What’s a thyroidectomy and why don’t we talk about it?

I missed posting last week because, well, I’m tired.

Adulthood, man.  Shit’s weak.

Update #1 – had a photoshoot a little over a week ago with a new friend, here’s a few of the results posted below.

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Feeling the nice, nice grease on my fingers

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“I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees, the trees say fuck you.”

Update #2 – there’s officially less than a week until I have my photoshoot with Michael Webber which will produce da pics I need to finish off the contract with MMG.

Update #3 – I feel like I can never find any good (and by good, I mean honest) post-thyroidectomy blog posts.  Any posts, for that matter.  So I guess I’ll just make my own, I guess?

January 17th, 2017 I had my entire thyroid surgically removed at 23 years old.  I had been slowly rotting away from a severe case of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for the better part of 8 years, and my thyroid had swollen up to 5x – you’re reading that correctly – 5x the size of the average thyroid.  I was legitimately suffocating to the point of I couldn’t sleep at night because there was no proper way to position my neck.  On the outside I looked like a regular, slightly chubby human being.  On the inside, my blood was moderately tainted and my own organs were trying to kill me.

To set the scene: every endocrinologist (thyroid doctor) I had seen up until that point told me if I ate well, exercised regularly and took my medication, there was no reason to think that anything negative could happen.  I, a fool, believed that.

I put off the surgery for probably 6-ish months because I was terrified of the scar (the industry I work in being what it is.)  I finally caved and initially went to Yale Smilow-Cancer Center in New Haven, CT for a consultation to see if a doctor could convince me that it was a safe, as minimally-invasive as possible procedure.

I get there, the junior-doctor-in-training-looks-like-he’s-barley-old-enough-to-drive-a-car little baby man hugs my ego and is all excited that I’m in show business and thinks it’s super exciting.  I start thinking to myself that maybe it’s not that big of a deal, maybe it will be ok since this guy is so perky and neutral about the whole ordeal.  The actual doctor,

l m a o.

This man told me with zero sugar-coating or hesitation in his voice that if I did not get the surgery, I directly quote, “You will die in less than a year.”

23 years old, sitting in a doctors office by myself, 45 minutes away from home.

Now, I get this guy is a surgeon and it’s his job to be a little chop-happy because that’s how he makes his living.  The issue for me arose in the blunt-force trauma to the soul of the statement and the fact a nurse who I had never seen until I was just informed I was going to die instantly came into the room to shove papers into my face to get me to instantly sign to agree to do surgery.

“Why aren’t you signing? You just need to sign right here.”

Anybody who knows me in real life knows that there’s not too many instances where I’m legitimately at a loss for words; this was one of those instances.  There was no, “are you alright? Do you need a little time to think about it?” I was literally – literally backed (albeit sitting) into a corner by three medical professionals who were shoving papers into my face after telling me I was going to die.  Up until this point, I was under the impression I was uncomfortable and occasionally sicker than the average human being but fruits and vegetables were going to save me (somehow?)

I handed the papers back to the doctor in an attempt to maintain my composure but get the literal hell out of that situation – and he began to get mad.

“It’s not that big of a deal of surgery.  We just make an incision a few inches on your throat and remove the thyroid that way.  Your thyroid is five times larger than the average thyroid – see? (pulls out graph and begins to draw on it) If you keep going at the rate you are, you will not make it past a year.  You will die in less than a year.” He started to lay out half a dozen pamphlets with extremely graphic pictures of a cut open thyroid during a surgery and pictures of huge, huge scars.

I got up, shaking like a small giraffe baby person, and walked out.  The nurse followed me into the hallway to force the papers on me, and I took them just so she would leave me alone.  I sat on a bench in a hallway for a couple minutes trying to figure out how I’m supposed to tell my parents and hubs that I went in for a consultation and was told instead that I was going to die.  How do I text my friends from college who I haven’t seen in months? How do you ever bring that up? “Oh, what’s new with me? Eh, just dying to death, the usual.” The valet (hospital requirement) got my car for me, I drove 7 feet down the road and pulled over to cry.

Hubs did the best he could given the situation to reassure me everything was going to be fine, my mom and dad were more of the quiet/stunned response.  I went to bed for a few days.

It didn’t make sense to me that although I admittedly felt horrible that I was dying.  Was I actually dying? Was this what dying felt like?

Then, I started to get mad.  Not in the “stages of grief” mad, but at the situation.  I laid out my options.

I could not get the surgery at all, and die.  I could get the surgery and potentially have my vocal chords severed – which is a bit of a problem for an actor.  I could get the surgery, not have my vocal chords severed and not die, but have a disfiguring scar that would ruin my career as I knew it because no one would want to hire someone who looked like a victim of Freddy Krueger.

I got mad enough I wanted to make sure I was dying.  I went on Google of all things, and I looked up what hospital had a highly rated endocrinology department and was semi-near me.  I wanted somebody else to tell me I was dying and this guy wasn’t just pulling my leg (because if given the opportunity, this guy seemed like he would willingly chop my leg off and then ask questions after he billed me before my insurance)

That’s when I found Massachusetts General Hospital and the majority of my entire existence changed.  I’m not one to trash-post much anymore as an adult, but if you’re looking for horrible treatment from doctors who can barely fit you in their schedule and make no attempt to build a lasting relationship with you other than to drain your wallet, then by all means go to the Endocrinology department at Yale.

I was under the impression this was just how it worked until I went to Massachusetts General.  From the moment I walked in for my consultation with a primary endocrinologist to the consultation with the surgeon, I was treated like a human being with needs and wants and a soul.  It was life-altering for me.

Fast-forward to my consultation at Mass General.  I sat for a few minutes in the examination room waiting for the doctor, and you could tell me she kicked down that door with the sunshine she was keeping in her pockets and I would not argue with you.

“Well, I see you brought your thyroid today! Good call, ha!” Just right out of the gate with the dad-jokes and hand shaking.  I was again, stunned.  This woman calmly laid out not-crime-scene-esque pamphlets, examined me, and explained the whole procedure from how it would go the moment I got there until the moment I left.  Then – get ready for this – then she asked me if I had any questions after she asked me about my career and my goals for after the surgery.

I signed up for the surgery that day.  I was just enthralled.  The way she presented it as making me feel better as opposed to killing me was night and day.

To surmise a little, my whole experience there was a dream.  The surgeon, the anesthesiologist (I SPELLED THAT RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY), and the entire staff were around the clock polite and caring.  When I woke up after the surgery in the recovery room, it felt like my entire esophagus-region was being blasted with a blow torch and that I had eaten nothing but a healthy, balanced diet of glass for the last every day of my entire life.  That night, I ate my weight in Italian ice and ice chips and soup.  I watched reruns of Jon & Kate + 8 on TLC for the majority of the entire night (it’s hard to figure out the remote in a hospital when you’re high on morphine and in a different state and don’t know the listings) The next morning, ya girl had pancakes – hospital pancakes – and they were good.

I realize this post has gone on a lot longer than it needed to, so I’m gonna wrap up and sort of tie it all together as best as I can.  Here’s a picture of what my scar looks like close-up today, coming up on 7 months after the surgery.

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Is it completely healed? No.  Do I care? No. And that’s the weirdest part.  I was so terrified that, death aside, my career would potentially die as well.  This industry is so centered around the idea of plastic looking skin that the slightest blemish could cost me everything I worked for.  Then, it occurred to me that the reason people think all models are 6+’ tall, 5 pounds and have plastic for skin is that not too many people with a “different look” are trying – because we’re scared.  I was scared, I’ll admit it (now I’m scarred, ha, word play, no don’t cross this out Katie this is comedy gold)  The phrase, “be the change you want to see in the world” came up and I haven’t let it out of my mind since.  Sometimes my levels get weird so I get tired and grumpy and miss posting for a week while I go get blood-work and take a lot of naps.  At no point, however, have I given up.  As a result, next week I’m signing a contract with MMG.  Hopefully, someday, some small-town gawky, frizzy-haired, braces, glasses having teenager will see what I’ve done and feel confident enough to do it too.

 

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