Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

Hello, everyone!  I'm comfortable at home, taking it easy most days and trying to take all my medicine on time and drink lots of water.  I can't believe that only a week ago I was having surgery!  It went pretty well.  The surgeon is happy with his "good clean-up job".  They removed everything they could see.  The nodule was up on my vocal chord and they had to scrape it away.  I was told I would have voice issues for a while, but my voice has been pretty great.  My throat and muscles have hurt, but the voice has only been affected in how loud I can comfortably talk.

Seventeen lymph nodes were inspected and only four of those were in need of coming out.  They had micro-calcifications.  One parathyroid gland was removed and two others were biopsied and re-implanted.  The cancer was growing out of the nodule and wasn't contained to the thyroid anymore, so I definitely need radiation. It makes me worried, but the surgeon is very positive and thinks I will be just fine.

During the last week, I have shared quite a few photos on Instagram and Twitter, but I thought I would compile those into a bit of a "photo diary" for this post and talk a little about this first week of recovery.  (Again it is a long post, but I am trying to be thorough for anyone who may have to go through this...)

December 20th - Surgery Day - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

I woke up at 4 AM on surgery day to shower, straighten my hair, and do a little makeup so I could feel human.  I figured straightening my hair would help me look decent during my whole procedure.  Not that it mattered that much what I looked like.  But at least I felt sort-of pretty.  It was definitely easier to deal with straight hair than a mass of unruly curls.

I was pretty freaked out when I arrived at the hospital.  My blood pressure was high and I was crying.  Someone came in to take my blood before someone else came in to put in an IV.  The doctor was running a little behind with his previous surgery, but the nurses kept me updated on timing quite frequently.  By this time, I had already been given valium to calm me down so I wasn't too concerned with the extra time. The three-ish hours I spent waiting went by pretty fast; and I was off to surgery around noon.  I gave my husband a kiss, waved bye to him and my mother-in-law, and was wheeled to the operating room.  They put the oxygen mouthpiece on me and told me to breathe.  I distinctly remember taking two deep breaths, where the last one smelled funny, and that is all I remember. - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

I think it was around 4pm when I woke up.  I was in a different room with various people walking around me.  I remember someone with dark hair and a lab coat looking at me and then turning to someone else and telling them my name.  It felt a little like an out-of-body experience as my hospital bed began to move and I was wheeled to my room.  My eyes couldn't stay open the whole time, so various pictures are in my head of the hallway scrolling by and the red-headed guy who was wheeling me around.  It is all just flashes of images.

And then suddenly I could see my husband's sweet face and I felt happy.  My vitals were checked, my medicine was given to me via applesauce, and then I was just hanging out in my room.  My mother-in-law stayed for a bit, I think.  Everything else is kind of a blur.  Sean and I checked in on Facebook and he took calls from family members.  Later in the afternoon, I ordered chicken soup and pudding for dinner.  After the soup, Sean helped me go for a little walk up and down the hallway a few times.  I could have gone more, but I wanted to go back to my room to watch Blue Bloods and eat my pudding.

Everyone made a huge deal about how awesome I was for walking.  I didn't feel bad at all, so I didn't see why it was such a huge deal.  I wasn't having any pain, my voice was fine.  I was just a little loopy still.  The rest of the night was pretty uneventful.  Nurses came in to check on me and take vitals once in a while.  Sean and I watched some television.  I had to get a nurse to come unhook me from stuff when I needed to go potty.  Applesauce was consumed to help me take my meds.  I slept pretty good and was happy everything was on track for me to go home the next morning.

December 21st - Day 1 Post-Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering
(Clockwise from Top Left: Flowers from my stepdad and his wife; A framed card from my mom-in-law; Scarves from my mom-in-law and cousin Mindy; Flowers from my husband's coworker; My Amazon goodies; Flowers from our friends Tim and Derek, cute "Get Well" cards, and some Christmas goodies from my Aunt Wendy)

By the time everything was said and done on Saturday morning (medication given, paperwork received, drain tube taken out), I was home around 1PM.  My mother-in-law was at our house already to check in on the furkids, so she stayed with me while Sean ran errands to pick up my prescriptions and get some soft food for me to eat.

I fell asleep for a couple hours and awoke around the time my cousin Mindy and her lady Allison came to visit.  They dropped off goodies from a get-together I was unable to attend and chatted with me for a little bit.  I was happy my voice was well enough to visit and laugh with them.  After all that excitement, we had a pleasant evening of watching movies and snuggling with the furboys on the couch.  I was pretty pooped and my throat hurt a bit.

December 22nd - Day 2 Post-Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

After not sleeping well on the loveseat in the bedroom, I was pretty wiped out for most of Sunday.  We took it really easy.  Sean made breakfast for me, as we watched some television shows and napped on the couch.  In the afternoon, I finally felt energized enough to get a much desired shower.  I wasn't allowed to bend over or move around too much, so Sean had to help undress me and help me shower.  It was totally not sexy.  LOL  I felt so helpless and pathetic not being able to dress myself and do simple things.  He even had to wash my hair for me because I couldn't lean my head back and it hurt to hold my arms up to scrub my head.

Once I was showered and dressed, I was exhausted.  It totally wiped me out.  So I went right back to the couch, where we watched more TV and movies.  I had (and still do) have to use a travel neck pillow to support my neck and head.  Plus, using an ice pack on the incision area really helped the pain subside from time to time.

December 23rd - Day 3 Post-Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

Monday wasn't much different.  I switched from sleeping on the loveseat in the bedroom at night, to going to sleep in the recliner in the front room.  It was a bit easier to sleep in the recliner, but I was still uncomfortable enough that I didn't get a good night's rest.  There was a lot of relaxing, icing the incision, snuggling with chihuahuas, napping, eating soft food, taking meds, and doing it all over again.  We managed to catch up with at least four television shows we've had waiting for us on the DVR.  I had a bit more pain and had to keep up with the pain meds and icing the incision regularly.  It helped to keep my head pretty still and supported and not move around too much.

December 24th - Day 4 Post-Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

Tuesday was much of the same.  I ended up leaning against Sean while we were relaxing on the couch, which really helped me relax my neck muscles completely.  This did wonders for the amount of pain and I was even able to fall asleep for a bit.  I worked on figuring out what times to take my medications and supplements.  My thyroid hormone has to be taken an hour before eating and four hours before any other medication or supplement.  So I set my alarm to wake up at 6AM every day to take that.  Iron and Calcium have to be taken three times a day each, but not close to each other.  Plus, I have lots of other supplements and a blood pressure medication.  The schedule that ended up working was starting everything else at 10AM and taking stuff every two hours. - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

Later on, I sat at my office desk to get my Christmas post written up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and went potty.  In those easy tasks, my neck muscles became super weak and the incision began to hurt a lot.  I also started experiencing a tightness in the incision area that made it feel like I was being choked or like someone was gripping my throat.  I could still breathe, but it was a very off-putting feeling.  Icing the incision for a little bit seems to help that feeling go away.  It was back to the couch and my trusty neck pillow.  Sean and I watched Rudolph and Nightmare Before Christmas (my first time seeing it!) before calling it a night.  I was still having softer foods, so my special Christmas Eve treat was a banana and gluten-free chocolate pudding!

December 25th - Day 5 Post-Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

Day 5 after surgery was Christmas Day!  Sean and I spent 45 minutes the night before trying to find the right combination of pillows for me in the recliner.  It paid off because I slept really well for the first time since surgery.  So well, in fact, that I didn't want to get up.  We got a bit of a late start.

Christmas Day is also Sean's birthday, with his birthday tradition of having cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  We tried gluten-free ones this year that were not very delightful.  Next year, I will try to make some from scratch.  We did find gluten-free waffles that are pretty tasty; Sean also whipped up some scrambled eggs too.  Having had a pretty great sleep, I was very happy and feeling good that day.  Sean and I opened our presents before I showered (on my own!), did my hair and makeup, and put on my Christmas PJs for hanging out at home.

My mother-in-law made dinner for us and brought it over in the afternoon.  She made gluten-free tastiness, like polenta lasagna with spinach and chicken sausage, and gluten-free carrot cake.  We ate, opened presents, and hung out for a little while.  My friend Sami stopped by with a gluten-free pumpkin pie.  By 6pm, I was very tired, had a sore neck and a sore throat, and needed to rest.  It was the most active I had been in a day since surgery.  Also, hiccuping and yawning are painful.

December 26th - Day 6 Post - Op - Thyroid Cancer Update: Surgery and Post-Op Recovering

I was tired, but cheerful on Thursday.  Sleep was pretty good and I was interested to have my follow-up appointment.  Meeting with the doctor went well.  They snipped the stitches out and said it all looked to be healing well.  We discussed the pathology from the intro to this post and I went back home to do some more resting.

This is also the day I stopped the pain medication cold turkey.  Before I left the hospital, I was warned that the oxycodone would make me constipated.  I never had issues when I was taking a TON of iron, so I wasn't too worried about it.  But I also wasn't eating a lot of fiber lately and things got painful.  (Sorry if this is TMI.  I am just trying to give anyone else that goes through this the head's up.)  So I retired the oxy and now I only have ibuprofen when I feel some pain.

December 27th - Day 7 Post Op

Friday was a very relaxed day.  I felt like I did too much too soon on Christmas and the doctor outing day, so Friday was reserved for resting.  I managed to start this post and work on pictures and reorganize my vanity table to fit in all my lovely new Bare Minerals eyeshadows Sean gave me for Christmas.  I also watched three episodes of The Sing Off while Rusty slept in my arms.  That was the extent of my productivity.  I also almost sneezed (like started to sneeze and managed to not have a full on sneeze) and it hurt my incision SO BAD.  I thought the incision was going to rip open.  I have been told by my friends who had C-sections that the sneeze is a normal nemesis of surgical scars and incisions.

December 28th - Day 8 Post Op

It was literally difficult to get out of bed on Saturday.  I think Friday night was my first night sleeping in our bed again and the pillow situation was not ideal.  Also, our mattress is a foam one and it hurts to strain my neck at all, so it was hard to maneuver in a comfortable way.  My hair appointment was at 1:30, so I made it right on the dot.  Since I washed my hair that morning (which is getting way easier), my hairstylist just wet my hair down. I told her I was unsure about how comfortable it would be to lay back on the washing basin.

After my hair appointment, Sean and I ran some errands and had lunch.  (I wore a scarf.  I am still a bit nervous showing my scar in public.)  I've been a bit naughty with the food the past few days, but will be going back to my previous healthy diet at the New Year.  We made it home with just enough time to change into dressier clothes for our End-of-the-Year Fancy Bunco night.  It was so great to see so many friends and have some fun, though I managed to turn my head a couple ways I shouldn't have.  I also managed to really hurt my muscles when I went to scoot a dining chair closer to the table.  Pain shot up my arm to my chest and into my neck.

I am finishing this post up Monday night, December 30th.  I still have neck muscle pain and aches.  Resting my neck whenever I can helps, and icing the incision from time to time also helps a lot.  I take ibuprofen about once a day to keep things manageable for now.  As long as I am careful with my movements and rest my neck, I don't have pain or issues with things.  I do occasionally still get the choking feeling at the incision site.  It usually happens if I have been moving around a lot or using my neck too much.  Relaxing my neck and icing the incision area help the choking feeling go away. Right now, I keep the scar moisturized with cocoa butter, but the Mederma I ordered should arrive tomorrow.

Overall, my recovery has been going really well so far.  I have been keeping up with a message board of other ladies who have all had surgery this month.  Everyone's experience seems to be very different.  Some people have had a lot of issues with pain and swelling, which makes me even more thankful that my experience has been much better than anticipated thus far.  I'll continue to post updates when things happen.  I have another follow-up with the surgeon next week and am waiting to hear from the new endocrinologist I was referred to as well.  Once I meet with the endo, we will discuss radiation and the timeline on that.  That will be the next step.


  1. You looked fantastic Saturday when I saw you... You really did, I am not just saying that. You looked bright and just lighter... not in the weight sense just in your general demeanor if that makes sense. Anyway, love you... you are a rock star and handled everything so well. I knew you could do it!

  2. I've been following your updates on Instagram, but it was nice to hear some of the details. It sounds like you're being spoiled and staying strong. And that scar is nowhere as noticeable as I would have thought. You could mistake it for a crease in your neck, and it's only going to heal from here on out. I hope you've enjoyed the holidays with your little family otherwise. Looks like you've gotten plenty of cuddles and company from your puppies to get you through. :-)

    Happy New Year!


  3. Thank you, Sami! I definitely feel more at ease and not so crazy and deliriously filled with anxiety as before. This part is done. The junk is out of me for the most part and that is a great thing! I am not looking forward to radiation; it worries me too. But after that this junk should be killed off and I can get on to better things! Love you!!

  4. Thank you, Liz! I have definitely had loads of snuggle time for sure. I think the fur kids are so spoiled and used to this new snuggle time that they hate when I am actually productive and moving about the house. lol
    The scar is definitely not as weird/gross/large/swollen as I thought it was going to be. It seems to disappear in the shadow of my face when I am out. People have even told me they didn't even notice it when they were talking to me. I don't know how true that is because most of these people know how self-conscious I have been about it....but I don't think they would totally lie to me. lol
    The holidays have been pretty great as Christmas was the first day I felt pretty good. It has actually worked out pretty well to have surgery over the holidays.
    I hope you had a wonderful New Year! I am jealous of the tasty-looking food you have been posting on Instagram!!

  5. You are looking super hot and all kinds of beautiful! I'm glad to see how well you are looking. I wouldn't worry about that scar, I thought it was a necklace at first! Happy New Year!

  6. Thank you so much for all the kind words! The consensus seems to be that the scar isn't really noticeable. It certainly doesn't seem to jump out and frighten folks, so I usually forget it is even there (unless it starts hurting a bit). I went shopping with my mom-in-law this week, didn't wear a scarf, and totally forgot about it. It is great to feel confident after having a surgery and having a visible sign of it.
    I'm a happy camper! I hope you have a wonderful, new year as well!

  7. I really love the new haircut, it's very chic (but still cute). It suits you!

    As to the scar, they usually look so much worse in pictures (especially if you used the flash at all), and this one doesn't look like much of anything--if I hadn't read the post, didn't know to look for it and where it came from, I'm not sure I would have noticed it at all (the hairstyle is the first thing I noticed, did I mention you look smokin'?) You're so early post-op, too, and that's the worst stage. It looks like it's going to heal up nicely.

    Love the outfit :D Belts are such a lifesaver, aren't they?