I was putting together a much longer spiel, but honestly it just evokes a whole lot of stuff in my mind that runs from “really humans know nothing about how they really work” to “why the hell am I so stupid?” (To answer the second question, because no one likes to really accept that they’re mortal when the fact is shoved all ugly like in their face even if they know ignoring the issue will kill them.)
So here’s a public service announcement for anyone who is considering a thymectomy or knows someone who’s having one soon. It’s a pretty safe operation all round, although the different approaches have different risks and recovery times involved. I think the beauty of surgery must be the mechanical nature. Go in, grab it, carefully take what you are able, and get out.
That part went swimmingly for me. (A side note: many people and doctors opt to wait. Long term benefits are still pretty debatable, it seems, but if the rogue thymus keeps growing, looks suspiciously cancerous, is making your voice all hoarse, scratchy and chain-smoker-esque, or you feel crappy but no one can explain why, it’s worth it. Okay, I did it mainly because of the last reason, and because it was large enough that it was in fact causing my scratchy lower throat feeling.)
What you don’t tend to hear about is what comes afterwards. It’s not a conspiracy, sorry. It’s just that the procedure is done not so often and on a sort of weird demographic (hey, call it as I see it. I am one of them) so really all sorts of things could happen. It’s odd, because an adult’s thymus basically sits there and feels self satisfied that it has taught all those other organs all it knows, for better or worse, about running an immune system. It’s also a neat little connector between the immune system, the endocrine system, and the central nervous system. In an adult, it does nothing. It shouldn’t even be visible.
Because it sits in the center of things, though, it is not unheard of for organs and hormones and neurotransmitters that go about wreaking havoc upon your body to suddenly realize that their demonic mentor is gone, and decide to exact revenge upon your carcass as a whole.
So let’s put it this way: When it’s out, it ain’t over. And it ain’t over might mean more than just continuing any immunosuppressants or neuromuscular sorts of medications. It might mean your brain stem makes a credible attempt to kill you. So if you feel a little more off after surgery than you think you should (or, as in my case, it doesn’t hurt at all but you can’t figure out why your shoelaces aren’t tying themselves, the lazy bastards) please see your doctor immediately. Make them check the post-surgery blood labs, and make them re-run those tests.
It sucked, but one of those tests very likely saved my life last week. The reaction I had, while not common, also suggests certain types of involvement that might help the doctors interpreting the pathology report (thymus pathology reports must be hell. I bet pathologists hate doing them).
A reaction that nasty is probably an outside chance for most people, but I think it’s probably wise to expect little uprisings for the next few months as various parts phone home and realize they’ve lost a comrade. They need to smarten up though, or they’re getting yanked too. I am not being taken out by a gland the size of pea, thank you. And neither should you or your loved ones.
For the record: Yes, I am feeling a lot better. For instance, where they cut in and moved things around actually hurts now. I taught a lot of health care professionals that apparently you can have a blood sodium level of 125 and still almost sound like you are holding up your end of the conversation, shoelaces be damned. I learned my pituitary gland can still make ADH, when it wants to — which appears to be randomly in gargantuan amounts. I learned that I fake it so well I fool myself.
I am also being a lot more diligent about keeping an eye on those little glitches. Right, low serum sodium is a big friggin’ glitch, and I expect that there will be some others, but it’ll be more along the lines of more frequent random wobbles for a while or overreactions to heat, light, and cold. That almost equates to more of the same, I know, but there is a slightly different intensity at the moment.