It has been almost been a week since my total thyroidectomy. After a white-knuckle predawn drive over a snowy mountain pass and passing a half dozen overturned vehicles, we made it safely to St. Francis Medical Center in Colorado Springs. The waiting area, my pre-op room, and my room for the night all had a beautiful view of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. Before long I headed to the operating room. It is always a surreal experience to be on the operating table looking up at the huge lights while medical professionals buzz around you, and then…wake up in recovery.
I was fortunate (again) that whatever magical drugs and gases the anesthesiologist put into my body did not cause me to be nauseous upon waking. Overall I felt good and bounced back relatively fast. The pain was very manageable. I slept well in my quiet private room with only the standard interruptions for vitals to be checked.
The next morning my surgeon came by at 6:30 am and told me that the surgery went well. He removed the remaining right half of my thyroid and several lymph nodes to assist in staging. He said everything looked good, but the final pathology report would be back in a week. My husband and mother had stayed the night with our dear friends in the Springs who took wonderful care of them. They woke to a healthy breakfast of slow cooked steel oats with figs and cherries and a fresh pressed green juice. Our friends also sent them with a glass of the juice for me, and I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was to drink that elixir! My mom, who loves to try new things, wrote down the recipes so she could make them when we got home. (I will post the recipes soon!) That morning as I prepared to be discharged, I was sad to say goodbye to my husband who had to catch a plane to get back to school, but simultaneously so grateful that he was able to be there with me for the surgery. It meant the world to me to have him and my mom here for this life-changing event.
After being discharged, my mom and I headed for home. It turns out three hours is an awfully long time to be in the car the day after surgery. I did well for the first couple of hours, but by the time we were about 45 minutes from home I started to feel really awful. I finally switched with my mom and drove which helped me stay focused until we got home. Needless to say, I was very happy to be home.
The past week has been punctuated with flowers, visits from friends, walks in the fresh mountain air, and delicious meals delivered, more affirmations of this incredible community in which I live. It has also started to get real, as I settle into the knowledge that this will be a long and challenging journey. Over the last three days my body has started to realize that it is missing a vital organ and I have begun the descent into a hypothyroid state where I will stay through the radioactive iodine ablation (RAI), also known as I-131 treatment, and the full body scan that will check for metastasis and help assess staging. Once that is complete I start taking replacement hormone and begin to find my new normal. In the meantime, my plan is to find pleasure in the simple things in life and take it one day at a time.