My Struggle with Hypothyroidism
I Wasn’t Crazy After All!
By the time I turned 40 I had rarely needed to go to the doctor for anything but minor “bugs”. However, at that time in my life I had also begun to notice physical changes in my body. I have always been a little bit on the heavy side, but the pounds just seemed to continuously creep on; I was more tired than I ever had been and well….I just ached all over. Little was I to know that within a few short months of noticing these things I would be in the middle of a huge discovery about myself- I was suffering from hypothyroidism.
My journey to recovery has been a rocky one. It began with a trip to my HMO PCP who didn’t even know me. I walked in and explained my plethera of sometimes very odd symptoms and explained that I had done some reading on hypothyroidism and thought it to be the culprit. She seemd quite put out that I had walzted into her office all self-diagnosed so she treated me like I was stupid and told me that she really wasn’t interested in checking my hormone levels because in the end her diagnosis was that I was depressed. DEPRESSED????!!! Although SOME of my symptoms involved depression like behavior, not unlike those you would find in a clinically hypothyroid patient, that was only the tip of the iceburg of what I was telling her! She simply was not listening and didn’t care what I thought. I finally convinced her to run a TSH chemistry blood test on me to just see where my levels fell in the normal value range. She did so, reluctantly.
When the test came back, the results were not as I expected. My TSH level fell on the high end of normal, but it was “in range”. But by now I had armed myself with alot more information which included recent studies that had been done in regards to the need to change the normal range. Physicians were finding that plenty of people in the upper end of the range were symptomatic and responsive to medication, so they were planning to narrow the acceptible range. Once again, she did not care about the information I had brought to her. In fact, she said that she herself had had half of her thyroid removed and SHE didn’t need medication…..and didn’t believe I did either. I was very upset, but before I left the office I enquired about one additional symptom I hadn’t mentioned before- I was having a strange sensation in my throat when I swallowed. She felt around in my throat and said that there had been some thickening. She recommended I see an ENT. To make a long part of this story short, I was diagnosed with a thyroid nodule in the left side of my gland(confirmation that I had, in fact, been having issues with the gland!). It had to be removed to rule out cancer. The test came back negative and I was ecstatic, however now I felt my hormones were really in trouble. I was assured that in a short while the other working half of the gland would compensate for the missing part- my question was, “how was it to do that when it couldn’t even keep up when the other half was THERE?!”.
I continued to search and search for more information that would lead to something conclusive I could show my doctor. I finally began to read stories from other patients who were having as much trouble as me finding someone to listen. Through Mary Shomon on About.com I found the top docs list. There was a doctor from Austin, TX and his office wasn’t too far away. He was a physician and naturopath who specialized in hypothyroidism. I made an appointment immediately.
By now it had been 8 months since my original doctor visit. I was feeling like crap (see list of symptoms at the end). I sat down in Dr. Manzanero’s office and for the first time in this whole process I was treated with respect. He asked questions, he listened intently and patiently as I spoke and he explained the disease and how it affects the body in ways I could understand. His main criteria for diagnosing me as hypothyroid (besides the obvious hole in my neck!!) was that I had had a family history of the disease, other women in my family suffered many of the same symptoms although they were all undiagnosed and that I was completely and totally symptomatic in spite of my normal value blood tests. He was treating me, not the numbers and he was a god send.
I began a very low dose of natural hormone called Armor thyroid almost immediately. It took about 3 months to start feeling any changes, but I did! Over the next 2 years I was amazing- I’d lost weight, I had plenty of energy and all of the quirky symptoms had all but disappeared. Unforunately, just this March I have had the rest of the gland removed due to nodules in the other lobe, but I know what I need in terms of medication and I know where to go to get help! If you are having any combination or all of the symptoms listed below you may want to consider being checked for this disease. It is supposedly much more common than previously believed:
fatigue, trouble getting out of bed, trouble doing anything physical; fidgity, trouble sleeping, trouble sitting still; feel miserable if it’s a little warm, feel miserable if it’s a little cold; trouble concentrating but you could easily sit and stare at the wall for hours; weight gain- can be quite significant in spite of efforts to lose it; tingling in my extremities; losing hair, dry hair; dry skin, flaky skin, rough skin, AND acne; strange feelings in my throat (hated wearing anything that touched my throat area); trouble getting my heart rate up even during excercise; stiff neck; fatigue….and oh, did I mention WEIGHT GAIN??? erratic menstrual periods, horrible PMS; non-existant sex drive; foggy memory. I’m sure there are more, but this is enough for you to soak in for now…
I hope that if you are suffering from what you believe to be hypothyroidism, you will seek out a good physician who is willing to listen to you. Even if you have been suffering with this illness for a long time- most if not all of the symptoms are completely reversible! My mom is now being treated and she has had thin hair her entire adult life- now it’s much thicker and beautiful! I do recommend Mary Shomon’s website- it was a wealth of information. Also go to topdocs.com and see if there is a physician in your town that can be recommended by others.
Thank you and good luck!
ps- it ended up that the strange feeling in my throat also went away once I got on medication. One of hypothyroidisms hallmarks is loss of muscle tone all over your body- this can include involuntary muscles- such as those that work to help you swallow! Now, if I feel that sensation again, I am usually on the track to needing to raise my medication dosage!