A few weeks ago, I had a partial thyroidectomy surgery to remove half of my thyroid. As soon as I found out I would be having this surgery, I SCOURED the internet for what to expect. Reading about other people’s experiences, recovery and seeing their scars really helped manage my expectations. Most stories that I read were about people who had a history of thyroid disease, so for them…surgery was a means to an end of their horrible symptoms. I, on the other hand, had no symptoms and normal thyroid levels/bloodwork. So for me…all I had to look forward to was a new scar and the possibility of having thyroid cancer. Ugh. I’ll start from the beginning which I kind of shared on my I drank celery juice for 7 days post.

In December of last year I finally went in for an annual checkup. I don’t know how I let three years pass because I am a hypochondriac and tend to go to the minute clinic down the street at the first sign of any illness. But in that three years time, my primary care doctor dropped me without my knowledge. I would be considered a new patient and he was no longer taking new patients. Annoying but I was hopeful I would possibly end up with someone even better. So I met with my new doctor and went over every single health issue I’ve ever had.

I started with an enlarged lymph node on the side of my neck. I’ve had it for at least 15 years. Several doctors have felt it and I’ve heard everything from a calcified deposit, to a fatty deposit to just an enlarged lymph node. But all said it was nothing to worry about. It doesn’t hurt to touch and I hadn’t developed any new symptoms (night sweats/fevers, etc.). But she said she would refer me to an ENT (ear, nose & throat doctor) just so I could check it off my worry list. She felt my neck and never mentioned anything about my thyroid.

I came THIS close to cancelling my ENT appointment because I thought it would just be a waste of time/money. But I went. The doctor felt my lymph node and said it felt normal (albeit enlarged) and moved over to my thyroid.

And you guys…this is the ONE takeaway I want you all to have.

I always thought my thyroid was lower in my neck. Like at the base of my neck where the indentation is. It is actually up higher right below your adams apple (it is known for being in the shape of a butterfly). She felt the front of my neck and said my thyroid felt full on one side and she requested an ultrasound. I hadn’t noticed a thing in the front of my neck. And let me tell you…I waste a LOT of money on neck creams. I am constantly applying creams/serums and I NEVER noticed. After that appointment, it was all I could see. How did my primary care doctor miss it, I wondered. How did I miss it?!?

I never had any type of thyroid disease symptoms. My bloodwork all came back normal. On New Years Eve, I went for the ultrasound and I knew immediately the technician had found something because she took what seemed like a million measurements. I had a thyroid nodule that measured 2.8cm. So the next step was a fine needle biopsy. I find it so strange that you have to go to an Endocrinologist for the biopsy. Doesn’t it seem like the ENT who actually does the SURGERY would be doing the biopsy?!? And so I went.

I was really dreading the biopsy. But to be honest, the worst part was the anxiety waiting for the appointment. He first went over the ultrasound with me and confirmed it was a complex nodule. He also said it didn’t “look” like a scary nodule (but that he’d been wrong before) and since it was so close to the skin surface, the biopsies should be fairly easy/straightforward. They gave me a numbing shot to start and the doctor took several different tissue samples (I think 4 or 5 total). They took an extra sample just in case it came back as inconclusive to be sent off for genetic/DNA testing.

I got the call that my biopsy came back as a follicular lesion of undetermined significance (FLUS) and that he would in fact be sending away a sample for DNA testing. He warned that it would be an expensive test (it was a $6k+ test that thankfully insurance covered a portion of). But he said it was a good test for “ruling out” cancer. Basically it will come back as showing a 2% likelihood that the cells are cancerous or a 50% chance that they are. Of course I got the call during my sons field trip that I got the 50% likelihood results and the next step would unfortunately be partial thyroidectomy surgery.

So then I went back to my ENT who originally requested the ultrasound. I was so grateful that she had discovered my “full” thyroid but on my 2nd visit, she was less than sympathetic. She did a test to see that both of my vocal cords were working properly. It was extremely uncomfortable and she gave me absolutely no warning of what to expect. I couldn’t help it and the tears started rolling out of my eyes. She had zero empathy. She acted as if it was business as usual and not a big deal and what did I have to worry about. OH, I DON’T KNOW…SURGERY…THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING THYROID CANCER!!!! WTF.

So my husband and I walked out of the appointment and swore she would be the last person on the planet that I would ever let do my surgery. And the search for a new ENT begun. Thankfully I have a friend who is an Endocrinologist and I asked her who she would go to if she had to have the surgery. We met with him and I immediately felt better about my decision to switch to him. He had a very positive calm demeanor and we set a date for surgery a few months out because we already had family travel plans that we had made a year prior. And I was not going to let this ruin our trip.

On the evening before the surgery, I couldn’t eat anything after midnight. I also wasn’t able to have anything to eat or drink the morning of the surgery. My check-in was at 5:30am so we had to be on the road at 4:30am. The actual surgery was scheduled at 7:30am. Once I was all checked in, they had me wipe down my whole body with anti-bacterial wipes and I put on the hospital gown, grippy socks and they put the compression boots on my legs to help prevent blood clots during/after surgery. I had my IV put in and of course it didn’t work in my hand so they had to put it in my arm (inside of elbow). Finally, I was given Tylenol to take on an empty stomach.

I was then given a shot of something in my IV which would basically give me amnesia. I was told I wouldn’t remember the conversation after the surgery. But I do remember saying goodbye to my husband and being wheeled into the operating room. I remember seeing a few people (another doctor, a nurse & the anesthesiologist) and I said wow, there is a lot of stuff in here (equipment, etc.). Then they helped move me onto the operating table. And that was my last memory. I was anticipating having an anxiety attack having to have on an oxygen mask on. And counting down until I fell asleep. It very well may have happened but I don’t remember any of it.

I woke up in the recovery room to the nurse asking me if I needed anything for nausea or pain.  I didn’t. Then they brought my husband in. Apparently my straight forward surgery ended up taking about an hour longer than anticipated. We were told my thyroid was enlarged so it took longer than expected to remove it. But otherwise, it went well. About an hour later, I was given the ok to go home.

I felt pretty good for what I had just been through. And even had my hubby drive me through the KFC drive-though because I was craving mashed potatoes and gravy. I wasn’t in too much pain and decided to take just extra strength Tylenol. But then the headaches and neck/shoulder pain kicked in and I was miserable. I woke up all throughout the night. And the pain continued through the next day. I decided to try the prescription narcotic they gave me because I thought it would help me sleep. I was wrong. Still woke up every two hours in pain. I switched back to the Tylenol. By day three, I  couldn’t take it anymore. I was in tears at the thought of having to go through another surgery to remove the other half if it came back as cancer.

partial thyroidectomy

It wasn’t the incision itself that hurt. But rather the inside of my throat from being intubated. When I woke up from the surgery, I had a fat lip. And the thing that hangs in the back of my throat was a deep purple. It felt like someone had smashed my adams apple with a hammer. And like I had razor blades and needles in my throat. Miraculously by day four, I felt a million times better.

One week after the surgery, I got the news that it had come back as benign. What a relief. That morning I had woken up and broke down in tears just dreading another painful surgery. Let alone, if it had come back as cancer. I wanted to write this all down for those days that I need a reminder that things could be worse. It has been a great reminder to not sweat the small stuff. Nothing is more important than your health. I hope my story helps anyone who is going through the same thing. I plan on doing a follow up post to share my tips on making your recovery easier. As well as sharing what my scar progression looks like. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments or via email.

5 Comments ( Reply )

  1. Sharon Garofalow
    May 22, 2019 @ 5:59 am

    Thank you for sharing this! I had kind of a similar experience with some skin cancer (we have very similar scars!). They treated it like it was no big deal but to me it was a very big deal! I wrote a post about it and over the years have gotten so many emails of people who were just trying to find out what to expect. I know your post will help others who are going through the same thing! I hope you are recovering nicely!!!

  2. Lue Oven
    May 22, 2019 @ 6:44 am

    Gee, these makeup products are doing wonders in damaging immune and endocrine systems!Thyroid nodules are more common now than decades ago; my coworker has one right in the middle and she calls it her “Madam’s apple”. She developed nodules as a result of severe iodine deficiency which prevail in her native country (Italy)

  3. Colleen
    May 22, 2019 @ 8:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I had a full thyroidectomy earlier this year, positive for two kinds of cancer. Your message about finding the right doctor to care for you is so important. I hope you have a quick recovery. #checkyourneck

  4. Kim S
    May 24, 2019 @ 9:26 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! I have been dealing with Thyroid issues the last four years. I have had to have three needle biopsy. Thank God everything keeps coming back clear. I know the stress and fear that you feel while going thru this. I am so happy you received great news!!! Take Care!!

  5. Terri F
    Jun 04, 2019 @ 7:07 am

    Thank you for sharing! What a blessing it was benign. It puts your whole life in perspective. Prayers you will continue to stay healthy and for a quick recovery.