A Word On Thyroid Disease

January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and as someone who has dealt with thyroid issues, I would like to share a post I wrote back in January of 2015 for my first blog. If you find yourself with any of these symptoms, please, get yourself checked out as soon as you can. Early detection is key!

 

As you may or may not know, January is Thyroid Awareness Month. As someone who has dealt with thyroid disease, and ultimately, thyroid cancer, I feel it is my duty to share my story as well as some information on the tiny butterfly shaped gland that controls so much of our overall health.

First, some quick information on the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is located in your neck, just below the adam’s apple. It releases hormones that control nearly every cell in your body. It is also highly responsible for your metabolism and sleep patterns. Too many of these hormones cause your body to speed up, while too little causes it to slow down. Thyroid disease affects as many as 200 million people worldwide and if left untreated can cause a whole host of problems, including infertility, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and death.

Here’s a nifty infographic that highlights some of the common symptoms of thyroid disease. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common complaints.

Like many others, it took a long time before I realized what was wrong with me.

I’ll start off by saying I’ve never been the healthiest of people. My immune system has never been the greatest and I’ve dealt with everything from asthma to GERD to kidney stones on top of my mental health issues. When I was about 20, I went into my OBGYN for my yearly exam. During the visit, they felt my neck and noticed a lump in my throat. Combined with changes in my menstrual cycle and sudden weight loss, they referred me to an endocrinologist.

After running through my symptoms, they ordered some blood tests and found that my thyroid was slightly overactive. They also did an ultrasound of my neck, which revealed nodules on my thyroid gland.

They scheduled me for a biopsy, which basically meant they stuck hollow needles into my neck to pull out samples of tissue from the growths. These came back benign, but they ordered me to come in every 6 months to recheck them. I also had to get more blood tests to keep an eye on my hormone levels. They weren’t high enough to be of concern at that point, but they were certainly high enough to cause some issues.

Around the time I was 22, I started losing even more weight at an alarming rate. I chalked it up to spending long hours on my feet and not eating well. Food seemed to run right through me, which I assumed was due to my many digestional issues.My hair began to thin and I became more “manic” and much more easily agitated than normal. I didn’t sleep well, which wasn’t all too unusual for me. I was always restless…even more so than normal. I also began to develop some weird tics, most notably a twitch in my eyebrows.

At the time, I remember family members questioning me about drug use. This was humiliating and infuriating to me. I was drinking more than I probably should have been (I was a college kid, after all), but I wasn’t doing the type of things I was being accused of. I had no explanation for what was happening to me and I didn’t like it one bit. No one understood. I felt like I was going crazy as I waited for the doctors to figure out what was wrong with me.

At my next appointment, they found that my levels were much higher than they had been previously and that I had more nodules forming on my thyroid. This of course, meant more biopsies.

I went to my follow up appointment alone, despite offers from my mother and Almost-Husband to come with me. I figured it would be no big deal. They’d tell me my thyroid was over-active (which I knew) and I’d be given some medication and be on my way. I drove the hour and a half to the hospital where my specialist was located, jamming out to my music and feeling an immense sense of pride at the fact that I was doing this alone, like a real adult.

I’ll never forget the panic I felt when the doctor told me the news. There were cancer cells present in the samples they had taken. I listened in stunned silence as the doctor told me that thyroid cancer was treatable. She told me it was a very small amount of cancer and that we caught it early enough that I would make a full recovery. She described the options I had. I could take a radioactive pill that would kill my thyroid, or we could do surgery to remove the side that was effected. I told her that I needed time to think about it and to talk to my family and she was very understanding. She referred me to a radiologist and I was on my way.

I held it together until I reached the parking garage. It was a beautiful day outside and I was parked on the very top. I remember finding a small amount of comfort in that as I stood looking over the surrounding area. I took a deep breath and got into my car. I called my mother and immediately broke into tears. I had cancer. Cancer. I was terrified. I was devastated. I was lost. After telling her what the doctor had said and taking a few minutes to calm down, I called Almost-Husband. Like my mother, he apologized for not having been with me. I told him it was okay and repeated the one thing that made it seem okay: it’s treatable. Once I was calmed down again, I drove home, crying in spurts as I made the long journey.

At the appointment with the radiologist, I decided that I couldn’t go through with it. The idea of swallowing radioactive material just didn’t sit well with me, nor did the thought that I’d have to be on medication my whole life. This was especially concerning to me as I was concerned about how that would affect my future fertility. With the surgery, there was a possibility that my levels would even out on their own.

I’ll never forget the doctor laughing at me when I told him I wanted to do the surgery instead. It made me angry. I felt humiliated. I remember thinking that it was entirely disrespectful and that it was my body, so I should be able to make the decision on my own. After the consultation I went back to my specialist and told them I wanted the surgery. The risks were minimal, the most concerning for me being the possibility of paralyzing my vocal chords. However, it had to be done.

I was 23 when I had the left side and isthmus of my thyroid removed, leaving me with a nifty scar on my neck. Everything went off without a hitch and soon I was at home, with my mattress on the living room floor in my own little healing haven. The first week or so went by in a medicated haze. I slept, watched TV, had food brought to me, and spent time writing and drawing in comfort. At the time we had two little kittens who never left my side.

When I returned to work with a ten-pound weight restriction, they refused to honor it. My normal job never required me to lift anywhere near ten pounds, so I figured I’d be okay. For some reason, they chose the day I returned (note in hand) to move me to a job lifting 30 pound boxes. When I complained, I was told that I had to choose between my health and my job. Guess which one I chose?

To this day, I don’t bring up my bout with cancer. When it comes up in my medical history and someone calls me a “survivor” I feel like a fraud. It doesn’t feel “real”. I didn’t have to go through chemo. I didn’t have to go through radiation. They simply cut it out and I moved on. In fact, my thyroid levels evened themselves out and I haven’t even needed medication, although I do still have to have my blood drawn regularly to make sure it stays that way. I was indeed very lucky.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, bring them up to your doctor right away. You don’t want to let a thyroid disorder go untreated and cause damage to your body.

I encourage all of you to do regular checks of your neck to ensure the health of this vital gland. A great tutorial for self-examination can be found here. Please, take care of yourself!

I also want to remind you to be understanding of people in your life who are dealing with this or other “invisible” illnesses. It’s not easy living with any illness and no one needs the extra stress of Judgey McJudgertons or feeling the need to constantly explain themselves. Be gentle with yourselves and each other. Remember, we’re all in this together.

 

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36 Comments

  1. I had underactive thyroid for years. I think I was first diagnosed with it when I was 14 years of age. To treat it I had to take tablets. The effect it had on me was that I was always extremely tired. After my first pregnancy this all changed. I no longer have to take tablets anymore. I was told that pregnancy can srenghten this but might come back in 2 years time. We see how we go. #ShareWithMe

  2. I had underactive thyroid for years. I think I was first diagnosed with it when I was 14 years of age. To treat it I had to take tablets. The effect it had on me was that I was always extremely tired. After my first pregnancy this all changed. I no longer have to take tablets anymore. I was told that pregnancy can srenghten this but might come back in 2 years time. We see how we go. #ShareWithMe

  3. I have heard of this before but didn't know anything about it. Very informative post and hopefully educates others if they have had it or have it. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

  4. I have heard of this before but didn't know anything about it. Very informative post and hopefully educates others if they have had it or have it. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

  5. I noticed that mine fluctuates a bit. I was a tad low after the birth of my daughter, but it all evened back out. Strange how that works isn't it? Hope yours stays in check!

  6. I noticed that mine fluctuates a bit. I was a tad low after the birth of my daughter, but it all evened back out. Strange how that works isn't it? Hope yours stays in check!

  7. I hope it can help somebody out. You can read all the lists of symptoms in the world, but I think seeing a real-life experience would have been more helpful when I was trying to figure all this out! Thank you so much for coming by! See you next week!

  8. I hope it can help somebody out. You can read all the lists of symptoms in the world, but I think seeing a real-life experience would have been more helpful when I was trying to figure all this out! Thank you so much for coming by! See you next week!

  9. I am often have they thyroid levels checked when I have blood test due to a swelling in my throat and the halo around my neck which apparently can be a sign of a problem, although the tests have all come back normal. A very important subject to share and very informative. #sharewithme

  10. I am often have they thyroid levels checked when I have blood test due to a swelling in my throat and the halo around my neck which apparently can be a sign of a problem, although the tests have all come back normal. A very important subject to share and very informative. #sharewithme

  11. What an amazing story B, thank you for sharing!

  12. What an amazing story B, thank you for sharing!

  13. I hope it stays normal for you! Good that you are keeping up on it!

  14. I hope it stays normal for you! Good that you are keeping up on it!

  15. Thank you! It's funny I didn't think much about it and never considered writing this until I found out it was Thyroid Awareness Month and my partner suggested I tell my story lol

  16. Thank you! It's funny I didn't think much about it and never considered writing this until I found out it was Thyroid Awareness Month and my partner suggested I tell my story lol

  17. Thanks for sharing your story! It must be scary to have strange symptoms and not know the cause! I had a lump in my neck that had to be surgically removed..but it wasn't cancer. I remember having to do a couple of those hollow needle biopsies. I think anyone who has experienced cancer is a survivor.

  18. I appreciated your story. I wasn't aware that it was Thyroid Awareness Month. I suffered from Graves disease myself and was able to cure it without surgery, sounds crazy I know, but true! I shared my story as a post last year: http://mommymethodology.com/my-journey-graves-disease/

  19. I appreciated your story. I wasn't aware that it was Thyroid Awareness Month. I suffered from Graves disease myself and was able to cure it without surgery, sounds crazy I know, but true! I shared my story as a post last year: http://mommymethodology.com/my-journey-graves-disease/

  20. Your very brave to share this with us. I had to have that biopsy done, not such a pleasant thing at all. I might have to disagree with you.. your definitely a survival!!
    Melissa

  21. Your very brave to share this with us. I had to have that biopsy done, not such a pleasant thing at all. I might have to disagree with you.. your definitely a survival!!
    Melissa

  22. Definitely scary to not understand what is going on with your body! Those needles are "fun" aren't they? Good to hear the lump wasn't cancerous!

  23. Definitely scary to not understand what is going on with your body! Those needles are "fun" aren't they? Good to hear the lump wasn't cancerous!

  24. Good to hear! I'll be sure to head over and give it a read! Thank you!

  25. Good to hear! I'll be sure to head over and give it a read! Thank you!

  26. I hated those biopsies! Not only did it hurt to get the shots to numb the area, the actual biopsy was uncomfortable, plus I was constantly worried about coughing or something and causing them to stab me in the wrong place! Thank you for your kind words, although I don't know that I'll ever be comfortable with that phrase 🙂

  27. I didn't know that January is Thyroid awareness month! I started my rocky journey with Hypo and Hashimoto's about a year ago, and have learned so much along the way. Most of all, it's given me more compassion for those who deal with invisible diseases and hurts. It's great to meet you through Mom 2 Mom Monday. Thanks for sharing your story.

  28. I didn't know that January is Thyroid awareness month! I started my rocky journey with Hypo and Hashimoto's about a year ago, and have learned so much along the way. Most of all, it's given me more compassion for those who deal with invisible diseases and hurts. It's great to meet you through Mom 2 Mom Monday. Thanks for sharing your story.

  29. It's amazing how different things look after going through something like this, isn't it? Hope you have gotten / will get your thyroid straightened out, it's no fun when it goes wonky! Thanks for stopping by!

  30. It's amazing how different things look after going through something like this, isn't it? Hope you have gotten / will get your thyroid straightened out, it's no fun when it goes wonky! Thanks for stopping by!

  31. Wow! This is a very informative post. I hope things improve for you.

    I'm pinning this to my Deliberate Health board.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

  32. Wow! This is a very informative post. I hope things improve for you.

    I'm pinning this to my Deliberate Health board.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely day.
    xoxo

  33. Thank you for the pin! Things are somewhat even for me now, I just hope it stays that way! Thank you for stopping by!

  34. Thank you for the pin! Things are somewhat even for me now, I just hope it stays that way! Thank you for stopping by!

  35. The idea of dropping a few pounds is shared by many. Many of them are not succeeding. One of the reasons they alternative thyroid remediesgive for the failure is the not working out as much as they should. Or they believe their diet is the cause of the problem.

  36. The idea of dropping a few pounds is shared by many. Many of them are not succeeding. One of the reasons they alternative thyroid remediesgive for the failure is the not working out as much as they should. Or they believe their diet is the cause of the problem.

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