Every test that was performed pointed to a large benign nontoxic multinodular goiter located on the left lobe of my thyroid gland. Two small nodules were found on my right lobe. I was scheduled for a total thyroidectomy on Aug. 23 at the Cleveland Clinic. My only apprehension was the ugly, temporary scar that I would be wearing like a necklace for several months to come.
My surgery was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Aug. 23 with an arrival time of 12:30 p.m. for pre-op procedures. Cleveland Clinic operates like a fine-tuned machine, and their efficiency and professionalism is extraordinary. My surgery was delayed until later in the day, and I was transported to surgery at 3:30 p.m. The doctors, nurses and anesthesiologist do what they call a "huddle" around your bed to discuss the surgery and answer any and all questions.
The surgery lasted approximately two hours. After spending some time in recovery, I was taken to my room for the night. Other than being sore, I had no complaints. My care was excellent throughout my short, 24-hour stay.
The doctor released me from the hospital the next morning. My journey taking thyroid replacement therapy for the rest of my life had begun. It will take about six weeks to get the proper therapeutic levels regulated. Since a thyroidectomy can drastically lower calcium levels, I am on 1,500 milligrams of calcium with vitamin D daily along with the thyroid medicine. The vitamin D helps the body to absorb the calcium.
My follow-up appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Eren Berber, was on Sept. 2. I told my husband, "I have one more hurdle, the pathology report." I waited what seemed like an eternity for the doctor. Two of the resident doctors working with Dr. Berber entered the examining room before the surgeon to discuss the results of my surgery. It was through my conversation with them that I learned that I had insignificant micro-papillary cancer on both sides of my thyroid.
When I heard the word cancer, I didn't process much more of the conversation. A few minutes later, Dr.Berber confirmed the diagnosis. Since my entire thyroid has been removed, no further treatment is required. A yearly blood test to check the thyroxin levels is the only recommended precaution.
I do not know how long that I had these cancer cells in my body. I do know that any man or woman who has a suspicious lump on their neck needs further evaluation. Thyroid cancer is rare, and 95 percent of all thyroid cancers are curable.
My cancer was located on both sides of my thyroid and was no more than two millimeters in size. The pathologist, when dissecting my thyroid gland after surgery, found them. Thank goodness they are gone. I feel better today than I have felt in a very long time.
McKenney is a Tribune Chronicle correspondent.