Let’s talk about the Scar

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 I could only find a few gruesome images online, most of them were of the Thyroid removal-only scar or very outdated.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!)

Day of surgery. Modified radical neck dissection. The surgeons removed my whole thyroid and 30 lymph nodes.
Day of surgery. Modified radical neck dissection. The surgeons removed my whole thyroid and 30 lymph nodes.

 

One week after surgery.
One week after surgery

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.

Ten days after surgery- tape removed.
Ten days after surgery. Tape             removed

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.

13 days post-op, feeling much better at this point.
13 days post-op, feeling   much better at this point

 

One month after surgery.
One month after surgery

 

Two months after surgery.
Two months after surgery

 

Five months after surgery.
Five months after surgery

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.

One year modified neck dissection post-operation.
One year modified neck       dissection post-operation

 

14 months later
14 months later

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.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

8 thoughts on “Let’s talk about the Scar

  • September 3, 2016 at 7:55 pm
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    Scars don’t bother me but cancer does! Having said that, I feel the bigger my scar, the better chance I have that they got it all! I used a product called Scar Strips and they helped it to flatten. My forehead is still numb though. You are looking great. I liked seeing the progression. Scars are just part of our story:)

    Reply
  • December 18, 2016 at 4:50 am
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    I just had this same surgery in September and the description you gave about the numbness and it being a burning feeling… I have never read something more accurate!! My sense of feeling hasn’t completely come back yet but it slowly is!

    Reply
    • January 28, 2017 at 5:26 pm
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      I think the numbness was the biggest surprise out of everything for me! No one warned me about that. Not even the surgeon mentioned it as a side-effect. It was way more painful that the surgery itself. I am now almost two years post surgery and I finally have full sensation in my neck again. It took a long time but became much less noticeable as time went on. The lack of what to expect is what drove me to start blogging about my experience. There was so little real accounts of what was going to happen out there and the few that were were old and scary! Wishing for a quick recovery for you and that your nerve regeneration happens fast! Thanks for taking the time to read this 🙂

      Reply
  • January 23, 2017 at 1:15 pm
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    Thank you, this has really helped me. I am worried about the scar, really worried but you have eased he worry , thank you x

    Reply
    • January 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm
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      I am so happy to hear that sharing my experience has helped quiet some of your worry. When I was diagnosed and went to the internet to find information, almost all of it made my worries worse not better! Everyone’s cancer story is different but I think the more we share with each other, the more we can see it isn’t all terrifying. Almost two years post-surgery and even surgeons don’t notice my scar until I point it out – it is that faint. Best of luck to you and speedy healing 🙂

      Reply
  • February 16, 2017 at 12:48 am
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    Thank you for sharing your progress.
    It has given me hope.
    Did you use any other scar treatments/creams?

    Reply
    • March 13, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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      Hi Pricillya,
      No, the only thing I used on my scar was the Briotech product that I linked above in the post. It really is a miracle worker!
      Thank you for taking the time to comment!
      -Angie

      Reply
  • February 25, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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    Angie – I heading for surgery in a few days, thank for posting pictures of your healing adventure. You are correct, there isn’t much on line to calm the post op scar concerns. Your blog helps to do that so thank you from the bottom of my heart. I too will follow your example and document the adventure…fear of the unknown is most often worse than the reality. You’re a beautiful young woman your scar is a badge of honor as a survivor!

    Best of luck.

    Reply

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