On November 22nd, 2o16, I was up bright and early to get to the hospital by 5:30 am. My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am. I didn’t sleep much the night before. I don’t think it’s because I was nervous necessarily, but because I had a lot on my mind. We arrived at the hospital and I was prepped for surgery.
My surgery took about 4 and a half hours plus two hours in recovery before I could finally be placed in a room. Once I was placed in a room, I was finally able to see my family. The first few hours after surgery honestly sucked. I was so nauseous from the anesthesia. I was to be kept overnight for observation. The pain wasn’t too bad, but I was on morphine most of the time. Around 10pm, my entire body began feeling like it was vibrating. I felt so extremely sick and didn’t know how else to describe what I was feeling that a numbing feeling throughout my entire body. I found out this was because my calcium was extremely low. I had to be hooked up to an IV for calcium since at this point, I still couldn’t keep anything down.
I was in the hospital until about 7pm the next night. After making sure my calcium levels were stabilizing, I was cleared to go home. The worst part about the surgery was the fact that I could hardly move my neck. I had to keep my neck completely elevated with many pillows and stay sleeping in the same position all night, which made my body very stiff in the morning.
Despite all of this, the recovery from the surgery wasn’t too bad. I couldn’t drive until I regained full function of the use of my neck, but other than that, it wasn’t too bad. Thanksgiving was a day later, and I was still able to enjoy it with my family.
After surgery came the rough part. I had to starve my body of thyroid hormone for a few weeks in preparation for the iodine radiation. For those of you who do not know what this, it’s basically an extremely radioactive pill designed just for you that you take. Radioactive iodine only kills thyroid cells, so I was given this to kill the remain thyroid cells that were in my neck (and the rest of my body). In order for this to work though, I had to go weeks without thyroid hormone. This was essentially forcing my body into hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid does not produce enough hormones that your body needs to be stable. Being hypo is absolutely terrible. There are many MANY side effects that come along with this. Some of these syptoms include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
You truly do not realize how much your thyroid does for you until you do not have. I struggled with many of those symptoms to an extreme in the few weeks that I was without thyroid hormone. I still struggle with many of them currently. I was basically a mess for weeks. I was extremely irritable and cried at basically everything and anything.
Finally at the end of December 2016, I was given the radioactive iodine pill. I had to be completely isolated from people for days. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies in my room by myself, but it was very hard to be completely isolated. After this treatment, I was FINALLY ready to be put on a thyroid hormone supplement. As of January 2nd, 2017, I have been taking a generic brand of thyroid hormone called levothyroxine. This is a medication that I will need to take every single day for the rest of my life.
So we are pretty caught up on where I am currently. I am still considered hypothyroid as my levels are still too high and not “normal.” It can take many months, years even before I am on a dosage that is where I need to be. And even then, it can change whenever it wants. What is normal for me this month, may not be close to normal for me next month.
Thyroid cancer has not been easy at all. I now have to be followed by doctors for the rest of my life now to make sure my levels are stable and that the cancer doesn’t return. I’ve been told I need to have ultrasounds every 6 months and full body scans every year for the rest of my life.
Nobody ever said it’d be easy, but I also never thought it would be this hard. All of my doctors gave me the impression that I had surgery, took a pill everyday for the rest of my life, and everything would be fine. I was not at all prepared for how drastically my life was going to change forever. I was definitely not prepared for all of the symptoms I would experience as a result of not having a thyroid. But…that is a different post for a different day.