4 Week Post Total Thyroidectomy Update

Hi! It’s been four weeks since my surgery, so I wanted to give an update and share my recovery process over the past month of life with no thyroid. I know a few of my readers are currently a few weeks behind me with a similar prognosis. I’m hoping this eases a little bit of anxiety knowing someone else’s experience. Like pregnancy, everyone’s experience is different, but also sort of the same.

Heading To Surgery

The day of the surgery we dropped Reece off at camp while Kat stayed with my sister and we drove to the hospital. We checked into the hospital and waited for only a few minutes in the waiting room before being called in. We had been asked to arrive two hours before the surgery but the surgery before must have been faster than expected. I gave my medical history, confirmed my procedure, etc. I think a few minutes before I was wheeled in for surgery I had an internal freak out about dying, then I just calmly said bye to my husband and before I knew it I was waking up. I don’t even think we said “I love you,” to each other!

This is Reece without a care, not even saying goodbye to me before surgery!

Waking Up

I didn’t have any nausea when I woke up, thankfully, but I was still very sleepy so I would wake up for a few minutes then doze back to sleep most of the afternoon and evening. I was awake most of the night. I didn’t mind though after on and off naps all day. I finally got to catch up on Sharp Objects.

I was able to talk, very quietly, as soon as I woke up from surgery.  My throat was soar from the intubation tube but my incision site didn’t bother me at all. I had a few scratches on my chin and chest from the surgery restraints and intubation tube which I wasn’t expecting, but all my cancer was removed so I guess I can’t complain.  I could have had soup or some crackers but my body didn’t feel hungry plus too tired to bother trying to eat. I had a popsicle for dinner because I knew I should have something. I was drinking water as soon as I woke up. Since I was super hydrated from my IV I had to use the bathroom often and could go on my own, the first time the nurse walked with me just because I was so sleepy.

The first two days were the worst of it because of the pain from the intubation tube. It was hard to swallow the HUGE calcium pills, which are required because even if you can keep all 4 of your parathyroid glands, they get bruised and might not function correctly immediately following surgery. Come to find out, calcium is super important at all times for your body, not just the long term function of strong bones.

Another thing I hadn’t anticipated, but is a very common side effect, was numbness from my incision to my jaw line.  I still, a month after, have the numbness but it isn’t as severe. It can take a few months to go away completely.

Going Home

Once I was home I was able to walk around and talk. I wasn’t bed ridden, but I was tired and the first couple days I took a few short naps throughout the day. My 2nd day after coming home I had a lot of nausea from the massive amounts of calcium I was taking. I had my calcium levels checked and switched to getting half my dosage from Tums because it was easier to swallow and less icky on my belly. The hardest part of recovery after leaving the hospital the first week was the calcium!

After 2 or 3 days of being home I didn’t need the Tylenol for pain. There was still some stinging at the incision site, but it wasn’t constant enough for me to feel like I needed to take anything, plus just the thought of taking Tylenol made my stomach churn with the calcium nausea. The incision stinging is still there a month later, but not as often. (Side note: if you are in pain, take pain medication! Don’t suffer, it won’t help your recovery. An occasional sting and constant pain are two different things.)

By the post-op checkup I had recovered a lot in only 10 days. Swallowing had gotten easier and the feeling like there was the edge of a book pressing on my incision area was dissipating. At 4 weeks post-op it still feels like the muscles around my neck are tight, overnight sleep I still wake up sometimes (not as often as the first two weeks, maybe once every couple nights) because swallowing is bothering me.

I haven’t gained any weight yet, but I’m just starting to need the medication to take the place of the thyroid since it takes four weeks-ish for your body to deplete of thyroid hormones. My energy isn’t at it’s normal rate, but I’m trying to remind myself constantly that I’m still recovering from surgery. After having a baby it takes months and months for your body to adjust. While I’ve been given the OK to get back to normal activities, I’m still healing, plus adjusting to the medication.

Sometimes it’s hard to give ourselves permission to rest. And when I’m having a tough day, I totally use the cancer card on myself. You’re recovering from surgery and cancer lady! You don’t have to do 4 loads of laundry and rearrange your daughters room.

If you are going through the same thing or were just diagnosed, or want to know more, please feel free to ask in the comments below. Or, follow me on Instagram and DM me or comment on posts about thyca.

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