In the lead up to my surgery last year I was googling ‘thyroid lobectomy’ like crazy hoping to find at least one blog post by someone who had had the procedure and they were just cool and loving life after having half their thyroid cut out, you know, back to work after a week off and just doing usual stuff.
Hmmm.. bit far fetched.
From all the personal accounts I read, recovery time was looking to be at least a month and one girl I contacted was still struggling with every day stuff after 3 months of having it..
I have far too much to do to be out of the game for that long!!
!!! EXTREME PANIC !!!
Which really wasn’t necessary.
This post is going to be the one I wish I’d read and the one I hope you read if you are going to have this op.
Finding The Lump
Five years ago I found a small lump in my throat completely by accident. I was bricking it because I had been a full time smoker for a quite a few years and clearly this was going to be the day they told me I had throat cancer.
No. In fact, this was the day I found out what a thyroid nodule was and that I had one.
Right, that’s awesome, no cancer! Yay! So what do we do about it?
As I was a singer and quite young I was advised not to do anything as the op is performed around the vocal chords and can damage them leaving you with either an altered voice or no voice at all. OK, that’s pretty scary but am I ok?
Yep, as long as it doesn’t change you should be fine. I was also told that young girls probably don’t want scars.. as if having a scar would be a reason not to have the surgery if I needed it?! Whatever. I left it and it wasn’t a major problem.. until I noticed it getting bigger.
Do You Even Thyroid?
Once the lump had noticeably started to get bigger I decided it was time to get it looked at again but on three separate occasions (over a few years) I got sent to see three different specialists all of whom didn’t do thyroid.
This was becoming not only extremely frustrating as the waiting lists each time were stupidly long but also quite scary. The last time it happened I was actually on the emergency list (reserved for cancer patients) and had been flagged as urgent by the doctors and at the ultrasound scan. By this point I was struggling to breathe, swallow, lift my arms above my head without being asphyxiated and sleep so after travelling for two hours and waiting for another two hours to be seen by a doctor who hadn’t done anything to do with thyroids for over 30 years I had had enough.
I felt like I was going to die soon if I didn’t have this lump removed. Like genuine actual death with a funeral and everything.
I had all my hopes pinned on this meeting with the specialist, we were going to work out my plan forward and put a date on my surgery. Book in that scar. So when he told me he couldn’t help me I just sat there and cried. He tried to talk to me. I cried. He tried to get me out of the room. I cried. And I’m not just talking a little sad sob, this was real, full on ugly, snotty, wailing, disturbing crying. I was going nowhere until he did something.
It was so awkward but I had no f’s to give.
I needed help.
Silver Linings & Simo
He looked me over and decided he was going to write a letter to his friend, Dr Simo, at Guy’s Hospital who was the top man for what I needed done. It was now very evident that my windpipe had been displaced by the lump and it had moved right over in my throat which was one of the reasons it was so difficult to breathe!
A week later I had a letter from Guy’s booking me in to be seen and from then on I was there, what seemed like, once a week to get me sorted. Dr Simo was like a dream. He spoke frankly, he was all about the thyroid and he saw how urgent it was to get me into surgery. In fact, the first thing he ever said to me was ‘Oh yes, looks like you’ve swallowed a golf ball’. Hahaha!
I had been freaking out about the reality of the surgery because, as much as I needed it done, I was also petrified of going under the knife (probably shouldn’t have attempted to watch a thyroid lobectomy being done on youtube – I had seen too much!!) but there was no going back now and everyone was now really that shocked I hadn’t been given the surgery already.
I was told they would have to remove half my thyroid as well as the nodule but by this point I just didn’t care – remove it all if you have to just help me to breathe!!
After talking with Dr Simo I actually now felt really safe and reassured knowing they do this operation every single day and that the risks of anything going wrong were really reeeaaalllly small. Plus, I have never heard of anyone dying from a thyroid lobectomy so that’s got to be good right?! I was ready and also really thankful that I had been sent to the wrong place before as I was now being fast tracked by the top surgeon and he was going to cut this lump out himself!
I’m not gona lie.. I was really scared on the day. Not knowing if you are going to wake up or not and if you do, how much pain will you be in? Will you be able to talk? Drink? Eat?? There were loads of forms to sign and people keep coming to check I had done all the paperwork wavering my right to sue them if I die and to check you are who you say you are! These sexy compression socks come as part of the deal though so that was a bonus!
We were in at 7am and one of the first to go in to surgery which was good because I was getting more and more nervous. When my husband had to leave I suddenly got a bit panicky and as we approached the room where they were going to cut me open I almost told them I didn’t want to do it anymore. The nurse and anaesthetist were lovely but I really hate cannulas and as the first one went in I let the tears roll. Big, silent tears.
The anaesthetist was trying to relax me by telling me a story about his kid. I was clinging to the conversation for distraction, even though I’m pretty sure he was making it up as he went. He hadn’t finished the story when he was about to give me the drugs to put me to sleep so one of the last things I said was ‘But what did he say?!?!’ – I never found out but I could feel myself slipping under –
‘Ok I’m going now, bye’.
Do I Look Like Frankenstein?!
Well, check me out all alive and breathing?! I made it!!
Opening my eyes was so surreal, I really felt like I’d had a super deep sleep except for the pain that was starting to happen. There was a nurse welcoming me back and giving me morphine. Kind of understand crack addicts now. Not endorsing it.. just saying! Wow.
Anyway, bless this guy he was not expecting humour so when the first thing I asked was if I looked like Frankenstein he properly lol’d and then I felt my neck and knew that it was true. Laughing wasn’t a great idea so maybe try not to do that for a while!
Everything was really sore but I was pleased to find out I could eat and drink like normal. I stayed in the place I woke up (which I think was intensive care) until a bed was ready upstairs and they took me to the ward. Pain relief was on tap while I was down there but up on the ward they start regulating you with paracetamol and liquid morphine but no more of the hard stuff!
(Probably for the best haha)
FUN FACT: My surgeon came to see me once I had woken up and told me that although they knew my lump was very large, it had actually been more like the size of a tennis ball and weighed over 100g!!!! That is frickin insane!
WARNING: THERE ARE SOME GRAPHIC PICS COMING NOW
Bit gross but just so you know..
I had told the care team I needed the toilet when I woke up but I was asked to wait until I got upstairs as the toilets were a bit far, so I waited. I assumed I would be able to take myself to the loo but soon found out I couldn’t really walk and almost passed out from even trying! I was brought a bed pan and left to get on with it but as I couldn’t really lift my head or body there was no chance of being able to figure it out and I couldn’t call for help because my throat was super sore so I ended up trying my hardest to get it in the pan but actually just got it everywhere. Not really my subject of choice to talk about but it was really horrible and I would hate for it to happen to you so make sure the nurses stay and help you!! Definitely don’t try walking anywhere on your own, I’m so stubborn and was like ‘naaaahh I got this’.. Didn’t have it at all. Looked like a new born giraffe. Made me feel really sick. Had to be caught.
The Day After
Had to stay in hospital that night and for the whole of the next day to make sure everything was ok. Sleep was manageable but broken and regular pain relief was necessary. The food was better than I expected, still hospital food though, but that was ok as I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway.
Hospital Hack: I didn’t know you could do this but some of the girls in my ward ordered pizza to be delivered there!! It’s not great recovery food by any means but just throwing it out there in case you were desperate for something slightly more edible!
STAPLES: Probably the worst thing that happened was the staples being taken out. It wasn’t particularly painful and it was mostly quite quick but you can feel the tugging and that whole area is so sore anyway that it’s just not that fun. One of my staples refused to come out so I had two nurses with what I imagine were pliers, trying to get it. I didn’t cry but I was swearing quite frequently by the time they eventually got it unhooked.
Oh, having the drain taken out is pretty gross too but it’s over really quick. Sorry I just remembered that!!
Once the staples were out they stuck steri-strips on to hold the skin together. I didn’t think that seemed like a good idea and was sure my neck was just going to come apart but those bad boys are crazy strong! After that it was home time!
One thing you must know is that you WILL need help.
You will be feeling drained and sore, dizzy, sick and just basically quite shit for a few days. I was absolutely determined to get back to normal life as soon as possible and after 3 days started trying to do little bits around the house. It wasn’t a good idea and made me feel so sick. My husband had taken a week off to look after me and Tyler but I really hate being a patient so one day when he got in the shower I tried to hoover and I think I nearly died haha! After that I just took it easy, allowed the help and focused on rest and eating really nourishing food. If there is one thing I have learnt over the last few years with having Chronic Fatigue, it is that a good whole food diet and sleep can change so much. So that’s what I did and I used the time I was awake to set up and start this blog from my bed!
After 10 days I was feeling noticeably better but still didn’t force myself into doing more than the basics but I felt like I was capable of being on my own so Jovel started going back to work but still doing the school run. After 2 weeks I was ok to walk to the school with Jovel to pick up Tyler and at the end of 3 weeks I felt ready to start working again. Not crazy amounts of work but I could stand in the kitchen to make my Bexfast Pots and, with the help of my sister, I got to go and deliver them.
Once I had been out of the house I was ready to slowly start getting back to every day stuff. I was still quite sore some days but my scar was healing really fast and when I went back to the hospital 4 weeks after the op for a check up they couldn’t believe how much I had healed and how good I felt. The doctor even went back to his notes twice to check the date of my surgery to be certain it had only been one month! The power of a plant based diet right there!!
I had stopped taking pain killers after about a week and the steri strips came off after about two.
I had read on someone’s blog that taking the strips off had made them feel incredibly nauseous and they weren’t wrong. It was awful and I will admit I completely freaked out. It made me want to vomit and I cried like a child the whole time my husband was taking them off. It felt like the skin on my neck wasn’t closed up properly and it was being ripped. Totally all in my head but it’s a very strange sensation!
I can’t begin to tell you how much this surgery has changed my life. I feel like a brand new person and not worrying about breathing and swallowing or just the fact that my neck was sticking right out is so awesome. I started running again after 6 weeks which is now way easier to do with an unblocked airway (who knew ay?!) and I very rarely even think about the operation or scar anymore. It has been about 4 months now and there are no repercussions or anything stopping me from living life to the fullest. My voice is completely normal too which I was worried a bit worried about! Although I now only have half my thyroid, there is enough to keep me in good health and I don’t need to take any medication, just a yearly check up to make sure everything is working ok.
Nobody really notices my scar but if they do they always say ‘it just looks like a neck fold’ which I’m kinda sad about because, contrary to that first doctors remark about not wanting a scar, I actually think scars look pretty bad ass and tell a story about your journey. Neck folds somehow don’t hold the same status in my mind. Never mind.. at least I’m 100g and a tennis ball lighter haha!!!
I hope this is helpful to anyone going through this procedure. You are going to be totally fine and loving life once it’s done. I wish you bad ass silvery scars, loads of people making awesome food for you and all the happiness of a nodule-free life!