive, I’m functioning well, I feel positive about my future.  I don’t have a single, miniscule thread of doubt or regret about making the decision that took me the better part of three years to make.

My scar is longer than most people’s because my thyroid was pretty big.  It’s still red, but I haven’t bothered with Maderma or anything to minimize it.  As soon as I find it, I’ll start using it.  I kind of liked the novelty of it, it was something awesome to show for what I went through.  Now it just clashes with necklaces…  I don’t really have any hang-ups about scars, so it’s not an issue for me like it can be for a lot of people.  My concern has always been the weight, muscle-wasting, and heart damage issues.  I feel the surgery definitely mitigated those for sure!  One more thing…  I’ve stopped obsessively searching the internet for answers that don’t exist.  What a relief.

I hope what I’ve said encourages optimism in you.  I feel that above all, my greatest asset was my positive attitude that came from I don’t know where, just in time for the surgery.  I think it was a gift that I was too sick for the original surgery date, as I was not in the proper head space for the best outcome.  Attitude will be your best ally.  That does not mean you can’t be scared, but you can feel the fear and still have a positive outlook.  There is no other way to look at it.

If you want more detail regarding any aspect I may or may not have mentioned, ask away!  I’m very open to sharing, just busy 🙂

I wish you the best of luck, Jen.  You will be fine.  Just take it one thing at a time.

Sincerely,

Kat

 
 

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Proper Progress Report: First official labs since surgery

I finally had my first significant labs done.  My endocrinologist had me wait until the end of June to get my labs so that she would be back in the office to take a look at them.  Considering the last time she was out of the country and the medication mishap that occurred, I didn’t mind waiting an extra couple of weeks.

To my surprise, my labs came back as follows:

T4 (Thyroxine Free) 1.1 ng/dL  (Ref Range 0.7 – 1.8)

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) 9.63 mcIU/mL (Ref Range 0.55 – 4.78)

So obviously, my TSH is about twice what is considered the upper end of normal.  What surprises me is that my T4 is pretty much right in the middle.  I was feeling pretty fine, sure, a little bloated more often than not, but a small price to pay considering all the things I was fretting about pre-surgery.

What I’m confuses me is that it’s not as though my thyroid is not producing enough and therefore my pituitary gland says “make more TSH”…  I don’t have a thyroid, I take a consistent dose of T4 that goes into my body every day.  I wonder if it’s just the shock of the gland disappearing or lifestyle functions that interfere with absorption…  In any event, they raised my dose from 112mg to 137mg, which I began on June 30th.  I’m curious to see how this will affect me.

Here are the lifestyle modifications I’ve made thus far:

  • Wake every day at 6:30 a.m. to take Synthroid pill, go back to sleep for 2-3 hours, wake up and have lemon-water (try to do this daily before breakfast or coffee) then coffee.  I’ve been drinking coffee every day and many times feel as though I need it, and that bothers me.  It’s all borrowed energy and the adrenals are what pay the debt in the long run, so maybe it’s good that I’m getting a higher dose.  The reason I get up to take it is that I feel better than if I take upon waking and watch the clock while my stomach growls, or worse yet, have to run off somewhere without being able to get a healthy breakfast.  I don’t know if it’s in my head, but I feel better if I go 2-3 hours between pill and anything other than water rather than the suggested one hour.  Yes it’s a pain in the arse, but you can be sure I think it’s worth it to take such measures.  A person can get used to pretty much anything.  Ever watch Hoarders where one spouse is a hoarder and the other lives with it for a decade or two?  It could be worse….
  • Avoid Soy.  Okay, this is something I was already doing for the most part before the surgery for non-thyroid related reasons, but I’m continuing to do so.  Previously, I’d eat fermented soy which limited me mostly to tempeh, but now I avoid that as well.  Sure, on the rare occasion I’ll eat a square or two of junk tofu ( Asian style from the farmer’s market cafeteria line), but it’s really only three squares every few months.  Avoiding soy means more than just avoiding tofu and edamame.  It means avoiding most salad dressings (I like to avoid Canola as well for the Omega 6 overload) and packaged food.  If it is in a box, it’s more than likely got soy in it.  Again, I was already doing my best to avoid processed food, but now I have even more incentive.  Making your own salad dressing is super easy and you have greater control of what you consume.  Something I’m in favor of already.
  • Not avoiding a high fiber diet.  This is something I refuse to modify, not that it was suggested by the doctor, but two of the things I eat a lot of are listed as interfering with the absorption of Synthroid on the brand’s website.  One is walnuts and the other is high fiber foods.  Now there is no f-ing way I’m avoiding those!  That would mean reducing the amount of fruits and vegetables I consume and that is the most ridiculous notion.  They’ll just have to increase the dose.  Oh wait, they did.
  • Keep my Synthroid in the refrigerator.  It is HOT y’allz!  I don’t care where you are in the country (except the pacific NW), it is balls-frying-on-the-pavement hot!  My old apartment and my new digs are similar in that the air conditioning does not really cool the joint down when it’s 106 degrees outside… and inside.  According to my research, Synthroid readily degrades when exposed to heat, so I keeps it in the fridge, yo!  That is, until the night before I take it, then I place it in a little shot glass next to the bed so I can wake up, take it (with a full glass of water), and lie back down and (sometimes) fall back asleep.
  • That’s it!

So, my lifestyle hasn’t changed that much.  I still have weird sensations at the incision site.  It feels itchy at times, like it’s being stretched at others, and then there’s that weird pinchy, burny feeling that I believe is my nerves growing back together.  All in all, it’s not too uncomfortable.  I forget it’s there most of the time, which is a vast difference from being hyper-conscious of my enlarged thyroid 100% of the time.  It’s been just three months and the ‘surgical ridge line’ has completely flattened out, though it’s still quite red.  I find I don’t wear necklaces these days because I feel like the scar competes with the necklace and it just looks cluttered, like I’m wearing two necklaces.  Hmph.

I haven’t really been putting anything on it other than sunscreen, which I’ve been lax about, but it’s not like I’ve stepped outside other than to walk to my car or work.  It is HOT y’allz!  When it feels itchy, I’ll rub some of my shea/coconut concoction that I sell in the winter time on it because it’s too rich for any other part of my body in the summer.  I did buy Mederma, but I’ve only used it about 4 times.  I guess I just don’t really care enough to make it a priority.  I figure I can get around to it when I get tired of looking at it.  Really though, putting an acid-peel type substance on a fresh surgical scar just feels counter-intuitive.

I think my least favorite thing is the strange sensation when I yawn.  Since there’s no thyroid there to separate my trachea from my neck flesh/skin, when I yawn, it feels scratchy and weird when my neck skin rubs on my trachea.  I bet you’re working up an appetite, huh?

On a related topic, I was listening to an episode of The Moth podcast whilst making a batch of soap this evening and there was a story told by Jennifer Fitzgerald in which she does her best to “slut it up” in an effort to get a boyfriend to prove her parents wrong (funny story, that’s why you should listen) and the captain of the wrestling team ***SPOILER/VULGARITY ALERT*** shoves her hand down his pants and she exclaims “Jesus Christ!  It feels like chicken parts!”  Tantalizing, no?  I had a good laugh at that one…

Progress report so far:

  • zero pounds gained (aside from normal fluctuations)
  • zero pounds lost
  • mild occasional bloating – not the worst case scenerio
  • frequent stomach aches – not inclined to think this is thyroid related, but thought I’d mention it
  • plenty of energy to do the things I need to do and the body tells me when it’s time to rest
  • some annoying short term memory malfunction – again, not the worst case scenerio
  • fairly stable mood – no pronounced depression or anxiety
  • dosage increase 6.30.12 – will update accordingly

Most days are good, others, I feel like I’m just hanging on, trying not to fall over the edge, but mostly, they’re good.  I think that’s the best that anyone could ask for Total Thyroidectomy or not.  So, I guess I’m doing fine.Image

“A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.”
Allen Klein

 

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Abbreviated Update

I keep meaning and meaning to write, but have had so much on my plate lately.  It’s like my life went from zero to sixty after my surgery.  In fact, I had the surgery and just continued on as if nothing had changed.  In fact, it gave me a stable base, I feel.

I was so worried about what a roller coaster post-op would be, but I think that’s mainly the norm for RAI patients.  For me, the roller coaster was the part where I came to peace with my decision and finally went at it with some grace.  Physically, though with RAI, there’s no way to fully know how much or how long it will take to kill off some/all of your thyroid cells, so there is major fluctuation between what your thyroid is producing and the meds.  With surgery, once it’s out, you can calculate that it is producing exactly zero thyroid hormone and you start with a simple formula for replacement medication:

1.7 mcg/kg/day

So, if I weigh approximately 66.5 kg, I multiply that by 1.7 = 113ish

I started on a dose of 112mcg/day and am due for my labs at the end of the month.  Actually should be sooner, but my Endocrinologist is out of the country until then and it’s a fairly simple calculation – and she is flexible with my requests because I’ve been such a responsible patient, and she’s seen me every 3-4 months for the last 6 years….

But, I feel pretty good. Here are the bullet points that may or may not be related to the actual surgery or synthroid:

  • Skin has been more sensitive – more prone to contact dermatitis from a specific pair of shoes that were mildly irritating pre-surgery
  • Went through a period of intensely dry lips & cracking on the corners – have a feeling it was any combination of the following: hard to keep hydrated no matter how much water I drink (strange sounding, I know, but don’t ask me how I figured this out); slight anemia during one week that coincided with my worst symptom; good bacteria had not grown back sufficiently after all the harsh drugs and prophylactic antibiotics (was having severe digestive issues for the first several weeks)
  • Have added B-12, probiotics, and Vitamin D to my daily regimen

Hard to remember the transient symptoms, but bloating easily from any food by the end of the day.  Frequent, persistent stomach aches (these come and go already, but they were more frequent).  Sensitive skin & dry lips feel related to me.

Also, for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been having the weirdest sensations at my incision site.  I think it’s the nerves growing back together.  I was aware that the skin above the scar would be numb for several months and it has been.  First it started as a weird itching directly on the scar, like dry skin that’s being stretched, it itches but some shea butter would make it feel so much better.  So that’s what I did, I applied shea butter and it made it feel less itchy.

*I should note here that I bought Mederma, but haven’t really been using it.  It seemed too harsh to put something that dissolves layers of skin somewhere that’s trying to grow new layers.  I’ll try it a bit later, just seemed too soon even if the package says it’s okay.*

Now that itch has turned into a pinching/burning sort of sensation that lasts for 20-30 seconds at a time.  Then it disappears and comes back randomly throughout the day or night.  I really think it’s the nerves growing back together because when I rub the numb area, I’m starting to feel it a tiny bit nearer to the either end of the scar.  It’s very similar to when you go to the dentist and they numb you.  As the feeling comes back little by little, just imagine it dragged out over the course of several months.

I have to say, if these are my only issues, it’s not so bad.  The dry lips thing is highly irritating, but it’s better than palpitations and panic attacks.  It’s like the layer of skin is tight over my lips, it’s not cracking and peeling, or anything really gross.  You couldn’t even tell by looking, it just feels annoying.

So, sorry for the disjointed post, but in winding down from work, with the limited brain capacity I have after a Friday night of non-stop action, I thought this might be the best use of my time since I can’t really do anything too demanding.  I’m not even going to bother re-reading and editing, which I normally would do because now I’m tired and need some sleep.  I hope most of my sentences aren’t too awkward.

P.S. – Go back one post and look, I added a picture of my accidental dessert for breakfast.

 

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Pathology, Gross Description, Etc.

I had a follow up today with my surgeon and am happy to report that healing is on track.  He said my scar is still a bit puffy (I already knew that, thank you) and that complete healing from surgical scars takes 6 months to a year.  Aside from minor maiming by my Phlebotomist today, all is well.  Stabbed veins are painful!  I received the Operative and Pathology Reports, and though both were in language unfamiliar to me, they were fascinating!  Being that it’s all done and over with, it’s quite interesting to know exactly what took place while I was under.  I’ll summarize:

Operative Report:

Basically, they put me under, prepped me, gave me some drugs and put an inflatable cuff around each of my lower legs to prevent blood clots.  Then, they slit my throat 9 cm across and 2.5 cm above my clavicle, first superficially, then through muscle.  They folded my temporary neck flaps up and clamped them open.  Then they cut through more muscle, ligated several veins in my hypervascular thyroid, snipped here, snipped there.  They identified and spared my superior laryngeal nerve, identified and biopsied nodes determined to be benign.  The left upper parathyroid was identified and spared, the lower left parathyroid was not encountered and the left thyroid lobe was inspected and no accidentally removed parathyroid was seen.  The recurrent laryngeal nerve identified, spared in situ, and viable; lobe is passed off and returned finding hyperplastic (extra cells) tissue consistent with Graves’ Disease with no carcinoma seen.  Likewise for lymph nodes.

Onto more dissecting, snipping, and sewing; right lobe removed, the right upper parathyroid vasculature was compromised by my anatomy and was therefore “minced finely with … scissors” and grafted into my neck muscle.  The right lower and a third rogue parathyroid “labeled the right middle” were viable and left in situ.  My guess is that the “right middle” parathyroid was the lower left that they couldn’t find, which must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.  Then, they basically burned the rest of the gland off of my trachea and stabbed two holes in my neck in order to place drain tubes.  Then it says ” Hemostasis was adequate with a valsalva maneuver,” though I’m not entirely sure what that looks like…

Pathology Report & Gross Description:

Specimen A – Pretracheal lymph node measures 1.4×0.6×0.3 cm.  It is frozen and sectioned for diagnosis by touch preparation.

Specimen B – Left thyroid lobe weighing 24.5 grams (finally, I know!)  –  Normal weight of a thyroid is 10-30 grams, so you can see that my left half was as big as a full thyroid.  It measured 6×4.8×1.8 cm while the isthmus (the middle part that I found so bothersome) measured 1.5 x 0.7 x 0.6 cm.  The lobe was reddish-tan and “diffusely heterogenous” – I think this means it was multinodular across a large region.  Consistently inconsistent, if you will.  No distinct nodules identified.

Specimin C – Right thyroid lobe weighing 15.7 grams (for a total of 40.2 grams) and measured 5.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 cm.  This lobe was “beefy red” and homogeneous.  No discrete lesion identified.  I could’ve told you the left one was the problem.

It’s weird how 99% of my physical ailments happen on the left side of my body, my thyroid being no different…

  • One reactive node tested negative for metastatic carcinoma.  That’s always a good day…  I think this was referring to my lymph node.  Both lymph node and thyroid nodule tested negative for carcinoma.  Yay.
  • At surgery the patient was found to have an enlarged, hypervascular thyroid consistent with the diagnosis.

Hemovac drains are then placed, I’m stitched up, and sterile dressing is applied.  The next thing I remember is the nurse telling me to take deeper breaths to bring my blood pressure up and they brought in my mom and then my boyfriend.  The transfer to the room is a bit hazy.  I remember coming out of the elevator on the cart and accidentally bumping into my mom, who didn’t recognize me at first.  Getting off the cart and into the bed was the hardest part.

I had to stay in the hospital overnight, but the morphine they gave me kept putting me to sleep, so for the first few hours, my mom, my boyfriend, and I napped on and off since none of us really got much sleep the night before.  That evening I told them both to go home and get some rest – only one person is allowed to stay in the hospital room overnight and I wanted both of them to get some sleep after the whole ordeal.  I knew that Anto had to work the next day at 5 and he’d gotten only 45 minutes of sleep the night before due to having to close at work and then be at my place by 6:30 a.m.  I felt fine and sleepy and wanted him to get a good night’s sleep before having to bear the brunt of working a Saturday night with little to no sleep two nights in a row.  He left reluctantly and then texted me about every 8 minutes upon returning home, making sure I was alright, asking if I wanted him to come back, etc.  All I did was watch episodes of House Hunters International between drug laden snoozes, I felt fine and told him to stay home.

As it got to be around ten o’clock, the nurses kept returning to poke me with needles, take my vitals, bring me ice chips, etc.  All I wanted to do was go to sleep and every time I started to drift, in came the nurse or the tech to make me do something.  Just when I was starting to realize that this wasn’t going to be the restful night I thought it would be, the door opened and Anto walked in!  He had come back, a blanket under his arm, to stay the night with me.  I was and still am thankful that he returned because that night would’ve been a very different experience had I been on my own.  The poor guy got woken up just like I did every hour, on the hour, the entire night.

I was supposed to be released around 11:00 the next morning, but there was a mix up with my labs – they had to monitor my calcium and the last batch of blood-work was entered under the wrong date in their computers, and it took until about 5pm to sort out.  Poor Anto stayed with me all the way until 3, and only left because he had to be to work at 5.  My mom came to take me home and faithfully crushed my pain pills up into apple juice for me for the next few days.

You already know the story after that.  How much energy I had, how I tricked myself into mild dehydration and exhaustion.  I made myself take it easy the last few days and am due to return to work tomorrow.  I feel great, optimistic, and generally lighter – even though I’ve gained seven pounds.  Blech.  I’m not letting panic get the best of me.  After all, I’ve been doing nothing but eating and laying around for the last couple of weeks with a couple of slow paced walks thrown in the mix.  I asked the surgeon today if I could start running again next week and he gave me the green light.  I think a return to routine, work, and more rigorous exercise will be effective.  I’m also looking forward to having income again.  I *think* I’m at peace with the fact that there is bound to be a little bit of weight fluctuation and that it will even out in time once I find the right fit with my Synthroid dose. I have been experiencing pretty significant abdominal distress with the slightest stray from non-processed food, so even though I already make mostly healthy food choices, this might ensure stricter adherence to them.  Not sure what’s going on, but I’m keeping an eye on things.

Still, overall, I’m feeling positive and thankful.  *Exhale…….

 

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Total Thyroidectomy

 

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Two week update

Today marks two weeks since the removal of my thyroid.

Perhaps I should’ve updated more often, because now the first week is kind of a hazy memory.  I started weening off the pain meds at about one week.  Then, on Monday, I drove for the first time.  I still have to turn my whole torso to look behind me, I can’t tilt my head back much at all, and it still feels like my neck is sewn on too tight.  My incision is pretty dark and is about 3 inches across – longer than I thought it would be.  I’m used to it now and am taking pictures as it heals.

Almost from the day I got home, I had a good bit of energy.  When they handled my thyroid to cut it out, it likely stimulated it to release a bunch of extra hormone into my bloodstream before it was removed.  I experienced palpitations during surgery (I was told by the anesthesiologist) and for a few days afterward, but they felt very minor compared to those I experienced in my hyper days.  Because it is often difficult for me to take it easy when I’d rather be productive, I don’t think I allowed myself as much rest as I really needed.  I forgot that just because I felt fine didn’t mean that there wasn’t a big slice across my neck that needed healing, and that the body heals when at rest.  So two nights ago I crashed.  My digestive system started acting crazy, I had terrible cramping all night and into the next morning.  The minute my morning green smoothie hit my lips, it felt like my entire intestinal tract went into spasm and I couldn’t even stand up straight.  I was informed that I was probably dehydrated on top of not getting enough rest.

In an effort to aid in my further healing, I rested all day yesterday with my kitty Lilly, who did not leave my side and is currently napping next to me as I write this.  I got a full night’s sleep, took an easy walk and then napped three or four times throughout the day and still went to bed and slept like a log.  I must have needed it.  I’m taking it easy again today, drinking plenty of water and resting.  I ran the essential errands – kitty litter, kitty food, and groceries.  I have all these other things that I’d like to do today:  make soap, clean out the refrigerator, put my laundry away, clean the kitchen floor.  Then I remind myself that there is plenty of time to do those things and the priority now is rest and healing.  I go back to work on Tuesday and I’m not going to take the chance of exhausting myself during the time that I need to be recovering.  It’s easy to forget that my body is using a lot of energy to regenerate tissue and heal the space where my thyroid used to be, I just need to step aside and give it the opportunity to do so.

I don’t really know yet how the synthroid dose is suiting me, since I’m only two weeks out and I still have my own hormone running through my bloodstream.  My educated guess is that I’ll start to have an idea starting at about six weeks out from surgery.  I’m hoping for a relatively seamless transition since I feel I’ve already paid my dues over the last six year roller-coaster ride of hormone fluctuations.  I’ve already wasted too much energy on anxiety and feel there’s no more to spare on something so useless.  From here on out, I can only look forward.  I promised this to myself before the surgery and so far that promise is holding solid.

I have a follow up appointment with my surgeon on Monday and another with my Endocrinologist on Wednesday.  I am fairly confident that they will both tell me that everything is looking good and that I’m recovering nicely.  It’s really strange.  I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve already done it.  That the surgery is behind me.  I feel like along with my thyroid, the surgery removed a lot of the weight of the world from my shoulders.  Granted, I still have my struggles, like anyone does, but I feel lighter.  I’ve always laughed easily, but the last couple of weeks have been full of laughter and ease that were hidden in shadow, previously.  I have a tremendous sense of freedom and relief.

I feel joyful that I can walk around with my hair back and my head held high.  I almost feel as if I had plastic surgery.  I’ve rid that sense of shame and embarrassment formerly choking me.  I may have a big red slice across my neck, but I feel good and proud and slightly bad ass about it.  It’s proof to me and everyone who sees me that I’ve faced one of my biggest fears and came through with flying colors.  It’s my own permanent merit badge.  I love my scar and life!  I am a walking medical miracle now.  Without the little pill I take every morning, I would slip into a myxedema coma and die within a matter of weeks.  We are all lucky to be here, to be alive.  “There, but for the grace of God”, I genuinely get it now, to my core, and I hope to hold it with me further on this path.  All we have is now, and right now is good.  In that spirit, I’d like to leave you with another lesson in the words of Pema Chodron:

The Path Is the Goal

What does it take to use the life we already have in order to make us wiser rather than more stuck?  What is the source of wisdom at a personal, individual level?

The answer to these questions seems to have to do with bringing everything that we encounter to the path.  Everything naturally has a ground, path, and fruition.  This is like saying that everything has a beginning, middle, and end.  But it is also said that the path itself is both the ground and the fruition.  The path is the goal.

This path has one very distinct characteristic: it is not prefabricated.  It doesn’t already exist.  The path that we’re talking about is the moment-by-moment evolution of the world of phenomena, the moment -by-moment evolution of our thoughts and emotions.  The path is uncharted.  It comes into existence moment by moment and at the same time drops away behind us.

When we realize that the path is the goal, there’s a sense of workability.  Everything that occurs in our confused mind we can regard as the path.  Everything is workable.

I would like to say, again, a big, big thank you for all the support I have been receiving throughout this experience.  Well wishes, flowers, smiles, hugs, thoughtful texts and inquiries, prayers, vibes, and all the rest.  It’s truly had a positive influence on how well things have gone so far and has helped lift my spirits overall.  Thank you, thank you.  What an incredible healing force you have all been.

 

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Total Thyroidectomy

 

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You should see the other guy…

So far, so good.  The follow up stuff has become a bit of a hassle just as the rest of it was, but I’m taking it in stride.  I’m not willing to get stressed out over stupid little stuff that will get worked out in its own time.  I’m in good spirits and a little bit of pain.  Not too bad over all.

I got my sutures out yesterday.  The nurse put steri-strips over the scar immediately afterward, so I didn’t get to see it.  They just look like white tape and will come off on their own in about a week.  She said that there’s about a cup of fluid in the area where my thyroid used to be.  The initial rush of fluid was drained through two holes in my neck and the light suction of a spring loaded contraption.  Gross.  It was to avoid infection, but it was kind of weird to see.  Anyway, she said the fluid is normal and it will be re-absorbed by my body over the next few weeks and that is what is causing the swelling and that too will go down over the next few weeks.  At times, it feels as though I have an air bubble in my throat, the kind that hurts.  It’s just the fluid pressing on my trachea and that will also dissipate.

Right now, it looks like there’s a worm taped to my throat.  I understand that it will take about six months before the scar flattens out and becomes less red, but I think I liked the Frankenstein stitches better….  Made me want to say “you should see the other guy” to people who stare when I pass by.

My new medication routine consists of taking a synthroid pill from the refrigerator each night before bed and putting it in a little cup on my night stand next to my big hospital jug of water.  Then, when I wake up, which has been anywhere from 7-9am, I take the pill and go back to sleep.  By the time I get up, it’s been at least an hour and I can eat or drink my breakfast.  Been going with green smoothies the last couple of days.  Lots of vitamins and phyto-nutrients to get my body on track towards healing.  I’m also counting on the cleansing properties of the greens to help with all the drugs that have been pumped through my body in the last week: who knows what kind of anesthesia, morphine, oxycodone, acetamenophen, stool softeners, blood thinners…

Here’s the recipe for my green smoothie, it’s super cleansing, yet palatable:

  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 2-3 big kale leaves without the stalks
  • 1-2 stalks of celery including leaves at the top
  • 1/2 c. parsley
  • 1 c. frozen, mixed berries
  • 2 oz. aloe juice
  • 1c. cold, purified water
  • 1 Tb. chia seeds

It takes some effort to get the greens blended in.  I find if you put most of the heavy stuff on the bottom, it can get a good enough start that it sucks the greens right in.  My boyfriend says it tastes like bark, but my mom and I both enjoy it.  I know it sounds horrible, but it’s kind of fresh and tart, and if you’re like me, just thinking of why it’s so good for you is enough to enjoy drinking it.  You can add about half a cup of juice to make it a little easier to take.  Apple cider works nicely.

That’s the news so far.  I still find it difficult to imagine going back to work after only one week.  Even to a desk job.  My neck gets tired of holding my head up and though I can turn it to the side, I couldn’t turn it as far or as fast as driving necessitates.  I’ve been getting better each day, whether it’s walking further without getting fatigued or being able to lift myself up from bed without supporting my head.  Today felt like a plateau day, but I’m going to go walk a mile and see how I feel after that.  I am making progress though, and that’s how I intend to continue.

 

 

 
 

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Quick update – over the first hurdle.

Just a quick update.  I’m told the surgery went quite smoothly.  I’ll give details later, but I came home yesterday a little later than anticipated due to a mix up with the lab work being entered into the computer with my calcium numbers.  I finally got a good night’s sleep last night.  I took a walk around the block today.  I’m able to eat solid food.  Had oat groats for breakfast.  Still crushing up the pain pills because it does hurt to swallow.

The site on either side of the three inch incision is what hurts, where the drain tubes were.

I get my stitches out tomorrow, but don’t worry, I took pictures.  It’s very Frankenstein-ish.  It looks like I’m wearing a shiny red and black necklace.  When you get up close, it looks like there are lips sewn shut on my neck.  The surgeon told me not to freak out when I saw it because he does this kind of sewing technique that not many people know how to do and his minimal scars are one of his bragging points.  It doesn’t quite seem real to me yet, so it’s more fascinating than anything.

Forgive my scattered post.  I wish I could write with coherent, complete thoughts, but unfortunately, that’s not how my brain is working due to the pain medication (let’s assume).  I seem to be moving right along as far as feeling better, though when I sit up straight or stand, it feels as though there’s a five pound weight hanging from my incision.  As if my neck is sewn too tight.  I can’t tilt my head back, but I assume that will improve when I get my sutures out and as time passes.  It is hard for me to imagine that some people return to work after just one week…

That’s all for now.  I can’t do anything for too long without a break, but I imagine that will improve quickly as well.  In good spirits over all, so that’s good.  I had the best mashed sweet potato of my life last night.  I think that’s why.  Don’t even get me started on what they tried to feed me in the hospital.  I read the labels.  It’s a damn shame.  Plenty to post about later.  Glad I’m over the first hurdle.

Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement through this important first step.

 

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