Wednesday, at approximately 9:00 eastern standard time, I had surgery to remove a tumor.
You have a thyroid gland in your neck. It wraps around your trachea/esophagus (air and food pipes) like a butterfly. There are four smaller glands, about the size of the end of a writing pen, that are called your parathyroid glands.
The parathyroid closest to my jaw (rather than my collarbone) developed a tumor. Normally, when this happens, doctors go in on the side of the neck and remove the gland so the other three can work normally.
My thyroid has been severely damaged by all the attacks from my immune system. This made the anatomy in my neck differ from normal necks.
My tumor had been growing for so long, it drooped down. My low-hanging tumor pushed itself around my throat, trying to determine where it wanted to keep growing.
My surgeon is the head of surgery at the hospital where my surgery took place. I'm grateful that I had such a seasoned crew.
The following are exact quotes from my surgeon, post procedure. "That was a huge tumor. We almost didn't find it. I was about to give up and take the inferior (lower) gland, but I saw something way in the back. It was lodged between your esophagus and your spine. Most people would have given up a while ago. But we got everything - when we started, your parathyroid hormone levels were over 400 - after we got the huge tumor out, you immediately dropped to 80. That tumor was HUGE!" Typical parathyroid tumors are about the size of an almond. "Yours was gigantic. We started just below your right ear, and hunted until we found it - it was bigger than a giant olive!"
I have a four (or so) inch surgical incision at the base of my throat. I've already noticed differences in drinking, eating, swallowing and my voice even sounds a tiny bit different!
I wish I could say this has been an easy recovery - the pain has been some of the worst I've ever had. Including the colon removal. Turning my head is not allowed, leaning my head back is peril-filled. Bending over threatens all kinds of danger.
Jon has been helping me so much. I hate being a burden to anyone, but when talking on the phone for 15 minutes exhausts me (it was worth to talk to you, Melissa), I don't trust myself to be alone for long periods of time. My balance is not solid - I would flinch if I fell and you'd be amazed how many neck muscles running directly under my surgical scar are required for catching yourself when you slip.
I'm not sleeping well, and I'm hopeful that as I continue to heal, more rest will come. Having a raw throat from the tube they put in to keep you breathing during surgery does not pair well with a healing surgical scar. Inside and out, my throat is unhappy.
I am grateful for all the love and support. Having aunts wave me off and promise to keep Jon in line was a sincere relief. My mother-in-law has been checking on me every day for the past two weeks. My dad and sister are cheering for me, and the family I got to pick (my closes friends) have been magical. Even long-distance loves like my cousins and Aunt Rachel have been a vital portion of my cheerleading section.
Thank you with all my love and gratitude for the wonderful cheering squad. I was more scared about this surgery than any other. It's been a far more difficult recovery than I expected. Hopefully I can rest enough, and get my healthy legs underneath me. Looking forward to more rest, and healing. I think I may stock up on scarves for my neck, though. Feeling a lot like the Monster from Frankenstein's lab isn't my idea of awesome.