My mom is having a partial thyroidectomy tomorrow and I'm scared

I know, it’s a fairly routine surgery as these things go. But this, along with a prostate biopsy my dad had to get a month or two ago have me scared. I know everyone dies at some point. This is the first time in my life I’ve really realized my parents aren’t going to be around forever.

In my mom’s case, I am against the surgery. Doctors noticed a nodule on her thyroid a few months ago. Googling around, I see that most thyroid nodules are nothing. She had two biopsies, both inconclusive. She has no symptoms. Based on this, I personally would have chosen to wait. And this was an option presented to her by her doctors. She could wait, and just have an ultrasound every 6 months to see if the thing was growing. Now, I’m a rational person, and this is what I would have done. She is not a rational person (She would admit that as well; I say that as non-pejoratively as I can.)

What made me shut up my constant debating nature was this: I laid out the case that the surgery was probably unnecessary, any surgery has risks, it’s better just to wait. For the first time in our lives, my mother laid out an argument that completely finished the debate and shut me up. She said: “Look, I know you are comfortable with some uncertainty and some risk in life. I’m not. I can’t live knowing there might be a chance I have cancer. Even if it’s unlikely, I’ll only be happy once the surgery is done and I know for sure.”


“I understand, mom. I would pick a different way, but it’s your life, and I respect your choice. I’ll be behind you all the way.”

So the surgery is scheduled for 10 AM (today, I guess. I was going to say ‘tomorrow’ but it already is.) I’m terribly worried, but I’m praying she comes through alright.

Having thyroid issues myself I’ve thought long and hard about surgery, and what my opinions are for when/if discussion for mine finally comes up. On the one hand I agree with you completely - on the other I have seen numerous anecdotal stories of people whose biopsies were benign or inconclusive only to find out during surgery their thyroids were cancerous. It happens often enough that I can also agree with your mother’s take on things.

I’m currently on the regular ultrasound routine, biopsy as determined by a doctor based on the imaging. I have not been given any other options for proceeding.

My mom, 80, did it. Went fine. Not even a scar.

If it helps any, I’m coming up on 11 years past my similar surgery, and the only real consequence is the yearly blood test and the little pill I take every morning. In my case, the nodule had been there for way too long without my doing anything about it, and had gotten big enough that there wasn’t really any option. They kept me overnight in the hospital, and I was pretty much back to myself in a few days. Not even much pain, really, after the first day (when I mostly slept), but I was surprised at how often those neck muscles come into play.
I’ll keep you and your mom in my thoughts.

I would actually encourage the operation - having to schlep into a hospital for an ultrasound is stressful, and there is a cost for ultrasounds so she would have a co-pay draining her bank acount. I know if I don’t get any testing on the nearest military base, I pay something like $100 for an ultrasound [I vaguely remember that the hospital closest to me charged me that amount when I needed an ultrasound for my parathyroids.]

My sister’s biopsies were negative. That is only where the hit with the needle. When she had her partial thyroidectomy, it was cancerous. So she had a complete thyroidectomy. Hen the bugger grew back, so she had a third thyroidectomy and radiation to kill it once and for all.

My biopsies were negative. I had a complete thyroidectomy because the nodules were so dig the were impeding my swallowing. No after effects except to stay on the thyroid med I was already taking.

My other sister’s biopsies were negative. She had the surgery and it has changed her voice permanently.

My nephew’s biopsies hit the right spot and came back cancerous. He had the thyroidectomy and radiation.

My aunt’s biopsies were also cancerous - thyroidectomy and radiation and she’s fine.


I’m in the same boat. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson disease two years ago. He’s not a quivering invalid, but in that time it’s left him with serious fatigue and apathy and greatly slowed his mind and dexterity. This is a guy who used to lead us on two-week backpacking treks, and now he lacks the energy to wander a museum for more than a few minutes; this is a guy who used to swap out car engines, and now he struggles to tie his shoes. The PD makes him slurp his food, which puts him at risk for aspiration pneumonia. Last summer he was hospitalized for a couple of weeks, in part for a bowel obstruction (he doesn’t drink enough water, and the PD also affects gastrointestinal motility). He’s 78, and while he’s otherwise in decent health and probably won’t die in the next few months, I’ll be surprised if he’s still with us in five years, and I’m quite certain he won’t be around in ten.

It’s widely held that when children die before their parents, it’s a horrible tragedy - but I don’t think it’s any less painful when parents die before their children. I haven’t experienced that yet, but I know it’s coming relatively soon…:frowning:

When I suddenly felt my parents mortality, recognizing they could be gone, and, perhaps sooner than, well, I’d never really considered ‘when’, I suppose, I too found it unsettling.

I chose to see it as the universe sending me the message to always be ‘present’, in the moment, with them. Don’t fixate on their health issues, what ‘ought’ to be done, etc. When faced with things we can’t control, like illness in the one’s we love, often people zero in on the things that seem controllable, like meds and Dr’s. But it’s just distraction really, from the work you should be doing. Lots of people end up focusing on that and missing their last months and years actually ‘being’ with their parents.

Just be authentic, openhearted and honest, every moment you are with them, then, no matter how much time is left to you, you’ll have spent it well.

Your family will be in my thoughts!

StG, is/was your family located downwind from a nuke test site? That’s way to many problems in a small sample…

To paraphrase Arsenic and Old Lace, cancer doesn’t just run in my family - it gallops. The same sister with thyroid cancer had breast cancer the same year (she laughingly calls herself a “cellular over-achiever”). My mother was one of 11 children. Six have had cancer - my mother had it twice. Including uterine cancer while she was pregnant with me. Mother, sister and aunt have had breast cancer. Two uncles with colon cancer. An uncle and first cousin with kidney cancer. My father was a non-smoker who died of lung cancer. His mother, my grandmother, died of pancreatic cancer.


Any word, GameHat? Wishing you (and her) the best…

I had mine a bit over 20 years ago, and it was fine. I was only in the hospital one night. I got to stay home a week and work half time a week which was awesome since I felt great. No problems since. Now I take synthroid, but so does my wife who has never had part of her thyroid removed. All my blood work came back fine, but the doctor, during my routing physical, felt it when he felt my throat. Now I know why they do that.

They told my wife that there was 98% chance it was benign and 2% chance I’d be dead in a month. Still here.

She’ll be fine, and have a nice rest.

Sending out a wish for a quick recovery!

Checking in to see how GameHat’s mom is doing -

Did the surgery go well?


Heard from my dad around noon. The surgery went fine. I guess they immediately biopsied (or whatever the word for it is, tested) the removed tissue and it was negative for any cancer. So that’s good.

Spoke with my mom about 7 PM. She was still a bit a loopy from the anesthesia, but was speaking OK. She says her neck and throat hurt (to be expected) but is otherwise alright.

I’m heaving a deep sigh of relief tonight. On the one hand, the surgery seems to have confirmed what I believed: This was an unnecessary procedure. But hey, now my mom will have some peace of mind. And I’m so relieved and thankful she seems to have come through OK. And I have a new perspective on how much my parents mean to me - all through college it was like, “Man, mom and dad are really a bother”. Eight years out - “Jeez, I love them so much. I can’t imagine losing them. Hm, let’s call them again to tell them I love them.”

I guess the next short term question is - will my mom need meds to make up for half a missing thyroid. We didn’t get into that tonight, but I’m hoping she doesn’t. Wouldn’t be the end of the world if she does, but medication for life seems like a bother.

Thanks, all, sincerely, for some kind and helpful posts.


So glad everything worked out, Gamehat. As for medication - I’m a little confused about the overall issue your mom had to start. Is she completely asymptomatic, just had one nodule on her thyroid with no diagnosis of hypo or hyperthyroid? Does she have Hashimoto’s disease, or Graves? It sounds like she wasn’t on medication already, which seems odd to me.

She may have to take medication, or she may not. She does still have a partial thyroid to produce hormone, but if it doesn’t produce enough she’ll have to be on medication. I still have my thyroid and already have to take the medication daily. If/when I have surgery that won’t change.

If she does have to take it it’s not that much of a bother. I take mine first thing in the morning, often before I get out of bed.

Again, best wishes to you all and for her full recovery. She’s lucky to have you!

Yer a good kid. Hugs to your mom.

Needing daily medication? heck, that’s a running joke among us Baby Boomers…“The things I used to take to get high I now have to take to stay alive.” We like to compare our different colored pills for all our different ailments.

If she has to I bet she’ll be fine with it.

Thanks for the kind wishes! :smiley:

My mother was asymptomatic, completely. She was and is in good health for her age (late 50s). She did tell me a few months ago how she got her diagnosis, I can’t remember how exactly she got there. Basic idea was that doctors noticed a nodule on her thyroid, and two biopsies were inconclusive. I’ll ask tomorrow, if she’s feeling up to it.

Like I said, I thought this surgery was a bad idea. She had no symptoms of cancer or disease and my google-fu told me most thyroid nodules were nothing to be concerned about. She elected for this surgery because she simply couldn’t tolerate the uncertainty - she’d rather risk a surgery (high risk, relatively) and know one way or the other than live with a (very) low risk for the rest of her life. It’s not the way I would have done it, but it’s done. And I’m just glad she’s doing OK.

Gamehat - She may have already been taking a thyroid supplement. I had been for years before my thyroidectomy. If she had a partial and wasn’t taking a supplement, her remaining thyroid tissue may produce enough of the hormone that she doesn’t have to supplement. Only time will tell.


Glad she’s ok. Like I said, this was exactly the way mine was found. Not knowing would have made me nervous as hell every after, much better to have it done. Anyway, my surgeon played tennis with the CEOs of AT&T and J&J, so he must have been good. :smiley:

Now the important question - after mine I had this metal clips in my neck holding things in, that I had to deal with for a week. Made me look like Frankenstein’s monster. Does she have these, or have the improved closures since then.

I didn’t have to take thyroid medicine until over 10 years after my surgery, so her being on medication is not a sure thing.