Thursday, 2 March 2017

My Thyroid Surgery - Becoming Butterfly Free



Having been diagnosed with a malignant tumour on the left lobe of my thyroid by FNA biopsy, I was swiftly scheduled in for surgery at Medcare Hospital in Dubai on 17th September 2015. Whilst I was, naturally, nervous about the operation, I was also just desperate to get it over and done with, so after waiting impatiently for the necessary insurance approvals it was a relief when the day itself arrived.

True to form, I had done my research about the possible risks attached to the surgery, including the chance of nerve damage permanently affecting the vocal cords, and the chance of damage to the parathyroid glands, which regulates calcium in the body. The neck is a delicate area, after all. However, I was lucky enough to have full confidence in the fact that I was in good hands with my surgeon, Dr. Abdulkader Weiss, who kept telling me not to worry and that he would take care to make the resulting scar as small as possible.

It may seem trivial considering the news I had recently been delivered, and the health scare I was facing, but one of my biggest worries ahead of the surgery was indeed the scar it would leave on my neck. If you Google 'thyroidectomy scar' you will be confronted by a whole range of images, from neat little 4-inch lines to (quite frankly terrifying) thick, full necklace-type scars.

It was during my pre-surgery research that I came across the priceless resource of Talk Thyroid - a community set up by two USA-based sisters suffering from hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid - and it was thanks to Talk Thyroid that many of my concerns regarding the appearance of my post-op neck were put to rest. Through Talk Thyroid's Instagram page I connected with a myriad of beautiful, successful, energetic young women who were still glowing and flourishing after their surgeries, which gave me hope for my future.

As Dr. Abdulkader had explained, he wouldn't know whether he would be able to get away with a hemi-thyroidectomy or if he would have to do a total thyroidectomy until he had actually opened me up on the operating table, and even then, if he considered a hemi-thyroidectomy possible, there was also a chance that I may have to return for a second surgery to remove everything pending the lab results on the removed tumour.

Recovering in my hospital bed after nearly 6 hours of surgery

The surgery was a delicate procedure and took just under 6 hours, as Dr. Abdulkader carefully ensured he had removed every last cell of the offending tumour, checking along the way that nothing had spread to my lymph nodes. Thanks to his skill, he was able to leave behind a very small portion of the right lobe of my thyroid, which he hoped would be able to maintain some natural thyroid functionality for me after my recovery.

The drain was the worst thing - couldn't wait to get it off!

I remember the worst thing for me in the immediate aftermath of the surgery was the drain they attach to remove all the excess blood and fluid. Mine stayed attached for 3 days (some only need it for one); it restricted my movements, was painful and uncomfortable when trying to sleep, and to be honest I just found it quite repulsive having these bodily fluids hanging from my neck in a little see-through sack! Once the drain was removed I started to feel much better, very quickly. In total I stayed in hospital for four days before being discharged, with a follow-up appointment scheduled a week later.

Feeling much better without the drain, and with a room full of flowers

When I returned to see Dr. Abdulkader the next week, he had the look of a relieved man as he ushered me into his office. He had always been lively and positive, but this time was different; he was relaxed. "Good news from the lab. We got everything, no need for a second surgery, and no need for radioactive iodine treatment," he told me, before confessing: "I never showed it but I really was worried about your case. This is a big relief."

And so - relieved - I began my life butterfly free. 

2 comments:

  1. Started following your blog through your instagram! Alhamdulilah I'm glad you found the lump early on and had it operated on. Just a quick (few) questions- I read that the doctor left a small part of the thyroid- does this mean that it is now working in overdrive and you have increased (or decreased) functioning? Are you on any medication to make up for the removed thyroid? Also is there any chance (God forbid) that the tumor could come back or is it a less aggressive tumor?

    Sorry for the loads of questions, I haven't heard about a thyroidectomy and I am really curious as to how the functioning of the small but important thyroid is after surgery (and I'd rather hear about it from someone first hand than reading pages on medical sites!)

    Sending you lots of good wishes :)

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    1. Hi dear, firstly a huge thank you for taking the time to read & comment on my blog; it means a lot :) and I'm more than happy to answer your questions.

      In the beginning, the small portion of my thyroid left by the surgeon wasn't really functioning at all (probably due to the trauma of surgery) so for at least 3 months I was fully hypothyroid. But then, gradually, it started to repair itself and regain its ability to function. My TSH levels started to steadily improve. It IS possible for a small portion of remaining thyroid lobe to get back within normal functioning range without medication, which is what I was trying to do. There are certain foods that either enhance or block thyroid function, so I read up a lot about them and altered my diet accordingly. I will post more about this in future inshallah.

      However, since getting pregnant my thyroid function has started to worsen again. This is normal and to be expected, due to the big hormonal changes the body goes through during pregnancy. I have only started taking daily medication (Euthyrox) to supplement my thyroid function during pregnancy because hypothyroidism in a mother can have a negative effect on the development of the baby, so it must be supplemented during this time. Hopefully, after pregnancy and breastfeeding, my thyroid will once again start to correct itself and I will be able to go off the medication, or at least reduce the dosage. Again, I plan to write more about how hypothyroidism affects pregnancy in the coming weeks & months inshallah.

      In terms of a risk of the tumour coming back - as with all cancers there is a risk of recurrence but luckily thyroid cancer has a very very low rate of that. It is also one of the slowest spreading cancers and has one of the highest survival rates. For these reasons, many people label it a 'good' cancer to get (which is quite insulting to anyone who has suffered with it - no cancer is good! And the after-effects are lifelong), but generally the prognosis is very good al7amdellah.

      Thanks again for your interest and feel free if you have any more questions!

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