"Dr. S does such beautiful work!" "Another example of Dr. S's beautiful work!" were the exclamations from the nurses and the assisting doctor at my six week return visit after my partial thyroidectomy this summer. It's true, Dr. S does do beautiful work. My scar is very small and not very noticeable.
How one's thyroidectomy scar looks is a big deal in thyroidectomy circles. It's such a minor thing to me. Medical professionals tell you lots about the scar before your surgery, but I had no idea how completely the rest of my life would fall apart afterward.
Some people sail through major surgery and back on into their lives. I, apparently, am not one of them. There are so many ways surgery has made my life smaller and more broken.
If your thyroid levels are in the correct ranges, which mine are, recovery from a partial thyroidectomy should only take a month or two. It's been three, and I'm still nowhere near normal. I have bouts of nausea and weakness, and my energy level is still very low. I can't drive more than 5 or 10 minutes. The surgeon and the endocrinologist both said that these nothing to do with surgery.
However, my regular doctor, who knows my drug allergies and reactions (many extreme), said that she's sure it's from the surgery and my body's reaction drugs to the they used, and that it could be months before I have normal energy again. Adding to the reactions to the surgery itself, when I had my surgery, I hadn't totally recovered from my prednisone reaction from last spring. I was already starting from behind.
So, if I overdo it - which means anything like a normal day - I can end up nauseous and lying in bed for days. Over the last three months, I've designed a schedule for myself that works for my body, and which I can gradually increase. If I stick with that, I'm mostly fine. If not, my recovery goes way back.
That's not where someone is supposed to be at this point, though. I irritate people by not being able to do what they want me to (my kids and my husband, on the other hand, have been great at helping me and encouraging me to rest and recover).
All sorts of things are crazy about my body right now. I have costochondritis (inflammation of the chest muscles and tendons) which constricts my breathing, makes it difficult to sleep, and keeps me from carrying much. I was in physical therapy for that, but I haven't been able to drive to it for the last few weeks. If I use any part of my body the slightest bit to excess, things get weird. I planted a dozen pansies yesterday, and my right arm is really weak today. Planting pansies isn't a big deal. If I try to dance, which I don't have the energy to do, I get dizzy. I've got vision problems so I have to go for a brain MRI next week. I'm claustrophobic so that makes me really scared (to say nothing of how scared the vision problems themselves make me).
On top of that, we've had the cloudiest, rainiest fall that I can remember so my seasonal depression is in full swing.
On the bright side, sort of, I'll be able to sing again. Currently, I'm an alto. Before surgery, I was a second soprano - and an alto if I was having problems with my voice. I don't know if I'll ever be a second soprano again.
When I had my knee surgeries, six and seven years ago, choir was one of the things that got me through. I could sing on crutches (and did for the Christmas Eve service). Obviously, that can't be the case this time. I don't even know if I can go back as an alto, though.
I always struggled to be soprano-y enough for choir. Because of my weak vocal fold on the right side (found out in voice therapy), my voice takes about 15 minutes to warm up. If I have to sing high right away, it's really bad for my voice.
I've tried for many years to be a good choir soprano. One Sunday morning, there were no high sopranos there for the rehearsal before the service. The choir needed high notes so I tried really hard to sing a high F - five minutes after we started singing. By the time some high sopranos showed up, a few minutes before the service, I could barely croak. I ruined my voice for the day for no reason at all.
The choir's had lots of altos lately and not as many sopranos as they need. The choir director doesn't like it when I have to sing alto rather than soprano so I'm not sure that I should even try to go back when I can sing regularly again. I can't even try to sing soprano (for those who know music, my voice teacher, a retired voice therapist, doesn't have me sing above a C right now).
So, choir brings me to faith.
Along with praying for other people, I do pray about my surgery and recovery. I have thanked God so many times that it turned out to be an "easy" type of non-aggressive cancer. Two of the ladies in the choir sent me get well cards.
Beyond that, faith and church have helped almost not at all. I didn't expect them too - after all, neither helped after my father died or after my father-in-law died. Church, and the expectations of faith, seem to be even more burdens to worry about at these times when I feel fragile.
Among all the things I have to do around the house, but don't have the energy to do, the church pledge form burns like a beacon. I don't know when or if I'll be back at church, but if I don't return it, I'll get a phone call (not that anybody's called to find out how I am). A number of years ago, when I hadn't been to church for months because of health issues, I got the "you-haven't-returned-your-pledge-form" phone call. The guy wanted to take me off of the church membership because I hadn't been there. I told him that he could if he wanted, but I was waiting for a call from the doctor so I had to get off of the phone. They can take me off this time if they want - I'm not healthy enough for church.
Singing brings me a large part of my social life, and that's gone when I can't sing. One community theater group is doing Hairspray this winter - I'd love to do it, but I don't have the voice or the energy yet. My usual group is doing Li'l Abner next summer, and I don't know if I'll be doing that either. I'm not deciding until I hear more about the show and what the director is going to do with it. However, I remember detesting that comic strip because of its stereotypes and casual sexism so I hope that the musical is different.
There are two singing possibilities when I get better enough, though. There are two groups in Durham -Beer and Hymns and the Pop-Up Chorus - that you can just join and sing.
I'm on a Facebook group about thyroidectomies, and people have so many posts on how their scars look.
I'd rather have a far more nasty scar and have energy, not have broken relationships, and be able to sing and dance.