Amidst everything that has happened in 2020, I was not prepared that a tiny thyroid gland would be the thing that knocked me off my feet. 

After my son was born, I ended up in hospital with a nasty virus and swollen neck. A few months later and it was confirmed that I had a postnatal, viral multinodular goitre. Luckily for me, it didn’t impact my thyroid levels and wasn’t likely to be cancerous - but over the next twelve months it continued to grow and started to physically impact me.  I had difficulty swallowing and it was putting pressure on my windpipe.

For me, a total thyroidectomy was the best option.

My surgery was all set for March 2020 - 15 months after my new goitre friend had appeared. I spent this time alternating between talking myself into it and questioning whether I was doing the right thing. Two days before my surgery the UK went into lockdown. I was both crushed and, to be honest, slightly relieved - I could forget about my surgery for a little while longer. 

By July, I was fortunate enough to be offered another slot for the surgery as the first wave of Covid declined. To my shock, I sailed through my surgery. I was surprised at how my pain felt manageable and I could tuck into my hospital chilli con carne the next day. That’s it, I thought, the hard part is over! I recovered well and after two weeks was back at work.

Over the next five months, my family and I went on a journey, as I discovered the right levothyroxine level for me and adjusted to my new life. In the climate of Covid restrictions, working remotely, a toddler marching into the terrible twos and unrealistic expectations on myself… it was a perfect storm for disaster.

I wanted to give myself the best chance of a successful and quick recovery.  I had set up simple things for myself: little pill boxes so I wouldn't forget to take my new medication, adjusting my diet, exercising to keep my energy levels up and to manage the impact on my mental health. Unexpectedly, they all felt like things that were not my 'choice'. I felt like I was not in control.  Now one of many thyroidless people, I had to take these tiny white pills to be well and stay alive.  I couldn’t believe I was having such a hard time adjusting to simple things that I knew would make me feel better. 

My thyroid hormone levels swung around a little post surgery, and my day-to-day routine became more difficult. Everything became clouded and I went from week-to-week hoping to feel like myself again. I would have small victories, get my hopes up that everything was back to 'normal', then end up in a pool of emotions which felt totally out of my control.  I was managing to keep the wheels on but behind the scenes I was struggling. As the months went on, the impacts became greater. I felt that I should be better by now and I felt like a failure. My confidence was obliterated. All aspects of my life began to seem harder: being a wife, feeling confident enough to be a mum and feeling confident in my job.

As things got worse, I reached out to access counselling and closer GP support.  Through counselling I was able to understand the impact of my recovery expectations and began to learn about the variable experiences people have during post-surgery recovery.

I just didn’t appreciate that my experience was completely within the boundaries of normal - it was actually really common! In accepting this I was able to begin moving forward.

I worked with my GP to tweak my levothyroxine levels, had regular blood tests and kept exercising to boost my mood even when I really didn’t feel like it. After my own acceptance of my experience and my hormone levels settling, I was surprised at how quickly I began to feel like myself.

Five months on, my biggest takeaway is that post-surgery you may feel out of sorts for a little while. Your experience is completely individual and normal!  It will not always feel like it does now - you will feel yourself again. Although there is so much to cope with which is physical don’t forget your mental health. I feel passionately that mental and emotional support should be a standard part of total thyroidectomy recovery.

It’s no surprise that removing one of the main hormone-producing glands in your body may impact your mental health and we need to be proactive in giving ourselves the best chance of a good recovery. 

For more information, please see our patient resources on thyroid surgery

 thyroid nodules and goitres (swellings)

and psychological symptoms of thyroid conditions

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