Sunday, January 2, 2011

Thyroid Problems?

Many of you may know, or may not know I had a thyroidectomy about six months ago. I've had some questions surrounding the subject matter. I hope this article will approach some of your questions. It's all the things I wish I would have known before I proceeded with my surgery, plus a good look at my nasty scar. (That way you can stare at it without me knowing.. So fun.) To read the full article click on read more.

(This article was published on, and still getting hits today. Here’s the link
Coping with a Thyroidectomy
In this article I will approach the very questions I had before I underwent a thyroidectomy. How will the procedure affect my energy level, my weight, and just how gruesome will the scar be?
A thyroidectomy, is by definition, the surgical removal of some or all of the thyroid gland. I’m six months out from having the right side of my thyroid removed. Just before the surgery when I was evaluating my options I read some horror stories on the web which really freaked me out. I believe my story does or eventually will have a happy ending not the kind where you get whisked away by a prince, live in castle and have a 16” waste, abnormally big beautiful eyes, and long bouncy hair but the kind where you can take the word cancer out of your vocabulary and manage what it means to live with half a thyroid. 
Here is my story. I was six weeks into my second pregnancy. A few months previous I had suffered a miscarriage. Feeling excited but understandably anxious about my pregnancy I went in for a routine physical. It was in this physical the doctor found a lump on the right side of my throat. He ordered an ultra sound to investigate this lump. I honestly was not worried until after the ultra sound when they followed this up with a fine needle aspiration (FNA), which is a biopsy using a very thin needle to collect cells from the thyroid gland. The cell sample is then used to detect cancer. The biopsy was needed when the lump was detected not as a cyst filled with fluid but rather a solid mass (solid being more concerning than fluid). The results came back benign; I was able to proceed with my pregnancy which resulted in a beautiful healthy baby. Thank goodness! Four months after having my baby the lump really started to bother me while I was swallowing and especially while I slept; when I laid back I would feel a pressure on my throat. I then saw a specialist and we discussed my options. My options were to live with this lump and undergo an ultra sound and an FNA every six months to a year, or have a partial thyriodectomy which could result in lifetime medication. The doctor suggested that I would eventually need this surgery but as long as it was not cancerous I could wait. I made the decision to have surgery because the lump was bothersome, had evoked an anxiety in the back of mind for quite some time, and I didn’t want to wait around each year to find out of the lump had produced cancerous cells. 
 I do wish I had been a little more prepared as to what my recovery would entail which is why I’m bringing this article to you. I believe I would have been a lot less confused about what my body was going through and the consequences of this surgery. I may have allowed myself a little brake but instead I was told it was going to be no big deal and after two weeks I could resume my normal routine. I took almost a whole week off work and then two weeks off of any vigorous exercise. 
I have learned the thyroid hormone is slow in changing. When I refer to the thyroid hormone and it’s concerning levels I am referencing the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), a hormone produced by the pituitary gland which tells the thyroid gland to make more thyroid hormone. For the first four weeks following my surgery I did not notice a huge drop in my energy level. It is routine to wait two months to evaluate your need for medication. The first month was okay. The second month was a disaster. I really cannot compare the kind of tired I felt to anything I have previously experienced, even pregnancy. After the second month they put me on 50 mcg of levothyroxine (the generic form of synthroid) but again the hormone is slow changing and it took another four weeks to kick in resulting in another month of extreme fatigue. I remember looking up at my stairs and thinking I could not make it up them to change my daughter’s diaper, as a bit of a workout- alohlic this was an enormously foreign feeling to me. After the end of the third month I had my TSH levels checked again. Things were looking good and I was supposedly on my way. A couple more months went by and I saw my regular doctor for something else and asked her to check my TSH levels just in case, yep I guessed it, my levels were off once again, and now we add a little more to the medication. Bounce it up to 75 mcg and check in two months, this is where I’m at right now. My doctor who I believe was a competent surgeon failed to inform me it may take months to get the medication right and even if your levels seem to be balanced for a few months, something changes and medication may need to be adjusted once again. I wish I would have known that managing this medication will be a lifetime task. When the TSH levels are high the thyroid hormone is low resulting in low energy, weight and a myriad of other symptoms. When the TSH levels are low the thyroid hormone is high resulting in anxiety, irregular heartbeat, weight loss and again many other symptoms. 
Here’s the lesson. If you are so fatigued that you cannot carry out your normal routine go in and have your blood drawn, you most likely do not need an appointment for this and they can write a script and send it over the phone to the pharmacy. This is helpful information especially if your doctor is booked and a good way to avoid unnecessary copays. Any doctor can prescribe this medication. My surgeon did tell me this; he said it’s simple, if your levels are not right it’s like cooking they just add a little more salt. I have noticed they do 15 mcg increment increases. Remember it is slow to change; you must give the medication one to two months in order to feel and see a physical difference. 
When we hear things about the thyroid it is almost always connected to weight. I think partly because we are a weight obsessed nation and we’re looking for any kind of explanation for not being able to control our weight. I do believe the thyroid can contribute to this, but as my doc told me the thyroid is usually not solely responsible for weight problems. If you are in question it’s worth getting checked as the answer is just a blood test away. 
How has my experience with weight been? After my thyroid was taken out I believe I may have experienced some slight weight gain in the form of just a few pounds, but mostly my weight was stagnant and I was at the time still trying to shed some baby weight as my daughter was only 4 months old when I underwent this procedure. I am finally back to my pre baby weight, it is my opinion I would have been here sooner if this whole thing had not taken place, but I am here now and that’s what counts. 
For those deciding if this surgery is for you or not I think it is important to get your partner, or whoever will be your primary caretaker involved. I wish I would have asked my spouse attend my doctor consultations with me. It is imperative that your spouse be prepared for what the recovery will be like as they go through it with and you. 
I talked to a lady at the gym who did in fact have thyroid cancer she underwent a complete thyroidectomy and later some radiation therapy. I indeed have a lot to be grateful for. She is coping the best she can. She has four kids and I see her at the gym every morning so I’d say she’s doing great. 
As far as the scar is concerned, it bugs me a lot more than I thought it would. When people look at me they glance down at my scar, yes they are glancing at my scar because my chest isn’t much to gaze at, this I know. 
You can see my scar below. Again this is six months out. I have used a silicone based scar treatment, called scareguard, as well as mederma with sunscreen. I have been told a scar can take an entire year to heal. 

 As I look at my life now I realize things could so much worse. I believe the issue of weight is manageable; my energy level will be resolved, even if it is an ongoing task. As for my scar, it is as my husband put it, a mark to remind us, we beat cancer. So there you have it. I sincerely hope this was helpful, as someone out there may be as I was, six months ago, facing a life altering decision. 


  1. Did you really write that? I'm impressed. I don't think your scar looks bad at all. Let's just say, I've seen way worse.

  2. I feel like such a shit for not knowing the recovery was such a long one..I'm really sorry I didn't help you..I'll have to make up for it by complimenting your arse more :)

    I'm way proud of you and you really wrote a wonderful has lots of info and facts, but I didn't get bored once..well done!!!