The story of my thyroid cancer surgery

Kat in hospital after thyroid cancer surgery.
Kat in hospital after thyroid cancer surgery.

After the results of the biopsy showed that I had thyroid cancer,  an appointment was made for me to speak with a surgeon who specialized in thyroid surgeries. You’ll want a surgeon instead of one who does general surgeries as those who do general surgeries may accidentally harm your vocal cords. This is what I was told by the surgeon anyway.

Meeting with the surgeon, she explained the surgery and answered questions. I would have to be on a thyroid medication for the rest of my life. The well-known thyroid medication is Levothroid, but my health insurance doesn’t cover that, so I’m using a  generic version.

Anyway, she explains that I have to be in perfect health for the surgery to take place for two weeks. No colds. Because I have a co-worker who is always sick, I work from home those two weeks.

The day of surgery arrives. I get naked and wear a gown and a special pair of their socks. The area for surgery on my throat is cleaned and marked. I’m hooked up to an IV and get a warm blanket to cover me. Since I get nauseous when waking up after being put to sleep, my care team put something in the IV to prevent that. Again, if you cry because you are scared, that’s totally fine and most people do. They probably have an entire storage room dedicated for tissues.

Soon, I’m out. When I wake up, I’m drowsy. With the pain medication, I don’t really feel pain. After awhile though, I can taste the sodium from the IV solution. The taste stays in my mouth and makes eating gross. Swallowing does feel very weird for that day or so. It feels like I’m swallowing up instead of down. I’d suggest taking your first few sips in small amounts.

Since I don’t like needles or that weird taste, I asked if they could take the IV out. I had to promise to take all the pills and drink lots of water. They told me that I’d need to pee regularly and handed me a bucket that sits in the toilet to pee in. (A nurse needed to measure the out-take, to make sure that I was hydrated). So, I decided to make it my mission to drink as much as possible and pee often. I annoyed the nurses all that night. My pee turned clear at one point, and they stopped coming in to check on my pee.

My husband slept on the couch in the room. If he wanted food, he had to buy it himself. So, yes, you can have family members there. If I would have been feeling better and didn’t have so many eyes on me, I would have had him join me in the hospital bed. 🙂

I believe that the nurses checked on my vitals once every hour. This made sleeping difficult.

I can’t remember, but I think that I was in the hospital for either one or two nights. The surgery was on a Thursday. I returned to work on that following Monday. Of course, I worked from home. The surgeon suggests relaxing for two weeks at home, but since I am the breadwinner, I can’t afford to take much time off from work.

A couple of things to note from surgery. I believe that I should have only been in surgery for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, an egg-sized tumor that was growing into my throat was found and removed. (Thus, why I had trouble swallowing certain foods). Twelve lymph nodes were removed to check for cancer, which is fine, as we have so many more. I can’t remember the exact number. I believe my surgery lasted 2.5-3 hours.

My hubby took a photo of me just waking up from surgery. Probably to show me how silly I looked. I’m sure that I said something odd in my drugged state. Not my best look, so he’ll probably be surprised that I included it in this blog entry.

Next post – the first month or so living with thyroid cancer removal.




Hi, I have thyroid cancer.

Kat showing off thyroid cancer surgical tape
Kat showing off thyroid cancer surgical tape

Single left inferior thyroid lobe nodule measuring 2.8 x 1.6 x
2.2 cm. This demonstrates indeterminant features. Given size, recommend fine-needle aspiration to exclude underlying malignancy.

Hi, I have thyroid cancer. Right now, that’s how it feels to identify myself at this time. I could say, Hi, my name is Katherine. But for right now, it seems that my thyroid cancer is a bigger part of my life than I would like it to be.

I’m going to start from the middle and then go to the beginning. This may seem kind of an odd way to start, but let me explain why. My thyroid cancer adventure actually started late 2015, and I thought that after my thyroid removal, I was done, except for my twice a year check-up. But last week or so, during my ultrasound check-up, they found that one of my lymph nodes has been growing. I have a biopsy scheduled near the end of this month. I’m preparing myself mentally that it is probably cancer again and that I will have to have it removed. The good news is that my original scar is still showing, so the surgeon won’t need to spend any time wondering the best way to cut me open.

I should warn you that my humor is a little dark.

But now let’s start at the beginning, as you might have been just diagnosed with thyroid cancer yourself and may be a bit scared. I’m here to share my own experience with thyroid cancer, in case this helps someone feel like they aren’t alone. (Or realize that they might have it better than me. There’s always hope, right?)

As you’ll soon find out, thyroid cancer is very common in women. Especially those who’ve had children. Yes, childbirth can do a bit more damage than stretch marks. Luckily, because this form of cancer is common, the removal is quicker than most and has an extremely high life expediency, even if your thyroid cancer should be marked as stage four. So, yay?

Still, if anyone tells you that you’re lucky to have such an easy cancer, feel free to punch them in the throat. Okay, don’t really do it. Just imagine it. Any form of cancer sucks, and who wants to lose a piece of their body? (For those body mutilator folks out there, don’t answer that question).

So, you might be wondering, Katherine, you’re blathering on. I don’t care about that. What I want to know is, how did you know that you had thyroid cancer?

Great question! My answer is very important. I think that I’ve had it for at least 5-10 years before I actually knew that I had it. For the past several years, when I’d go for my annual physicals or when I was not feeling well, the doctor would feel my neck and then asked if I had a cold. I’d say yes, or no, but I have allergies, and then the doctor might say, “your lymph node(s) are swollen probably due to that.” They continued on with whatever they were looking for, but they didn’t bother putting that in my chart. I think that if there was repeated “swollen lymph nodes” written in my chart, you would think that a doctor would think that something was wrong?

It took a student dentist at an university to tell me, “I hate to tell you this, but I think that you have cancer. You should see a doctor.”

I laughed, but made an appointment to see a doctor about the possible cancer. When he saw me, he told me that I probably have a cold or an allergic reaction and that I was fine. I didn’t press the issue, but the thought stuck with me.

Then, in 2015, I was in a bad car accident, where I had to have a MRI done. There, in the x-ray, was proof that I had thyroid cancer. Often times, this is how thyroid cancer is found. For many people, there aren’t any noticeable symptoms.

Did I have any symptoms that I could share with you? For me, I had difficulty swallowing waffles. Maybe a little difficulty breathing – just a bit. I was to find out why later.

After the MRI, I was told to talk with my family doctor who could then give me a referral for an ultrasound on my thyroid. After this, the next step was a biopsy of six needle jabs. Don’t feel bad if you can only allow them two or so. These are painful, in my opinion, and some people refuse to do it once they hear the procedure. Don’t be foolish like them. The biopsy needs to be done. If you cry, don’t worry. Most people do. They have tissues there for a reason.

My biopsy report results – “POSITIVE FOR MALIGNANCY Papillary carcinoma.” The Papillary carcinoma part is sometimes known as “papillary thyroid carcinoma” and just means common thyroid cancer.

If you’re reading this from googling your test results, your biopsy confirmed thyroid cancer. Fuck.

I’ll continue on in the next post. (It’s too close to my bedtime).