This is a personal story about my thyroidectomy recovery. I'm not a doctor nor am I an expert, but I hope that sharing my story can help you in some way. When I first learned that I had thyroid cancer, I read everything I could and honestly there weren't many personal stories except the “doom and gloom” kind. Who needs that when they're facing cancer and surgery?! I share my real story without sugar coating it, but I remain positive and hope you do as well.
If you're thinking your thyroidectomy ruined your life, you're not alone. Many patients feel that way, but I take the “it is what it is” approach. What happened to us (thyroid cancer) can't be taken back. The choice we made (thyroidectomy) can't be taken back. So all we can do is make the best of the life we have now, right?
Thyroidectomy Recovery Week 2
Week 2 after my thyroidectomy was spent getting my stitches out, trying to figure out how to swallow the
horse calcium pills, and learning which foods I could tolerate while being so. freaking. nauseous.
The worst part about this whole process for me has been the nausea. It's lessened now, about 3 months and two medication changes later, but it's still pretty severe. I live off of Zofran (when I'm out and about) and cannabis candies (when I'm home and able to sleep). It's not healthy to take Zofran long term, so something's gotta give… but for now, I push through.
Some days I can't eat much. I usually crave chicken or ice cream. I'm lactose intolerant so the ice cream is never a good idea, but when you're hungry and can't stomach the thought of anything else, you do what you have to do and deal with the consequences later.
Calcium Issues After Thyroidectomy
You may be prescribed a large amount of calcium after your thyroidectomy. Calcium issues don't happen to everyone, but they're worth looking out for because they can become extremely dangerous. Read about the signs of hypo- and hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is the suspected cause of my nausea, but now that I am off of the calcium completely and still experiencing nausea, it may be due to something else.
Removing Thyroidectomy Stitches
Getting the stitches removed was a little rough, but not unbearable. I wish I would've had some type of numbing medicine put on first, but it was mostly just a pinching feeling and a little bit of burning. After the stitches were out, the scar seemed to heal super fast.
Thyroidectomy Scar Healing Time
My scar healed extremely well. By 3 weeks post-op, it was almost completely invisible! The bruising stuck around for just as long or maybe even longer, and was more painful than the scar itself. I studied thyroidectomy scar photos obsessively before surgery and got a little worried because some were pretty rough looking. Everyone heals differently, but this is what I did to help my thyroidectomy scar heal fast.
How to Cover Up a Thyroidectomy Scar
If you're worried about how to cover your thyroidectomy scar up like I was, you have several options – some of which are rather fashionable! At first I used Scar Away strips. They are expensive but well worth it. If you only buy one thing post-thyroidectomy, it needs to be Scar Away strips.
At first I ordered a few silk scarves that were $15 each, but then I found a massive collection of them that cost less than the one of the others cost, so I bought them! I am a few months out from my surgery and my scar is nearly invisible, but I still wear scarves because you're supposed to keep your scar protected from the sun for at least a year following your thyroidectomy.
Not everyone wants to hide their thyroid scar and that's okay, but I was sort of shunned for wanting to do so and that annoyed me. If you want to display your scar proudly as proof of your thyroid cancer battle, go for it. If you feel more comfortable covering it up, that's perfectly fine. It's your body and your choice, so don't let anyone make you feel bad for your choice! I love wearing scarves so it's not all about covering the scar up but it does give me that extra boost of confidence to wear such a cool fashion accessory. 😉
Thyroid Medication Options
I talk a little about Synthroid and taking thyroid meds in my other posts, but wanted to touch on it here as well. Synthroid/Levothyroxine is the most popular post-thyroidectomy medication, but it isn't your only option. Levothyroxine is the generic of Synthroid. There are T3 and T4 medications. I'm not a doctor so I won't go into great detail here, but if your T4 medication isn't working, talk to your endocrinologist about adding T3 (like Cytomel).
Natural Desiccated Thyroid like Armour Thyroid is a T3/T4 combo option but you cannot control each individually when given in one pill, which is why my endocrinologist has me on Synthroid as well as Cytomel. I feel much better when taking Cytomel.
How You'll Feel Week 2 Post-Thyroidectomy
Everyone feels different before, during, and after their thyroidectomy for various reasons. I felt sluggish, even exhausted at times, but I allowed myself to heal naturally instead of pushing too much. I took several naps – sometimes more than one nap a day even leading up to a month post-surgery. If you let your body heal and give it time to rebuild, you're going to feel much better in the long run.
If you're nauseous, I recommend asking your doctor for a Zofran script unless cannabis is legal in your state… then I recommend cannabis hard candies. They are life savers!
You may also feel rather anxious after your surgery. My anxiety has gotten better, but the first month I experienced the worst anxiety of my life. I had panic attacks over everything and cried myself to sleep many times, over nothing specific at all. I didn't expect to feel anxious. I said no thank you, but my surgeon prescribed Xanax and Kevin urged me to at least fill the script. We did, and I'm so thankful. I had to use it almost once a day for the first month after my surgery. After a month, the anxiety went away almost completely and I haven't needed any since. Give yourself time if you're feeling anxious, and don't feel bad about taking meds if they help. It's all temporary.
Live Your Life
The bottom line is, surgery of any kind sucks – but it's for a good cause and the pain is temporary. The recovery from my thyroidectomy has been pretty easy on a physical level (pain), but emotionally it's been a roller coaster. My doctor says it will even out soon, but I'll be sure to let y'all know either way!