"Why Are You Talking?'
Two weeks ago I had a complete thyroidectomy after suffering from Grave's Disease-induced hyperthyroidism for several years. I wrote about what the last couple of hellish months have been like here. I'm often asked, "Why surgery? Why not radioactive iodine treatment?" The reality is going that route could've made me sicker and it could've taken a lot longer to get relief from my symptoms.
My endocrinologist suggested a surgeon to me but he was out-of-network in an out-of-network system. And after I almost died (okay, maybe not really, but it felt like it) dealing with my insurance company, I didn't want to stress out about coverage when I was having an entire body part removed. I was referred to another surgeon in-network who could perform the surgery without worrying about insurance. Goodbye thyroid!
Early in the morning of February 15th I went to sleep with a thyroid and woke up without one. I was nervous about the surgery - I second-guessed my decision to have it over and over before that day. I even wondered if I actually needed the surgery - my most debilitating symptoms (insomnia and heart palpitations) were being controlled by meds. But I started having other really bad symptoms like anxiety that I needed to be medicated for. And my thyroid/goiter was gigantic - if I leaned my head back the goiter was obvious. And it was making me really, really sick. So it was time... really, it was time. My thyroid was huge - no wonder it was making me so sick. I have a picture of it posted on Instagram (@dawnieneufeld).
I woke up after surgery thinking I'd be a new person. I thought all of my symptoms would be gone. Well, they weren't. But some things are very different. I now have a several inches long incision across my neck where my thyroid was removed. I asked Ryan if it looked bad. He said no but he later admitted he lied. I don't blame him... first time I saw it I cried. I've been trying to hide the incision ever since.
My thyroid was big. Really big. So the surgery was involved. I knew I'd have a scar on my neck which is why I informed the surgeon ahead of time who reassured me that they could handle it. Well, when I had my follow up at my endocrinologist's office the other day, it became pretty clear pretty quickly that what's going on with my incision is not normal. There was concern. The elusive head endocrinologist who is usually unavailable (but who I've seen a lot over the last couple of months - thank goodness) even came to get a look at it. And I instantly felt guilty for not going with her surgeon choice.
So let me describe to you what I see in the mirror. There's about a two inch scar across my neck. It's healing. But unfortunately, it looks like it's already keloiding. The entire scar is hard and raised. I've been concerned about the scar because of my on-camera/TV work and how this will affect my ability to earn a living. There isn't enough cover-up to hide the scar (which Bryn has named "Scarlet") unless I'm playing Jabba the Hutt. It's going to be a while before I get back in front of anyone's camera.
But that's not the only thing freaking me out. My voice hasn't rebounded from the surgery. A possible complication of the surgery is that it can affect the voice nerves. And well... that's happened. I sound like I've been a three-pack-a-day smoker for decades. And because I'm honest, and a realist, I can tell you it's not getting much better. I got yelled at during my appointment the other day - 'WHY ARE YOU TALKING? YOU NEED TO STOP TALKING.' It's virtually impossible for me not to talk throughout my day but I try to do as little as possible. But I don't feel like my voice is getting better, and that scares me.
So I got caught up in the "what ifs" these last couple of days. What happens two months from now? Two years from now. It brought me to tears. Lucky for me Ryan who has been a wonderful partner in all of this and I'll never be able to thank him enough for all he's done these last two weeks. But yesterday was hard for me... I was feeling pretty down. I had to cancel a trip to a special education law conference I was supposed to attend. It's the information I rely on to practice law so I'm really missing out. So now acting/modeling gigs for a while, and oh... I'm gonna have to hold off on that law practice. And I can't forget to give my thick neck, deep voice, and symptoms like heart palpitations that are completely wearing me down.
But my God... you would think I know better by now. This will all work out according to His plan. It always does.
I had a magazine laying on the floor in my room that I picked up and flipped open to a random page. The article was about mindfulness and I started reading under a heading "Present-moment awareness gets you their faster." The article went on to read:
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. If you keep your attention in the present, on the work itself, without constantly straining toward your future goal, you'll arrive at the goal more quickly in the end. If you experience the process consciously, the present moment will open up for you, and you'll learn everything you need to know to achieve the best possible results. Then one day, before you know it, you'll find you've crossed the finish line - calm, confident, and having fun. Abiding in the windless void of not-knowing, in the emptiness before the solution - that's a true act of courage."
So timely. So relevant. So me.
And I'm open to the reminders to live and appreciate every day with joy and not fear, to YOLO, Just tonight on one of my favorite shows of all time, Grey's Anatomy, a lesson: the dread between is scary but life happens. And it's not perfect but it's the one I get now. And tomorrow isn't guaranteed, but right now I'm alive. I'm still here.
Amen to that.
And my friends continue to pump me up and send me flowers and make me smile. I'll be forever grateful.
Edited to add that I think my surgeon is top notch and that she did a great job. I'm sure I just need to be patient and allow myself to heal.