Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inaugural Blood Test

Had my first post-surgery blood test today, in preparation for my first post-surgery meeting with my endocrinologist this coming Monday. Hard to believe it hasn't even been a month since I had the surgery. Well..... I guess I believe it. Everything still feels a bit new. I'm always worried I'll forget my pill, but it hasn't happened. I'm pretty good at remembering those sorts of things, but I'm also pretty good at worrying needlessly.

I dropped by Kaiser Oakland's lab this morning. The phlebotomist I got was a little odd. He kept asking if I was ready. "Are you ready? Are you sure?" I didn't feel stressed, and I really don't think I looked stressed - getting blood drawn is no big deal (for me.) But he did seem concerned. "Ok.... if you're sure you're ready...." Finally I asked "Are you ready?" To which he said "I'm ready if you're ready." I was ready.
After all that I was afraid he'd stab me in the wrong spot or something, but things went smoothly enough. Now I just get to wait for the results (they should email me a link) and then I get to have the fun fun meeting with my doctor.

Still no real side effects to complain about. A couple of small things that may or may not be related, and which I will discuss with my doctor, but I feel mostly the same. I went for a brief jog around the neighborhood yesterday, for the first time since just before the surgery. I felt soooo out of shape and it definitely seemed like I was dragging along. Do I blame my absentee thyroid, or do I blame the fact that I haven't exercised in a month, haven't been eating all that well, and I was just generally tired after work? I think I'll go with that.

Tomorrow, more exercise. Tonight I go to a friend's house and watch "Withnail & I"! Definitely looking forward to that.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Not so many posts lately: I've been in a spot where I'm more interested in living my life than writing about it. Things are going very well, but my brain is officially exhausted from worrying about the various stages of this little drama. I'm very pleased to have made it thru the surgery and recovery period so well, but soon I'll get to run another gauntlet: radioactive iodine treatment. Once that's over & done with I'll feel like I can actually relax for a bit.

But the good news is: Yes! I am feeling great. The taking of a pill every morning is still a little strange, but I haven't forgotten yet, nor do I expect to. I was anticipating side effects, and haven't felt any. The big ones to look out for are significant changes in energy levels, hair loss, and weight gain or loss. Nope, nope, and nope. All systems normal. Very pleased. I have a meeting with my endocrinologist on August 31st, and we will discuss how my thyroid hormone levels look, and whether they need any adjusting. I do feel fine, but there may be some tweaking that needs to happen.

I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon last Thursday (the 13th), and he was quite impressed with how I'm healing. He said he'd forgotten how small the incision was. It's true - the scar is only about 2", and aside from a small raised section which he says will flatten out, it's very unobtrusive. I have a few scarves that I'd been using, but he gave me the all-clear to start applying sunscreen, and given this hot weather we've been having, that's the route I'm taking. I bought Neutrogena's new SPF 100+ sunblock - maybe SPF numbers that high are a scam, but right now, for this purpose I'll buy into it! I also got some vitamin E oil - it took some searching, but I finally found some pure oil (i.e. no added ingredients) and it even came in a little glass bottle with a tiny pump dispenser. My surgeon says there's no harm in using vitamin E oil, but he also pointed out that he has many patients that don't put anything on their scars and still heal up beautifully. What's key is covering it up so that it's not exposed to sunlight.
I don't have a current photo of my scar, but here's how things looked before the bandage came off last week:

The most entertaining part of my follow-up appointment was the check-up on my vocal chords. I still have some hoarseness, and I can't project in crowded/ loud situations. I've noticed consistent improvement over the last few weeks, but I still have a ways to go. To check things out, the surgeon took a scope - about a foot long, and bendy - and inserted it into my nose and down my throat. Yup. Wasn't expecting that, but it wasn't really so bad. He applied a nasal spray that somewhat numbed the area, then went to town with the scope. He was very careful with it, but it still felt pretty bizarre. Once it was inserted he had me say "eeeee" a few times and said my left vocal chord was looking weak. He pulled out the scope (slowly) and as I was wiping my watery eyes he said he wanted me to come back again in a few weeks so he could keep track of my progress. He'll be using the scope again. Fun!

I'm starting in on my second week back at work - my first week back was a little tougher than I was expecting, but I think I'm back in fighting form now. It really was wonderful to be able to spend that week after surgery just sitting around and healing. We went for a drive midway thru the week to the Marin Headlands and to Stinson Beach, and it was glorious. I was super tired the next day (even tho I barely did anything but walk around a little bit) but it was wonderful to be able to get some sunshine and enjoy some gorgeous scenery so soon after having surgery. I'm a pretty lucky gal.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Life's pretty sweet.

A week and a couple of days post-surgery, and I'm feeling good. This is honestly a surprise, as I was expecting all sorts of random things to go wrong and/or side effects from the meds. This is how my mind usually works (preparing for the worst), but it does seem like with an operation this delicate there was plenty of room for error - hooray, things going right!

As I mentioned in my last post, things took a while to get back to normal after being under the anesthesia for so long - my surgery began at 9am, and I woke up at 1pm. When I woke up in the recovery room, I could barely breathe - my first foggy memory is of desperately trying to inhale while my lungs dealt with the unexpected fact that they were full of fluid. Well, "full" is likely an exaggeration, but I couldn't breathe, dammit. The nurse taking care of me - a wonderful woman named Cecelia, told me matter-of-factly that I had stopped breathing for a bit and they had had to do some sort of emergency procedure to get me going again. I'm still unclear as to when exactly this dramatic event took place, and am looking forward to getting a little more info. I could barely talk when I woke up (and for the next few days), so asking questions wasn't really much of an option. After I was awake and it was obvious I was still struggling, Cecelia injected me (via my i.v.) with something called Lasix, which basically took all the extra fluid buildup and moved it to my bladder so I could pee it out. I felt better right away. Crazy and magical.

The surgery itsself was a major success - I am SUCH A FAN of my surgeon! Seriously, if you know anyone who has to have their thyroid out, and is covered by Kaiser, talk to me. I've got your man. He's super talented, laid back, and an all-around nice guy. Most importantly, he does this sort of operation all the time (about a dozen a month), so he's got the skills - meaning he was able to save my vocal chords & my parathyroid glands. High-five.

They kept me overnight in a room with two other people. Apologies all 'round for not getting me my own room, but apparently it was a busy day for surgeries, and they were all full up. I got the bed nearest the window, so that was a coup of sorts. The other two women in my room were recipients of new knees (one each, I believe), and so were entirely bedridden during their stay. I was transferred to the room at around 4pm, and by 6ish I was able to hobble around a bit - did the classic slow stroll down the hospital corridor. At least it was sparsely populated, and I had JB's arm to lean upon - and it was on the 7th floor, alongside a bank of windows facing North over Oakland, Berkeley, and the hills, so there was a decent view.

When Cecelia first wheeled me into the room my stomach did some flip flops and I puked - thankfully in the bathroom. Puked once more later in the evening, but besides that I held it together pretty well. Didn't eat anything 'til the next day, and avoided Vicoden, as I heard that makes you extra-nauseous. My main issue was with swallowing and breathing - I definitely felt like that breathing tube had been shoved down my throat rather viciously. The surgeon & his team popped in later in the evening, and pronounced the procedure a success. They had to take out the entire thyroid (bummer) but the cancer seemed to have been isolated within the nodule - they hadn't needed to take out any lymph nodes (awesome!) No-one seemed worried about my throat or lungs, so I decided I didn't need to be, either. It just kindof sucked.

The lady in the bed farthest from me was ancient (I peeked over at her a couple of times on my way to the bathroom) - probably in her 90's, but pretty lucid. Her daughter was there much of the time. The woman nearest me was a self-described cat lady, probably in her 60's. We never spoke directly, but she had a way of verbally grabbing hold of every nurse that walked by - she was a complainer, and felt pretty sorry for herself. Nothing wrong with that after having your knee replaced, but dear lord, she would go on & on. And when she made a couple of phone calls it became clear that she was a shouter (not in anger, just.... shouting across those telephone wires.) Gah, I'm still annoyed at that woman.

All thru the night nurses were coming & going, and even with earplugs & an eyeshade I only got about four hours of sleep. I was pretty excited about leaving the next morning. It was generally a smooth process, and I was at JB's by around 10am. I basically slept for the rest of the day - it felt so good to have some peace & quiet!

More on my recovery later.

Here's a fascinatingly artistic shot of my hands pre-surgery. Got an i.v. in me.