Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hypothyroidism: One Year Later

Over Labor Day Weekend last year, I went to the hospital with an uncontrollable bloody nose. Because I don't think I'd ever had a bloody nose before and certainly not one that wouldn't stop bleeding for close to 30 minutes, I was terrified as I drove myself the four miles to Lake Forest Hospital's emergency room. When I arrived, I was still bleeding and was a nervous mess.

Of course, the ER doctor was able to stop the bleeding, then did a full exam of my nose and throat, and ran a battery of blood tests that (seriously, MORE blood that they took from my hand with a needle! couldn't they have taken some of the blood I'd just lost?) to make sure I was okay to send home. Unable to find the source of the blood and with a clean blood panel, I was sent home with instructions to come back if it happened again and told to see an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor for follow-up that week.

When I finally made it to the ENT a couple of weeks later, all went well until he found a 2-inch lump on my thyroid that I didn't know was there. Of course, I also didn't know my thyroid was located at the base of my neck.  It didn't hurt and it wasn't impeding my ability to swallow, but he was concerned and sent me for more blood work, an ultrasound, and ultimately, a biopsy.

The ultrasound confirmed that the lump was about 2 inches in length and had completely taken over my thyroid. The blood work confirmed that my thyroid wasn't working at all, which explained a number of physical symptoms that I was experiencing. The best news was that the biopsy came back showing that the lump was completely benign.

To be sure, the two weeks between the discovery of the lump and the results of the ultrasound were the two most miserable weeks of my life. I was an emotional wreck. What if I had cancer? What if it was incurable? I know a number of women who've beaten thyroid cancer and that it's one of the most treatable cancers, but that didn't alleviate the terror I felt that I could die at 41. I was so paralyzed with fear that I mostly kept the whole ordeal to myself. Given that I process things externally, this was quite the feat for me.

Good news in hand, my ENT told me I needed to see an Endocrinologist about the fact that my thyroid didn't work and to determine a course of treatment.

My awesome Endocrinologist sent me for more blood work (yay, more needles!) and then decided that we'd watch my thyroid numbers for a month or two. After two more rounds of blood work that showed my thyroid numbers getting worse each time, it was decided that I would start treatment with Synthroid, a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone.

Finally, my June 2013 round of blood work showed my thyroid numbers back in the normal range, and in August, I realized that I was feeling like me again.

What does "me" feel like? I have almost boundless energy again. I no longer want a nap was 2pm daily. I'm sleeping normally. My skin is in much better shape. My nails are growing again and are no longer brittle. My hair is also no longer so brittle and has stopped falling out. Weight is coming off. My menstrual cycle is like clockwork again.

It was not easy getting to this point. In fact, for months, I believed I'd never feel like myself again. But I did and all those needles were worth it. I still have to have thyroid related blood work, but not nearly as frequently, and I'll be taking the Synthroid for the rest of my life.

Here's what I've learned: Check your neck. Lumps are a big deal, even the benign ones. Your thyroid is located at the base of your neck and it controls an awful lot in our bodies. Metabolism, menstrual cycle, mood, skin, hair, hairs, energy levels, body temperature, and much more. Are you depressed? It may be due to your thyroid. Are you gaining weight and can't figure out why or can't lose weight no matter what you do? It may be due to your thyroid. Has your menstrual cycle gone berserk and you're no where near menopause? It could be your thyroid. I've had zero side effects on Synthroid. It does exactly what it's supposed to do with ease, although it does take a little tinkering with the dosages to get it right.


  1. My Aunt has severe problems with her thyroid... So, I know where it's located, because my Mom keeps asking if my weight issues aren't due to it. It was checked a few years ago - functioning normally. :o) But, I'm glad you caught it, that it was benign and that you're feeling better! :o)

  2. Well neck check self-exam works for people with skinny necks but useless for other categories. Just wondering, if that mass was containing fluid or it was solid?

  3. Babylon, Thanks for your comment. I do not have a skinny neck and when the ENT had me feel my neck, I recall telling him that I knew one side of my neck felt a little different from the other side, but (1) I didn't know that's where my thyroid was located and (2) it never occurred to me that was I was feeling was anything unusual. I figured that just like no one has a perfectly symmetrical body (e.g., breast aren't exactly the same size, thighs aren't exactly the same size), one side of my neck was a little different from the other side. The mass is a solid. I know that because one of my fears was that during the biopsy, it was going to be similar to popping a pussy zit and liquid would spew everywhere inside my neck. That definitely did not happen.


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