Three weeks ago, I lost my thyroid. The whole thing. Never thought I’d put total thyroidectomy on the calendar.
During a regular checkup, my primary care doctor felt a lump on the right side of my thyroid, so she referred me to an endocrinologist. Last February, I got an ultrasound and had several fine needle biopsies, which came back indeterminate. But let’s hear it for advances in technology. Veracyte, a San Francisco startup, can determine pathology on the molecular level. Benign in February. Great, because I didn’t want to think about needles and tests anymore.
Six months later
I didn’t feel well. I knew something was up during the ultrasound followup. The tech said nothing, but spent a lot of time getting images on the left side. Then a biopsy in late August came back from Veracyte as “suspicious for malignancy.” The endocrinologist referred me to an experienced surgeon. He was warm and friendly in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a surgeon. Scheduling a surgery date felt surreal.
“Do you have any questions?” asked an anesthesiologist at pre-op testing.
“Will I be able to go to the Stevie Wonder concert?”
Doctor nodded yes. “You might not feel like dancing, but you’ll be okay.”
No outside food is allowed at the concert, which isn’t a big deal unless you made a resolution involving chocolate. Every evening, I have a brownie at eight. To smuggle or not . . . maybe security will see my scar and take pity on me.
Nope. Forget the brownie.
You asked about a concert?
Yes, I did. Something about bucket lists. Unknowns. And my favorite song, I Wish.
The big day
Surgery went well. But when I woke up, I begged for ice packs. On my head. The back of my neck. Never been so warm in my life. I stayed overnight in the hospital and admit that getting breakfast in bed the next morning was pretty great. I really should get out more.
A few days later
When a surgeon calls you at home on a weekend . . . all I could think was “oh, shit.” He called to confirm it was papillary thyroid cancer and said surgical margins were clear. Surgical margins clear, he repeated. I was holding the phone and yet, not speaking. Part of it was post-surgery hoarseness, but mostly just shock.
Three weeks post-op
It’s been an adjustment, for sure. They say it takes four to six weeks for thyroid replacement medicine to kick in. From what I’ve heard, it can take some time for people to get their ideal dose. Doctors estimate starting dose based on weight, but err on the side of under dosing.
Four weeks post-op
I followed up with the endocrinologist. You’d think that having celiac disease would have prepared me for a medical professional who was totally dismissive. But no. Prior to all this, I had no idea what many patients go through after surgery. Then I started googling. An excellent piece: Your thyroid may be talking, but is the doctor listening?
I have an appointment with a different endo in December. Fingers crossed.
Sorry for the rant.
I feel lucky in many ways. Thyroid cancers are among the most treatable and it was caught early. And I got to hear Stevie Wonder in concert. I said I wouldn’t be dancing, but couldn’t help myself. Thoroughly exhausted the day after. But it was the best concert ever. Just thinking about all the great moments makes me feel better.