3) You will have a new normal — More than likely, you will not go back to feeling exactly the same as you did before your thyroidectomy. It can often take up to a year after surgery and radiation before our bodies fully recover. This study concluded that patients had significantly decreased quality of life, with scores only improving 12-20 years after treatment. You will probably feel like you’re all over the place as you get used to hormone replacement, and to the blood levels your doctor will keep you at. Furthermore, getting the necessary hormones through medicines is far different than your body producing them itself. With a thyroid your body can make adjustments when needed, on demand. We no longer have that luxury. Be patient. Don’t expect that you’ll be back on your feet and feeling good as new right away. Even if your cancer never comes back (which you’ll probably worry about every day from now on), you’ve been left with permanent hypothyroidism from your treatment. Accepting that you now have a lifelong, chronic illness can oftentimes be the hardest part.
4) Embrace your scar — Yes, I’m vain. When I found out I had cancer, my main worry was the big scar right on the front of my neck. All I could think about was how I’d cover it up after surgery. But then, once it was all over and the bandages came off, I realized that I didn’t want to cover it up. People will stare. Even with it almost completely faded away, I still catch people looking at my scar instead of my face when I’m talking to them (Hey buddy! My eyes are up here!). In the beginning when it was more noticeable, I’d sometimes have fun when people stared, telling them I got into a knife fight (and they should see the other b*tch). But mostly when I see someone looking, I just point to my neck and say ‘thyroid cancer.’
Your scar tells a story. It’s proof of how strong you are. And it can be used as a tool for awareness. Embrace it. And spread the word.