When I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer in March 2015 and was told that it had spread into my lymph nodes as well, one of the first things I did was Google “Modified Radical Neck Dissection Scar” because it seemed that my surgeon seemed pretty concerned about the scar he was going to give me. Much more concerned than I was! I could only find a few gruesome images online, most of them were of the Thyroid removal-only scar or very outdated. So I wanted to add my images and story for those who are more recently diagnosed. For those that want to read what to expect during/after surgery, please see my post on Thyroid Cancer Surgery Recovery.
Below is the progression of my scar and the “after surgery process” from day of surgery until a year and a half later. (forgive me in advance for the selfies, how else do you take a good picture of that part of your neck!)
One of the most surprising parts of having this surgery was the amount of numbness in my neck after. The numb felt like when you get Novocaine at the dentist, you can tell something is touching your neck, but you can’t actually feel it. Directly after surgery it actually burned like I had set my neck on fire, from my collar bone all the way up until right under my chin. Most of the time I kept ice on it just to stop the burning sensation. I was told it had to do with nerve damage/regeneration that was occurring. I personally found this ice-pack that a friend gave me as part of my care package to be the best of the best.
At my surgical follow up appointment the surgical tape was removed – beware, that is shocking but no blood or disgusting stuff underneath. I look pissed in this picture because honestly, I wasn’t expecting it and was still unimpressed with the doctor’s visit.
In November I started using a product called BRIOTECH on my neck. This product immediately helped speed up the reduction of my numbness. Within about 3 months I had lost all of the numbness in my neck and my scar had greatly improved.
While I am not a huge fan of posting all these photos online for all to see, it was important to me for other’s to see that the scar isn’t as scary as they make it out to be. Even if I can put one other person at ease, help sooth a few of the fears that come along with the diagnosis, it is worth it to me.
Update 3/13/2017: Now that I am almost two years post-op I can honestly confirm that people don’t ever notice my scar unless I point it out. Even with my hair up and my neck exposed. Before surgery I remember preparing my response to the inevitable question I assumed I would get, “what happened to your neck?!?!”. My friends and I had come up with a bunch of fun replies like, “Bar fight. You should see the other chick…” or “Bear attack. Never go hiking alone…” but I’ve only ever been asked once (and it was by a kid so I couldn’t even be sarcastic about it! Some could assume that people are too polite to ask, but when I bring it up in conversation people always swear they didn’t even see it. So put your fears to rest, unless people know what they are looking for (ahem.. other cancer survivors have pointed it out) then 99% of people won’t ever notice.
Are you or a friend headed into surgery for Thyroid Cancer soon? Read my blog on the actual surgery here to help understand what to expect.
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