3 Weeks Post-Surgery: Mostly Good (Even the Cancer Part)

Three weeks ago, I went to the hospital for surgery. They removed half of my thyroid, because it had developed nodules (what they call thyroid tumors they suspect are benign) and had swollen up enough that it pressed against my trachea, and the nerve that controlled my vocal cords. I was having trouble breathing, at times, and my voice had started to go froggy. Of course, there was the year, going on two, before that of me starting to go downhill physically  – tired all of the time, gaining weight, struggling to stay on task or complete things on time – but after dealing with a doctor who insisted it was just me being a woman, getting older, I’d found one who was actually willing to do lab work and sort it out. I was diagnosed with anemia, and started medication for that. Aside from the pressure on my throat, I should have been on the mend.

I didn’t quite feel it, though. A little better… but still, something was wrong.

We agonized over the decision to cut out part of my thyroid. It’s a simple, safe, outpatient procedure, except that it’s still surgery, which is never guaranteed 100% safe. My SO and I talked it over, made plans for dealing with what would come next if I didn’t make it out okay, and decided (supported by my surgeon’s opinion) that it’s better to get the swollen part of my thyroid out now before it got bigger and did some real damage. I felt it, a literal lump in my throat, every time I swallowed. Every time I tried to exercise and had to breathe harder. When I laid down for sleep, and the lump shifted a little, pressing on a new spot I hadn’t yet learned to ignore.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped organ that lies flat, for most people, and has the volume of a peanut on each side. My right side wasn’t visible from the outside, so you wouldn’t know unless you saw a sonogram that it was the size of a jawbreaker, and growing. Inside were two nodules; the bigger one had been biopsied three times since it was found three years ago, and declared benign, though I was told in 2013 that it was collapsing and would get smaller – we discovered in May that it had actually gotten larger.

The smaller one was labeled “suspicious” by the sonogram tech during this round of tests, but was .1 mm too small for a biopsy to be considered necessary, according to the current medical guidelines, so I was told not to worry. We’d wait, they said, and check on it again next year.

If I hadn’t opted to remove the larger side of my thyroid, that nodule would still be there. Continue reading

Next up, surgery…

After a sonogram and two biopsies, we’ve confirmed that I have multiple thyroid nodules that have swollen one side of my thyroid to the size of a jawbreaker. It’s not visible from the outside; if it were a cosmetic issue, I could put it off, but my thyroid has grown inward, so it’s pressing against my vocal cords and throat. It doesn’t keep me from eating yet, but my voice has gotten a little froggy, I get sick more often lately, and when I’ve been sick, it’s taken longer to recover (I had bronchitis last fall for more than 8 weeks, for example.)

The biopsies showed that the largest one is benign (yay!) but growing, and there’s a smaller nodule that’s “suspicious”. Because of all that, I’ve scheduled surgery to remove that part of my thyroid.

This, plus finding out I’m anemic, explains a lot about my health and energy levels the last year or so. I’m taking supplements to correct the anemia now, and with the surgery, I should be in better shape. I hope. I have too much to do, and I’ve been struggling to manage it all. It’s a relief, in some ways, to know why: I’m not lazy, I’m not a failure, I’m not giving up. I have a documented medical reason for why I’m exhausted and uncomfortable and falling behind.

Still, sometimes I have to tell myself that over and over, and it doesn’t help. Excuses, excuses, what are you going to do about it? Next up, surgery, and then getting my life back on track, and moving forward.

I can’t accept anything less.