One thing I've come to realize is that most everything I've found online regarding thyroidectomies is that most of the stories are horror stories. I'm not saying there isn't good reason for that-- I'm pretty sure there's a perfectly good reason for this--but not everyone that goes through this has a terrible story to tell about it. I think the access to people familiar with these issues are surgeries is a big part of why there are a vast amount of not so good stories online and with living in the panhandle of Nebraska and after what it took to get to where I am now from where I was last year, well, I can see why people run to google and hope for the best with their own surgery after reading stuff online.
My own story started the end of February 2012. I made some pretty awesome calzones out of some homemade bread dough for dinner that night. Mmmm. Toward the end of dinner I was taking a bite of the calzone and some chicken hit the floor...so, I leaned over to pick up the food on the floor. While leaning over, I swallowed the bite I had in my mouth. Nothing unusual with that, except for the fact that I suddenly felt something move on the right side of my neck near my collarbone. I'll admit I freaked out quite a bit about it. Stuff moving in your neck is *not* normal. It's creepy as heck actually. Once I calmed down a bit, I texted a friend whose husband had been through EMT training for the local volunteer EMS service and asked if they'd be willing to come over and make sure it wasn't something that required an ER visit and could wait until morning. (Hey, you feel something move in your neck and tell me how well level headed and clear minded you are after that. lol) They came over with another friend that was an EMT as well and checked my vitals, poked what was definitely a small lump, and asked some questions. We decided the spendy ER visit wasn't necessary, friend hung out for a couple of hours to make sure I was definitely ok, then I headed for bed. Didn't really sleep well that night, but I gave it a good go.
Next morning I told the bosses what was up, made a doctor appointment, and was in the local clinic mid-morning. Great way to start off the month of March. Sitting in a clinic with a PA (Physician's Assistant) and telling her what happened the night before. After a bit of discussion and some neck poking, she determined there was definitely something not right and my thyroid seemed a little enlarged. I wasn't feeling any pain though, which puzzled her. She checked the schedule for the ultrasound and asked what worked for me to have it done. My bosses are pretty lenient about letting us employees take care of health issues as long as we let them know we're doing it, so I told her the first available opening she could get me in-- that afternoon. After having the ultrasound done and getting the results back on it later (gotta love the URGENT note on there), she had me come back to get my TSH and free T4 checked. There was a good sized nodule on the right lobe, about 2.7 cm or so and my thyroid was inflamed. She told me to take Aleve (Naproxen Sodium) a couple times a day for a week and ice it if I thought I needed to so we can see about bringing down some of the inflammation and she'd get back to me Monday or Tuesday when she got the blood results back.
One thing to note-- try to get copies of your tests. You might not understand them, but it's always good to be informed as to what your levels are and what the outcome of something was. That being said, I didn't get the numbers for my TSH and Free T4. I was told they were "normal" so I trusted that and went with it. They were technically in the normal range...but on the higher end. I'll get to that bit later though. At some point during that time, we set up an appointment to have a fine needle biopsy done on the nodule the 14th at a hospital a couple of hours away.
March 14th, 2013-- morning of the biopsy! I don't have issues with needles. As long as I don't watch them go in, I'm perfectly fine. I have a tattoo and several piercings. I was never bothered by needles then either. I loathed that biopsy though. The actual procedure itself wasn't bad. I just really had issues with being able to feel the needles move through the tissue. Not cool. Not cool at all. They do numb you with a local anesthetic, but you are pretty dang sore after that. My neck hurt until the next morning. Ouch. And turning my head? Not good. I'm glad I thought ahead and asked a friend to come with to drive in case I couldn't. I totally needed her help on the way home and it was nice to have some support.
A few days later I got the results back from the biopsy-- benign (YAY!). PA asked if the Aleve helped with the inflammation. Not really. So, she prescribed me some steroids to see if that helped. I'd never taken steroids before, so I'll hit on that briefly--it made me ravenous. Now, I generally have a pretty good appetite which just befuddles people because I'm pretty tiny. I don't look like the kind of person that can eat a whole lot. I can...and I definitely did while on the steroids. And while on them, I was pretty willing to eat stuff that I later decided really didn't taste very good. While on the steroids those frozen Del Mex tamales tasted like heaven! After the steroids? Jeebies. Please tell me I did not eat those willingly. ROFL. Hot flashes? I totally had those. Restlessness and needing to be constantly doing something? Oh yeah. Lack of concentration? I had that in spades. Not fun. Worst thing was the morning I almost passed out in the shower though. Not sure what brought that on, but I started noticing that my hands were tingling and I was getting a rushing waterfall sound in my ears that wasn't from the shower. Started to see a few spots and the lightbulb went off that I better get down before I fall down. So, I sat down took some slow deep breathes and soon enough the feeling went away. I guess I know that steroids and I don't really mesh well. After a week of those, I called the PA and let her know that while they did help some, there was still inflammation...or so it seemed to me. She set up an appointment with the ENT for one of the next times he was down (about a month later).
About a month later-- ENT appointment! It's mid-April. Since the initial diagnoses of thyroiditis and a nodule, I'd been keeping a mental list of what I had noticed. Issues turning my head, feeling like stuff was caught in my throat a lot of the time, etc. Met with the ENT that morning. I was told to show up about 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork since he's a visiting physician. Filled out a crap-ton of stuff, went back to a room, talked with the nurse. She was having a bit of trouble with the computer and couldn't seem to get the ultrasound to pull up in there. She went and conferred with the ENT and about 5 minutes later he came it. Let's just say that appointment didn't go well in my opinion. I have no idea to this day if he ever saw the ultrasound. Not sure if it'd have made a difference one way or the other if he had or hadn't. I was in the office no more than 10 minutes. He asked about my symptoms. I told him what I had going on. He felt the nodule and this is part of where I have an issue with him. I'm pretty petite. At 5 ft 4 in and at the time about 115 lbs, you do *NOT* need to press hard enough on that nodule that it feels like you're trying to pop it out the back of my neck. It hurt when he did that. I'm not normally quick to cry, but that was almost enough to make me cry. Then he sat down and basically told me that I didn't need surgery, he didn't see any swelling, just come back in a year and have the bloodwork done and an ultrasound done. If the nodule has grown significantly, they'll biopsy it again. If it started to hurt, then come back in ASAP. Then asked if I had any questions. I asked him several times-- what do I do about the swelling? His response, "What swelling? I don't see any swelling." I told him that the PA recommended taking NSAIDs and icing it. "Oh, I suppose you can do that if you think you need to. But I don't see any swelling. Someone *thought* they saw swelling on the ultrasound, but there's no swelling." I was pissed. My appointment was at 9:50am. I was out of the doc's office about 10:10am. 20 minutes in the room and most of that spent with the nurse or waiting just to be told, "I don't see any issues. You have a bit of a big lump there, but it's nothing." While I get that surgery isn't and definitely shouldn't be first resort, I'd like to hear a lot more than "Ignore it and come back in a year." I was having some issues with feeling like there was something caught in my throat and had trouble turning my head to the right because I could feel the nodule or muscles catch. I was starting to experience hoarseness at that time as well. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with that appointment and really didn't get off to a good start with the ENT.
After that, I kinda got caught up in some other stuff involving work, planning the wedding, messing with immigration stuff (keep in mind, my fiance was still in Germany during all of this), and a bunch of other stuff. So with being told to wait for a year and having other stuff to deal with, I just sat the medical issues on the back burner for awhile. It doesn't mean they were gone, just not top priority.