Someone asked me yesterday if I ever had any side effects from having my thyroid removed. She asked this because, she too had a partial thyroidectamy. She, however, has lived a fairly uninterrupted life. She told me that the only rough patch she had was when she got a bad batch of synthroid.
Some people can live with almost no side effects at all when they have a thyroid condition. Others are plagued by it daily. I am somewhere in between… now, that is.
The primary symptoms that I deal with on a daily basis where my thyroid disease is concerned are brain fog, fatigue and an extreme intolerance to cold. Most nights, I can be found on the couch, under a blanket and done with for the day. I often fall asleep there and dread having to wake up and move to the bed with cold sheets!
After my youngest was born in 2012, I was really careful to stay on top of my thyroid blood work. I knew the pattern that my body went through and expected my thyroid to go hyper (overactive) just after pregnancy and then go extremely hypo (underactive) about 2 months after she was born. By the grace of God, one day I was motivated to get off the couch, step outside and exercise. It was the first time in a long time that I was able to get outside of myself and depression and even think of something like that. Before long, I was calorie counting and exercising almost daily. I built up my endurance and was doing things (like jogging up and down stairs and circuit training) that I didn’t think I was capable of.
But still, the fatigue and cold and depression and dry skin and irritability and brain fog remained. Still I felt myself sinking deeper into a hopeless pit. I found an endocrinologist that came highly recommended. The first time I met with him, I felt great. I felt heard. I felt like things were going to be different. But, I only ever met with him once. Everything else was done through his assistant and over the phone. My levels were always normal and he refused to test anything other than my T4 and TSH. Once, when I asked him to test my T3, he laughed and said, “I don’t know what you expect to find?!?”
Answers… that’s what I expected… that’s what I wanted. Not feeling crazy… that’s what I wanted. Validation of my symptoms… to stop the crazy weight gain… to feel normal (although I wasn’t sure anymore what that even meant).
I went to another doctor… again, a highly recommended endocrinologist. She refused to test my T3. She refused to consider any other medication than synthroid. At this point, I had taken steps toward taking control of my own health… I had dropped gluten from my diet after reading that people with autoimmune diseases should consider taking such action. I read that the gluten molecule and thyroid hormone look similar on a molecular level. It made sense to me that if my body was trained to attack my thyroid, it probably didn’t appreciate gluten either.
This new doctor told me, on the second visit that synthroid might contain gluten… she prescribed me another synthetic medicine… which wasn’t carried at any pharmacy. When I asked her for help… she told me to just take synthroid and it would be fine. I felt brushed off.
She also told me to go see a primary care doc and get my vitamin levels checked and make sure all my other bloodwork was optimal. I took her advice. I went to a local (highly recommended) doctor. He walked in the room, looked at me and said… “I think you should go see our resident dietician and get on a weight loss program and diet.” I told him that I exercised 6 or more times a week and that I kept my calories under 1400 a day. I told him that I was gluten free. I told him that I was tired… all the time… to the point of wanting to lay down in the middle of Walmart and take a nap. He laughed and said, “You have four kids… of course you’re tired.”
I felt ignored. I felt brushed off. I felt hopeless. I felt fat.
I also felt very poor… going to doctor after doctor is financially draining!
I felt so hopeless and that made my depression sky rocket. I was still dieting. Still exercising. Still trying with everything I had in me… and I was still gaining weight… still cold… still tired. So. very. tired. My children were getting the worst of me. I had mood swings. I couldn’t get off the couch most days. I stopped wanting to cook for the family because food was my enemy (or so I thought). I also forgot things… all the time. Like I forgot to pay bills, make phone calls, make appointments, return library books. It was like I was living in a thick fog and my brain just didn’t want to work.
A friend of mine told me she was going to a place in town that did hormone therapy. I didn’t have the desire to go to another doctor and have them tell me I was fat and had too many kids. I couldn’t take another doctor refusing to listen to me as I told them that synthroid just wasn’t working. I wanted to try a Natural thyroid hormone. I sent my friend to her next appointment with questions to ask on my behalf.
When she told me that they did a full blood panel… including T3 and Reverse T3… I was sold. I made an appointment. I decided to figure out the money part of it later. For the first time in a long time, I had hope that things might get better.
I almost cried when I sat down with the doctor and she started out by acknowledging that I had an autoimmune disease (no doctor since my surgery had done that). She told me that she didn’t want my blood levels tojust be “in the normal range”… she wanted them to be optimal. She wanted me to feel good. She treated me like I was human. She validated me. She never once mentioned my weight. She asked me if I was planning to have more kids… and not like one of those eye rolling, sighing are you going to have more kids… it was a hey… kids! Awesome!
I’ve been on Armour thyroid for about 6 months. It took the first four months to find the right dose. At first I was taking too much, and then too little. I think we’ve got it now. I haven’t lost tons on weight like some people do when they start Armour… but I have lost some. I feel better. I am not exhausted all the time. I am not a nightmare to be around. I actually cook for my family.. and enjoy it (mostly).
I am not ready yet to say that I am thankful for my struggle, for in it I found my strength. Sorry… I’m just not there. But I am ready to stop just surviving and start thriving. I am ready to not have every aspect of my life overshadowed by my thyroid disease. I am ready to own it and not let it own me.
Next week I’ll talk about how I answered when a friend asked if I was on the road to recovery.