Bethany OlsonComment

MY THYROIDECTOMY STORY

Bethany OlsonComment
MY THYROIDECTOMY STORY

Probably 99% of you know that I got a thyroidectomy last October. It’s been about five months now that I’ve had the surgery, and what a difference my life has been. I know I’ve talked a lot about it on Instagram and Instagram stories, but for those of you that missed it I wanted to give you a more detailed version on my blog. I’ve been meaning to write about my post surgery for the past month or so, but I wanted to give myself some more time to heal and still process it all. So, let’s just dive right in.

I wrote all about my thyroid issues in this previous blog post, but ever since having the surgery I wanted to give you all an update. Before surgery and looking back at photos it almost feels like a completely different person. It’s honestly a little surreal that it happened. I never thought that I would have had to had surgery, or having a thyroidectomy. But I’m SO glad that I had it done. It’s crazy thinking about how much better I feel than I did before. I want to tell you about the day of the surgery, what happened during my recovery, and how it’s affected me today. It’s a longer post, but I feel like I should share it all in detail. There are also some photos from post surgery, so FYI if you don’t like scars or incisions, I highly recommend skipping past the photos (cause it’s not pretty). So, here I go…

On October 8th, 2018 I woke up at 4am and prepared for surgery. By 5:45am I was at the hospital checked in and waiting to go into the room where they hook you up to IV’s and get you ready for the procedure. By 6:45am I said goodbye to Cory and they rolled me back into the surgery room. I just remember feeling calm- I wasn’t stressed since I knew that I was on the way to recovery. I honestly just wanted to get it over with.

These are photos I took right before I went into surgery. Looking at these photos, I still can’t believe my neck was that huge. It’s so weird to even think that was me for 6 months of my life!

Bright lights lit up the room, about 10 people surrounded me while I was laying on a table, and they put the gas mask over my face to knock me out. A nurse quietly said to me “Just breath. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale”. And then I was OUT. I don’t remember anything else after that.

The next thing I remember is waking up in another room, and feeling so out of it because of the anesthesia. There was a doctor talking to me, and I remember talking to her. She was asking me about what I was going to do during my week of recovery and I responded with “I’m going to binge watch The Office!”. Of course she started laughing and talking about how much she was obsessed with that show. I think we maybe talked about it for a solid five minutes but I don’t remember what I said. All I remember was I stopped mid sentence, and said “Oh my gosh, I can talk!”. Sometimes after having a thyroidectomy, you can lose your voice or it changes and becomes super hoarse since it’s located right next to your vocal cords. My thyroid was wrapping around my vocal cords and the doctor said there was a chance I would have a hard time talking for the rest of my life. When I noticed I could talk, I wanted to cry from how happy I was.

In the same room, I remember the doctor asked me my pain level, and I said 8… my neck. Oh my goodness. It was the strangest feeling I had ever felt. My neck felt tight, and sore. It hurt to talk because I did have a breathing tube down my throat for surgery, but that went away a few days after surgery. But my incision area had a pain and feeling I had never experienced before.

For the rest of the day I was in my own room, I was in and out of sleeping, and I was just so glad that the hardest part was over (so I thought). During surgery, they had to remove my full thyroid, but they also had to remove 3/4 of my parathyroids. Your parathyroids control and process all the calcium your body consumes. Calcium also plays a huge role in how your muscles function and your bones. All four of my parathyroids were diseased, but they left one just so my body would have something to help process my calcium (more about my parathyroids in another paragraph).

My thyroid was HUGE. The surgeon knew it was enlarged, but it was bigger than expected. Let’s just say it weighed a quarter of a pound and was about the size of two baseballs. TWO BASEBALLS WERE IN MY NECK. No wonder why I was having such a hard time eating and swallowing. Thankfully my surgery went well, but they did have a problem where one of my blood vessels wouldn’t stop bleeding and I lost a lot of blood… they almost had to do a blood transfusion. Thankfully they didn’t though. The surgery lasted 5 1/2 hours, and my surgeon said it was one of the harder ones she had to remove since it was so big. As you can see in the photos, the scar is a decent size and not the prettiest. But my surgeon did an amazing job and I’m so happy with how the surgery went. It was the weirdest feeling being able to swallow without sounding like a frog or feeling like I had something in my throat. It was weird to swallow pills and not have to cut them in half. It was all around a weird feeling… I was already feeling like a different person.

About 24 hours later I was sent home. I was feeling okay, and didn’t think I was going to have to go back into the hospital again for any complications. Since they removed 3/4 of my parathyroids I was on A LOT of calcium. I was (and still am) taking these horse pills basically. But I wasn’t on enough calcium, and little did I know what was going to come next…

On the night of October 10th I woke up at 1:30am and my whole body was tingling. I could barely move, and I could barely walk. I was so weak. I looked down at my hands and they were curled up like a little claw (photo below). I was shaking. My lips were numb, my feet were numb, and I had shocks of tingling running through my arms. I knew something was wrong. I was SO scared I had no idea what was going on. So at 3am I was rushed to the emergency room and they told me that I was EXTREMELY low on calcium. Since I only have one parathyroid, we were training it to process all the calcium I was taking and I guess this can happen after surgery. It didn’t know how to process the amount I was getting and when I got the ER they had to put an IV in my arm and pump my blood stream with calcium. Once they pumped a couple bags of calcium in my arms I started to feel better. The scariest part of it all is that if I didn’t go into the ER…. my heart could have stopped. I didn’t realize that your heart is a muscle and without calcium it doesn’t work. HUMAN BODIES ARE SO CRAZY. It’s not even something I would have ever even thought about! So thankfully we went into the ER and got it taken care of.

I was in the hospital again for another 17 hours, and was put back up into my old room. I had the same nurses, and it was honestly a better experience than I thought. Just so thankful I listened to my body and went back to the hospital right away.

After I went home, I started to finally feel better and my body was starting to process calcium the right way. And I didn’t have any more complications after that.

Skip forward five days, and I was feeling like A MILLION BUCKS. It was crazy! I had so much energy! I felt like I could conquer the world. My neck was still a little sore, but other than that I was off my pain meds, and it was just insane how good I felt. A lot of people reached out to me prior to my surgery and I heard so many stories of recoveries. I thought I was going to be out for a month, but I was feeling better after five days. My incision was starting to heel, and it looked so gross (TBH).

Two weeks after surgery, I was back at the gym (with my surgeon and doctors giving me the ok). I had never felt any better. It was something I can’t even describe. I felt like a normal human being again.

About a month after surgery, my incision was almost fully healed, and had so much energy. My anxiety was gone, I was sleeping better, and I wasn’t exhausted like I was before.

Now… this brings me to my next topic. My auto immune disorder, Graves’ Disease. Graves’ usually is a package deal with hyperthyroidism. With Graves’ disease your thyroid attacks the orbit behind your eyes and causes you to have bulging eyes, head aches, bags under the eye area, hair loss, brittle nails, trembling in the hands, and other complications. Because my thyroid was removed, my Graves’ Disease symptoms are supposed to suppress over time, and slowly but surely they are. I have my good and bad days still with my eyes feeling like they’re bulging out of my head, and I ALWAYS have puffy eyes, even if I’m not tired. That’s the one thing that I am very insecure about. Nothing will get rid of my bags. I’ve tried EVERYTHING. I asked my doctor about it and they basically told me that because the orbit behind my eyes are inflamed, it’s causing scar tissue and fluid to build up around my eye area. So the bags aren’t diet, sleep, or alcohol. It’s because the bags are actual fluid that won’t go away from the inflammation. I met with my doctor a couple weeks ago, and I found out I most likely have to get upper eyelid surgery to help decrease the appearance of my bulging eyes. They will go in and basically remove the upper fat from the top eye lid, and pull down my eyelid over my eyes to not make them look as bulgy. I most likely will be getting the surgery in the next six months or so to make myself look back to my normal self. I wasn’t expecting to get another surgery, but if it’s going to help me look back to my healthy self, I’m willing to do it. And this surgery shouldn’t be as intense. I’ll just look like I got punched in the eyes (haha). The removal of bags under my eyes is a whole other surgery that I will get done at some point, but I’m taking one step at a time.

I’m not perfect, and I have a lot of insecurities. So I’m going to dive right into those and what I’ve been struggling with recently. Since surgery, my body has changed a bit and there are some things that might never go back to normal. Before all of my thyroid issues I had no idea how your hormones play such a huge role in your every day life and how your body functions. It was something I never had to think about. I’m just going to list some of the things I’ve been struggling with and how my body has changed since my thyroidectomy.

MY HAIR: I knew I had some gray hair before my surgery. But oh my goodness… I feel like over night my hair is starting to go gray in larger patches! Because I lost so much hair, my hair line is a lot thinner and it’s starting to grow back gray. It’s been stressing me out (which honestly I feel like doesn’t help and it’s so dumb because it’s a part of life) but I never thought it would happen so early on in my life. But I’m trying to teach myself to embrace it and not worry about it. I also have a random patch of waviness in my hair that wasn’t there before. One patch in the back of my head has mermaid waves- which honestly if my whole head did that I wouldn’t complain. It’s just one random spot!

MY BODY: Well, this could be a longer topic, but I’ll try to keep it short. In a nutshell, one of my hormone levels wasn’t balancing out correctly like it was supposed to after surgery. Before surgery I gained 20 pounds and I wasn’t able to take the weight off since it was all hormones. After surgery I lost 7 pounds, and then gained it right back. It was very frustrating since I was feeling tired and lethargic, and knew something was off with my hormone balances after surgery. So I talked to my doctor, got more blood work done, and found out I was in a 10% bracket of people who have their T3 hormone off balance. So, for the past month I’ve been on T3 hormone as well as the other hormone medication to try and balance everything out. I haven’t lost any weight at all (which has been really frustrating) but it still could take my body some time to normalize. One of the reasons why it’s so frustrating and I know I shouldn’t be insecure about it, but I am… I’ve gained a lot of weight in my face. I still look like I have puffiness in my face, but I’m still not sure if that’s just from my medication or hormone weight. My face and neck area obviously isn’t as puffy as it was before my surgery, but it’s still not back to normal. I think it’s frustrating because I’m the person that likes to see results right away and I’m very driven when it comes to goals. When you work for a goal and don’t see the results it’s frustrating. BUT… on a positive note… I have gotten a lot stronger (still not enough to not lose weight) but I can tell my endurance and strength is starting to come back with running and working out. It feels AMAZING and something that is a huge motivator. I’m trying to remind myself to not determine healthiness off a number scale, but how you look and feel. That’s what’s most important in the healing process.

MY ANXIETY: Before surgery I was having crazy anxiety issues- something I never thought I’d have to deal with. Four months out and my anxiety is almost non existent! I rarely ever feel anxious anymore and it has helped me become a happier person. I’m SO thankful that I’ve been able to overcome anxiety because it’s a real thing. It can take over your life. I’m so grateful that I have an amazing husband that has helped me through it all and I’m just a healthier person, mentally and physically.

MY ENERGY: OH MY GOODNESS I CAN’T EVEN DESCRIBE HOW MUCH ENERGY I HAVE. Right after surgery, it was like I was full of caffeine, all the time… I didn’t even need coffee to keep me awake. Ever since I’ve felt like a different person and I’m not nearly as tired as I was before. Sure- I do get exhausted on some days BUT it’s not a constant battle. And it feels incredible.

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There’s not a single day that I don’t look in the mirror and see the scar on my neck, and what October 8th meant to me. It’s something I will NEVER forget. I can’t go a single day without taking my medication. If I don’t take medication, my body will eventually fail. It’s such a crazy thing to wrap my mind around. But I’m just so thankful that I’ve come this far and every day I’m getting stronger. October 8th was a huge milestone in my life, and I’m just so thankful that the worse is over.

Every day is one step closer to my body getting back to normal and I need to remind myself to enjoy this one life I have on earth. I need to remind myself to put my health and body first. Everyone needs to put their health first. It’s so important.

If you got this far in the post, thank you for reading. Means the world that I can share my story, and I hope it helps someone who has gone through it or about to go through it. If you are about to have a thyroidectomy, hang in there! It only gets better after. I never thought it would, and my life is changed for the better.

Thank you to everyone that has reached out and asked about how I’m doing. I’m doing fantastic and yes I have my good and bad days, but this community has helped so much. Couldn’t be more thankful!

xx