At the age of 20, I was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. I gained a tremendous amount of weight, lost my ability to be active, suffered with severe depression and anxiety, developed cystic acne from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (ladies, you know what I’m talking about), began dropping and bumping into things. Well, you can see where this is going. Long story short, 10 years later and about 200 pounds lighter, I am without my thyroid.
Around March 2012, I went to the ER after not being able to sleep one night and having severe heart palpitations with difficulty swallowing and breathing. I was sent home with “anxiety” (which I knew was incorrect because I KNOW anxiety) and told to change new medicines I had recently started. Following that ER visit, I developed digestive problems and continued feelings of not being able to breathe well. My PCP told me I hadlaryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), which is due to the muscle at the end of my esophagus not working and allowing acid to back up into my larynx. I was instructed to change my diet and as a precautionary he had me check in with my endocrinologist to make sure my nodule hadn’t grown (which it hadn’t) or that I didn’t have thyroiditis.
My ultrasound came back with marked concerns and subsequently my biopsy returned with possible carcinoma. I was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma in July 2012. The doctors were shocked as they had never seen a nodule so tiny return back as indefinite for cancer. As a result, I underwent a thyroidectomy and a partial neck dissection resulted in positive cells in my lymph nodes and RAI was completed in September.
Since my diagnosis, I have been battling terrible symptoms that I work every day to overcome. These symptoms have been significantly exacerbated since my surgery. There have been many ups and downs with my weight, blood levels, and physical and emotional wellbeing. I often struggle but try to not let it control my life. Unfortunately, some days you have to give into your body and its needs like I did today when I sat down to relax, fell asleep and missed my night class. I had been pushing my body to the point where it told me I needed to rest and it’s important to remember that it is okay to take the time to do that.
I don’t miss my thyroid. I DO miss my hair when it falls out. I miss having steady hands and legs that don’t shake and tremble (and not having people question why they do!) or go numb without cause. I miss not having bruises everywhere like I currently do on my left leg. I miss not walking into things or dropping stuff because of the decrease in my coordination and motor skills. I miss my memory, days without back pain, and when I didn’t have the taste of tin in my mouth. I even miss not needing to sleep with three blankets just to keep warm.
With all I miss, I wouldn’t change the past or the present (okay, some days I really wish I could). This disease has made me stronger than I ever believed I had the capability to be. I have had more ultrasounds, blood exams, and visits to doctors than I could ever count. It is a battle for all of us. We are up against doctors who sometimes don’t have answers or solutions; friends, significant others and/or relatives who might not always understand or empathize. Worst of all, I feel that I am quite literally up against my own body in the sense that it is attacking itself. But I have finally reconciled myself with the fact that I do NEED to take care of my body more so than anybody else or more than I ever did before. I take each day as it unfolds and there are times when I want to break down. I allow myself to do this because I know my soul, mind and body need to refresh. It’s okay to cry, to be sad, angry, resentful …whatever I want to feel. But I remember to just hold it for that minute and let it go when I’m done. Then, I pick myself up and move forward and do something that makes me SMILE and LAUGH. After all, I’m really just looking for that happiness … not my thyroid.
I am a survivor of much more and I know that the road ahead of me is still long and bumpy. I want to be able to share my story with others in the hopes of helping anyone else feel comforted in knowing that they are not alone.