The Big Day!

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The morning of my surgery had to be the biggest wake up call of my life.  This was really about to happen.  My nerves were at the top-most level possible.  (My nerves are increasing as I’m writing this- weird) We arrived at the hospital, extremely early in the morning, and I was completely starving, since you have to fast prior to surgery.  The nurse called my name back to get changed and prepped for surgery, and within minutes, I was saying goodbye to my parents and boyfriend and walking to the OR.

First thing you notice: FREEZING!  The operating room is absolutely freezing and there are so many doctors and residents everywhere getting things ready.  They told me to lay down on the table, and while they were strapping my arms and legs down, one of the nurses was piling warm blankets on me (ugh, amazing, and definitely helping with the nerves).  Her and I were talking for about a minute or so, just checking my name and surgery I was getting, and next thing I knew… I was waking up in recovery.

When did they give me the anesthesia?  Where’s my family?  It really hurts to swallow..

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My nurse told me that my surgery went well, and checked my vitals and I had a fever, so they would only allow my family in to see me for a quick minute.  After about an hour, I was transported to the next recovery room where we spent at least 3 hours trying to decide if I was going to be going home or staying the night.  The doctors OK’d me to leave, but I was extremely nauseous and did not want to have to end up coming back after returning home.  I could barely walk to the bathroom (which was about 10 feet away) without the help of somebody else and feeling nauseated.  There was no way I was going to leave.  Right before heading up to our room for the night, I was feeling a slight tingling sensation in my temples, which was explained to most likely be from the anesthesia.

To the room…

My mom and I were able to share a room which was great.  Before getting some sleep, I was able to drink some juice, which was a great success after a total thyroidectomy.  My nurse came in and gave me some pain medicine and a breathing mask to help settle some of the inflammation.

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I was told that I had to sleep in an upright position, which was no fun to try to sleep with.  And within minutes, I noticed something else was keeping me awake.. more tingling.. except now in my hands and my feet.  I tried to relax so that maybe it would go away, and nothing was helping.  I finally caved in and called the nurse to see what was going on.  She was clueless and went to call my surgeon and his team to get a better idea.

A phlebotomist was sent up to my room to take a blood sample, and within a half hour, the nurse came back with some Calcium to put in my IV.  Calcium? Why?.. She explained that during my surgery, the surgeon had to take one of my parathyroid glands (Okay? And?) and that controls my calcium levels.  She went on to explain that my other 3 glands were probably just stunned from the surgery and haven’t woken back up yet, so I would need to take Calcium until that happened, which would be in no time.  FINALLY the tingling settled and I was off to sleep… And waking up every hour, if not more.

Decisions, decisions..

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Within a few days following my consultation, I came to the conclusion that I would be better off if I were to push school back for a semester and restart up in the Spring for my final semester.  This was an extremely hard decision for me to make because school is my life, it’s number 1 on the list.  But I eventually convinced myself that if I were to go for surgery during the semester, that I was be completely set off-track with the follow ups and any additional healing time that I would need.

During the next 2+ weeks before surgery, I was staying as positive as I possibly could and wasn’t worried about a thing.  September 4th was my pre-surgery bloodwork.  And then September 11th hits…. nerves, butterflies, worries, anxiousness.  I was ready, but also not at the same time.  This same day, I had to bring my mom to the hospital for back to back kidney stones, so we spent a decent amount of our day there trying to get her pain level down.  A hospital is the LAST place I wanted to be the day before surgery.  And my mom is the LAST person I want to see in one.  Nerves were definitely getting worse.

Love, Support & Consultations

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The following days after finding out my results, I was engulfed with more love and support then I thought was possible.  I was being completely showered with cards, phone calls, flowers, etc from my family, which had made the process seem a little bit easier knowing that everybody would be there supporting me no matter what.

Before I could be 100% certain that I was going through surgery, I had to get an echocardiogram and a stress test done to make sure that my heart was healthy enough and functioning correctly to go under anesthesia.  A lot of people don’t have to go through this process before surgery, especially younger people, but I have had breathing/heart problems prior to this that had to be settled.

As far as my Echocardiogram results… they came back showing that my heart is working perfectly, that all the parts are working together how they should be.  So there was some good news!  

My Stress Test showed that when physical endurance was increased, that my heart rate increased at a much higher rate then an average 23 year old woman should.  It wasn’t anything that the anesthesiologist would have to worry about though, as it would not effect my surgery.  My cardiologist did however suggest that I start working out slowly and to ease myself into it after I get better from surgery, so get my heart rate where it should be.  More good news!

August 19th was my consultation for surgery.  I was referred to Dr. Sandau, who turned out to go above my expectations of a surgeon.  During our consultation, he went over in detail exactly how the surgery would go, what to expect after, how to long to stay home from work, and any side effects during the healing process.  I wasn’t the least bit worried about the actual surgery, but about the anesthesia since you always hear horror stories about people not waking up right away.  That was the only negative thought in my head, and with positive vibes, surgery was scheduled for September 12th.

But… school starts September 3rd.

Now I had to make a big decision…

Biopsy Jitters & 50/50 Results

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After finding out that I was definitely going to need a biopsy, I wasn’t nervous about the results, I was more worried about the actual process…  Really, who likes needles?  Especially one that needs to go into your neck.

As the day came closer, I became more nervous about the possibilities for the results.  I had my biopsy on August 5th, 2013.  I was stuck with the needle three times to make sure that Dr. Haenel Jr could get a good sampling, and each one hurt more and more.  After it was over, Dr. Haenel placed a bandaid on the site, and I remember the area being sensitive and not being able to turn my neck as much as I usually could.

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August 14th was my follow up appointment with Dr. Haenel for results from the biopsy.  He sat me down and stated that he had good and bad news.  That the bad news was that biopsy came back “suspicious of cancer”.  What?.. How?.. Is he serious?.. Does he have somebody else’s results in his hands?..

Dr. Haenel explained to me that this doesn’t necessarily mean that it IS or ISN’T cancer, that the samples collected did not give the lab a certain enough answer to say yes, it is, or no, it isn’t.  He told me that it would be a smart idea to get my thyroid taken out within the next couple of months just to be safe, and reassured me that even if it does come back malignant, that thyroid cancer is one of the slowest, and that I wouldn’t have to worry about it spreading quickly (that was the good news).

Of course, I’ve never felt emotion like I did on that day.  Neither had my mom, who was there with me when the results were given.  Neither had my dad, who I had to call and tell during him working.  Neither did my boyfriend, who I had to text and explain while he was working.  Neither had all of my family members, who were just as surprised as we were.  My mom and I waited in our Hummer for almost an hour before driving home, just to take it all in and cry.

I realized that although I probably just got the worst news I could ever imagine, that it wasn’t a 100% yes that it was malignant, so for the next few weeks, I tried to throw out all the negativity and be positive so that I didn’t have to worry about what might not even be.

Complete Confidence

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To sum up my background before jumping right into my “story”, I will make it quick..

I have had Hypothyroidism, a form of Thyroid disease for about three years now.  Basically, when dealing with this disease, you will experience tiredness, hair loss, mental fogginess, cravings for certain foods, weight gain and/or weight loss, among other side effects.  When put on a thyroid replacement hormone, this will control the symptoms a little bit better so that they’re not as noticeable, as well as getting your thyroid levels at the number they should be at.

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During the past three years, this has been a decently easy disease to deal with having, as I would only have to get routine blood work done and have my doctor adjust my dosing if needed.

This all changed four months ago, in July…

My doctor had suggested to me (in mid year 2012) that I get an ultrasound of my thyroid just to make sure everything was okay since my numbers never seemed to be perfect, no matter what dose I was put on.  He told me it wasn’t urgent to get it done since he did not feel anything wrong with my thyroid, but that it was more of a “to make sure” thing to do.

I put this off for a good year because to me, it wasn’t a priority since my doctor didn’t actually feel something wrong, so it wasn’t a worry for me.  Finally, in early July I got my ultrasound done.  Mid July, my results came back and unveiled a nodule on my thyroid on the left lobe that was about the size of a pea.

I didn’t realize the seriousness that this could be until I made an appointment with my Endocrinologist, Dr. Haenel on July 18th.  He had stated that he would need to perform a fine needle aspiration, or biopsy to make sure that the nodule wasn’t malignant.  Although I was terrified to have this done, since he was truthful and told me that it would hurt, I was still confident I was going to be okay… that I was too young… that I was in good health… that I’ve done all the necessary things to avoid cancer… that this type of thing couldn’t happen to me.