General advice ahead of surgery


I'm scheduled to have surgery next week to have my thyroid removed & a left neck dissection to remove a lump. It's been a whirlwind few weeks with diagnosis and treatment plan, and I'm feeling incredibly up and down, and angry at times. I've never had surgery before and am feeling pretty nervous about the whole process. It's all very surreal.

I have two really young children so was just wondering if anyone has any tips on how to make it as least traumatising for them as possible? I'm worried about my 3yr old's reaction when I come home from hospital with the wound on my neck, and am also having to quite suddenly stop nursing my 9mo as I've been told I'll need radioactive iodine treatment which isn't going well. I'm assuming we'll need help with the children for a while as my husband will need to return to work and am worried I won't be able to do anything for a while which will affect my relationship with my children (mother's guilt).

Perhaps rather shallow I know but I was also wondering if anyone had any tips on caring for the scar afterwards? Are there any good creams you'd recommend to help it heal/fade?

I have no idea what type of thyroid cancer it is as that can't be determined til biopsy's are done post surgery. So I'm naturally terrified.

Sorry, having to self isolate before surgery means there's even more time for my mind to wander as I can't easily distract myself with a walk! Any tips on how to recover post surgery with young children would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you :)

  • Ah Flodge, I'm so sorry to hear this.

    I'm not so far along the process as you, I have an appointment tomorrow to get some results and find out what the plan is going forward for me.

    I also have two children, older than yours (5 and 7) and my heart goes out to you with such little ones, particularly having to stop breastfeeding so suddenly. Remember that there will be hormones related to that which won't be helping how you are feeling right now among everything else.

    Also, I am a trainee play therapist and one thing I would suggest for your three year old is perhaps to give them some opportunities to play "hospitals" with dolls/teddies etc. (if they want to) to help them process what is going on for you and take some of the unfamiliarity out of it? You might find them playing along those lines independently anyway as play is the way children make sense of the world. I also would love to reassure you that a couple of weeks of a slightly different way of relating to each other is not going to override months and years of love and attachment, so as hard as it is, please try to challenge those guilty thoughts when they arise.

    I hope some others will come along to reassure you about the operation side of it all - the isolation certainly makes it more difficult, especially as most of us are fragile anyway right now after the year we've made it through!

    Anyway, I'm here if you are bored/need to chat/vent.

    Be kind to yourself,



  • Hello Flodge,

    So sorry to hear of your diagnosis and impending operation next week.  It must be very difficult with a baby and toddler to look after and to suddenly have to wean your baby. I waited four months after my op for the radio active iodine. My thyroidectomy and neck dissection was last March, i went in early one morning, had the op, stayed overnight and was allowed home about 8pm the following night, it was the start of lockdown so they were trying to empty the ward! I can recommend getting one of the v pillows to prop yourself up for a bit, my throat was very dry for a while and my voice quite gravely, I ate lots of jelly. I had staples in my neck which looked scary so I just loosely tied a scarf around my neck, but others on here have had stitches, they came out after 10 days and after that I used bio oil which has worked great, can hardly make put the scar and its in the wrinkles in my neck, I am in my sixties.i took it easy for a week or two and then started walking and cycling. This forum is great for information and if you are struggling to make sense of it all. I tried to deal with each thing as it happened and not dwell too much on the procedures , I did google a bit but the Macmillan booklet and the Butterfly trust and the British thyroid association have lots of information and hopefully you have been given access to a cancer nurse.

    i do hope all goes well for you next week, let us know how you get on. I am sorry I cannot help with advice on young children, I have had four and have a grandchild, drawing pictures helps with the explanations. I  just hope you will be able to get some help for a couple of weeks after your op.

    take care

    best wishes

  • Hi Flodge,

    I had TT and left neck dissection in 2017. Although my son was a teenager, my cousin came to visit me in hospital everyday with her 3 year old son. He wasn't in the least bit interested or worried by my wound. Still gave me hugs and kisses. I had stitches and glue, no staples. Afterwards I used a silicone scar gel. I believe there are silicone gel scar patches but I didn't get those.

    Although afterwards you will be a bit stiff and sore, but I'm sure there'll br some things you'll be able to do with your little ones. Like reading, watching a movie together,  colouring in, jigsaws. Maybe you could have a new toy/Teddy ready and waiting for them? 

    You'll probably not be able to lift your 9months old from floor or cot for a bit but you should be OK to hold them fairly soon after the operation.

    Good luck with your surgery 


  • HI Memms,

    Thank you so much for your response and I hope your appointment goes ok today. It's really horrible waiting for results.

    Those are some fantastic play tips, thank you so much. I foolishly hadn't appreciated the additional hormones of breastfeeding so thank you for reminding me! It's not going well so far but I'm not expecting it to be easy.

    Likewise - I'm here if you want to chat more after your appt xx

  • Hi Jan,

    Thank you for your message and sharing your experience. I've read a lot of people recommending a V pillow so pleased I already have one ready to go. I'm definitely going to stock up on jelly! I'm relieved to hear recovery doesn't take too long but have been told to do no heavy lifting for 6weeks post op so will be calling on family to help. The virus is making everything much more stressful, as I'm sure was the case for you last March.

    Yes, I have a specialist nurse to call and will try her today with some more things I've thought of. I have to say - the care has so far been absolutely fantastic.

    Thank you again,


  • Hi Ciara,

    Thank you, that's a real comfort to read how your cousins child wasn't phased. I'm sure it's much worse for us really! I have bio oil but will get some silicone gel too.

    Yes, I was thinking a lot of relatively still games & telly (which I don't think will be objected to!). It's just so daunting when you've been so hands on and having to step back but not much I can do except make it as normal for them as possible. The new toy is a great tip actually, I hadn't thought of that. And thanks for the heads up about holding my baby, it's going to be so hard but for the best in the long run.

    Thank you again,


  • Hi Flodge

    Sorry to hear you are facing surgery with a young family. I had my surgery at 61 and was reassured by the surgeon that the incision would follow a natural contour and would heal up well. She did just exactly that and after what seemed like quite a short time the scar line was hardly noticeable. The scar will probably go through a stage of feeling quite firm to the touch but this fades. Listen out for the neck exercises that the nurses will recommend and do these as much as you can. My grandson was 5 at the time of my surgery and he had great faith in the NHS as each time I saw him he wanted to see my wound and check for himself that I was improving. He was at an age when we could talk about what each member of the hospital team did and I appreciate the message will need to be a wee bit different for your three year old.  I hope your surgery and recovery goes very well and in the meantime take all the support that is on offer.

  • Hi!, 

    Really sorry you are having to go through this.  Especially tough as your little ones are still so very young.  I got diagnoised with follicular throid cancer in November after the first operation (partial thyroidectomy) had the second op (total thyroidectomy) in December and Radioactive iodine treatment 131 at the end of January. Now on a suppresant dose of thyroxine.

    My kids were 9 and 6 when I started treatment.  A lot older than yours, so easier in lots of ways.   

    The Surgeons and hopsital staff were incredible, you will be well looked after & they will dose you up with all the meds and keep you out of pain.  You've had 2 babies so you can definitly handle this! Just carefull you dont take to much codine afterwards as it is not always that helpful and i realised i was feeling worse from taking it.

    Recovery was much quicker than I thought it would be, both times really, but I would right off 3/4 days solid where you just need to do absoloutly nothing apart from watch tv and have cuddles with the kids.  Then increase your activity from there. Just make sure you listen to your body and don't push yourself.

    Get friends and family to help out as much as possible after surgery so you can rest and the kids can play.   

    My scar is still itchy and pretty angry ! But only since the second time, the first time it was fine and i'm sure yours will be too.  

    The radio iodine was hard.  We were all tired by then as it was the 3rd procedure and it wierded us out the most as its so abstract/surreal, you can't see it but you know you have to protect your kids from it.  Trying to find somewhere to stay for a radiactive woman to  decontaminate in a pandemic was challanging !  You will have to keep distance from the kids for quite a while and you will have to be out of the house for some time, especially due to them being under 5 as this is when their thyroid is in the crutial development stages.  That is much harder than the operation. Prepare yourself for it but also for now take one day at a time and just focus on the operation.  It will all be done in a few months. you just need to get the treatments done and get well. The sooner the treatments the better so try and focus on that.  Its definitly a rollercoaster of emotions. The kids will be ok but it is a challanging journey. 

    We did loads of facetime with the google due app so you can get silly faces and underwater scene and ridiculous things, so you can have a laugh with them as conversation can get a bit dry otherwise but you want to have the contact, we found that was really helpful and fun. 

    My husband is really creative and turned our summerhouse in to a mini art studio and they did loads of paintings, i think it helped all of them!  As it was mid winter lockdown and isolation we were in all the time so we got an indoor trampoline (rebounder). and rescued a hamster! These all actually really helped with fun, distraction and different focus. 

    A good friend was going through chemo similtaneously and i think she really helped me stay positive.  She was so strong and was having a tougher time, it made me keep a check on myself and stay focused and practical for the majority of the time. Its ok to wobble though, its a big thing and its scary. 

    Hope the breast feeding weening is successful soon. 

    Good luck with everything, stay strong and dm me anytime x 

  • Hi Yarra,

    I noticed in your reply to flodge you mentioned your scar is itchy and angry. I found bio oil made mine itchy and sore. So I switched to silicone scar gel a friend brought me from Hong Kong.

    Only mention it, in case it may be same with you? Nowadays I just use a decent facial moisturiser with spf on my face, neck,  scar and all. 

    Hope it settles soon for you x

  • Hi Portabubblejoan, 

    I will give it a try, thank you :D