Friday, August 2, 2013

My Thyroid Story, So Far

I have blogged about some bits and pieces of my thyroid situation during the last several months, but since I am approaching another step in the whole process, I thought I would share my whole thyroid story, so far, all in one place.
Until last fall, I had never really thought a lot about my thyroid.  I knew I had one, but I didn't really know much about what its purpose was.  I have learned a lot about the thyroid and all the different thyroid problems since then!  The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones that control your metabolism.  Problem thyroids can be over-active, under-active, enlarged, or lumpy.
I went to see my doctor last fall, and while I was there, he noticed that my thyroid was enlarged.  He told me that is is quite common for women to develop a thyroid problem after having a baby (Maddie was about 6 months old at that time), but he sent me for an ultrasound to check it out.  My ultrasound showed that I had a 5 cm nodule (growth) on the left side of my thyroid.  My doctor referred me to a surgeon, who recommended removing the left side of my thyroid (a partial thyroidectomy).  My surgeon sent me for a biopsy, because though uncommon, nodules can be cancerous, and if cancer is found in the thyroid, the entire gland must be removed.  I had my biopsy in November, and the results showed that I had a benign follicular nodule.  When I saw my surgeon again, he said that though my nodule was large, it was benign, and since it wasn't causing any breathing or swallowing issues, we could wait 6 months and reevaluate it.
In the meantime, I saw my doctor again.  He sent me for a second ultrasound, and he referred me to an endocrinologist for a second opinion.  The second ultrasound showed that my nodule had grown to 6 cm.  I saw the endocrinologist for the first time in May.  He ordered a bunch of blood work, and he sent me for a second biopsy.  The blood work said that my thyroid levels were in the normal range, but my second biopsy showed that I had a follicular lesion of undetermined significance.  My endocrinologist felt that just by the nodule size alone, I should really have the left side of my thyroid removed, but with the atypical biopsy results, he recommended getting it done this summer.
After my second biopsy
I set up another appointment with my surgeon, and Jim and I went to see him a few weeks ago.  As we talked through the surgery with him, he recommended my getting a total thyroidectomy - removing the entire thyroid.  With a partial thyroidectomy, there is a chance of not needing hormone replacement medication afterwards.  However, if I got a partial thyroidectomy, and cancer was found, I would have to go back and have a second surgery to remove the rest of my thyroid.  A total thyroidectomy would require me to be on thyroid medication for the rest of my life, but after the surgery, I would be able to just move on with treating the cancer (if needed) and recovery, without having to go through another surgery.  After some research and prayer, I have decided to go ahead with a total thyroidectomy on August 6.
We were able to fit in a little trip to South Carolina to see my family last week, and my parents have come back to Michigan with us to help with the kids during my surgery and for a few days after I come home.  From what I have read, the surgery should not too bad, as far as surgeries go.  I will have a scar on my neck, which should fade to almost nothing after a year or two.  I have been adding some scarves to my scarf collection and pinning scarf-tying tutorials on Pinterest in hopes of covering up my scar as it heals.
My current scarf collection
If I do end up having thyroid cancer, I will probably have to go through a radioactive Iodine treatment a few weeks after my surgery, which will kill all of the remaining thyroid tissue (and hopefully any remaining cancer cells).  That would most likely involve another hospital stay and at least several days of being quarantined from my family since I would be radioactive!  It would also delay the start of my hormone replacement therapy, which would cause me to feel pretty rough for those weeks between the surgery and the radioactive Iodine treatment.  We are obviously hoping that I do not have cancer, but we are praying for grace and strength to get through these next few weeks, whatever they hold.
I will update about my surgery and whatever the following weeks hold for me as I can.  It is difficult to go through the uncertainties of medical procedures, and I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can be a help and encouragement to others who face this situation in the future.  I would appreciate your prayers on Tuesday morning as I have my surgery!

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