My name is Teri Janeiro and my thyroid story starts like this. Rewind a bit to about six months ago. I was the daycare for my sister while she worked. I was exhausted. I was shaking all over. I lost ten pounds in a week and a half and I was eating pretty voraciously, I must admit. I started to run out of breath mid-sentence. I couldn’t sleep, which was an outrage because normally I can and prefer to sleep constantly. I also had a low-grade fever for about two months. My sister looked at me one morning and said, “Teri, you have a thyroid problem.” She has toxic multinodular goiter. She told me to check out a thyroid website that she had gotten a lot of great information from, so I did, and I read and read till I couldn't read anymore. That weekend, in a diner with my husband and son, I came as close to a thyroid storm as I ever want to. I was shaking all over and became very confused. It got to a point where I didn’t understand what my husband was saying to me and I could not respond. After a few hair-raising hours I felt better, but I made an appointment at an endocrinologist’s office as soon as I could.
I went armed with an arsenal of information and my husband, fully expecting resistance from the doctor and barely able to form sentences on my own. What I got was what had to be the person all endocrinologist-based horror stories are written about, and there are zillions. After I listed my symptoms (fever, heart palpitations, tremors, anxiety, insomnia and my heart rate which was consistently between 100 and 128 beats per minute), I had to repeat them because he wasn’t listening the first time. He seemed baffled, asked me why I came to an endocrinologist, and told me he did not understand why I would think it could be a thyroid problem. Really? Family history (in addition to my sister, my grandmother also had thyroid disease), classic hyperthyroid symptoms and you can’t figure this out? My husband and I chuckled, literally, and TOLD him what tests to run. He was beside himself, but he ordered the tests. Then there were my reflexes, which during his physical examination of me, SHOCKED him as they were so brisk. Then he did a quick thyroid palpation, said little more and we were done. My husband was furious, I was triumphant. I got the blood work I wanted. Now I just needed the results.
Two weeks later I had a follow-up appointment with a different doctor at the same office, so I wasn't expecting much in the way of support and understanding. I just wanted my results. This particular doctor, though, took it one step further into endocrinologist horror story history. He not only told me that my numbers were totally normal, but added that he wouldn’t have even run all the tests the other doctor did because they were unnecessary. He told me that I had “anxiety” and should seek antidepressants from a psychiatrist. Although I was completely enraged, I calmly pressed him, but he assured me that my goiter was “nothing to worry about” and my “nodules were small”. Huh? “What goiter and what nodules?” I asked. “Oh, the other doctor didn’t tell you? Well, don’t worry, it’s nothing.” Shocked, I asked, “Can you do an ultrasound?” He said, “Well, I can, right now, but I won’t because you don’t need it and it will make you worry. I’m not even going to tell you where the nodules are because you’ll obsess about that then.” Dumbfounded, I sat on the examination table where he remarked on his absolute shock at my super extremely brisk reflexes. Then he said I should come back in a year. I just asked for a hard copy of my labs. He obliged and I left. Though he did not know it, he gave me the information I needed to get well and it was not the lab results.
The same day, I made an appointment that was to change my life: a simple appointment with my family doctor. I went in armed, frightened, sick and desperate. I told him flat-out that he was my last chance. I told him my symptoms and what I’d been through with the other doctors. When I was through, he said, “Teresa, why didn't you come here sooner?” I nearly burst into tears. We did a lot of talking, he did a lot of tests right there in the office. He started ordering more tests, heart tests, blood tests and, last but not least, a nuclear thyroid scan. He ordered the scan because the horror-crinologist had slipped and told me about my goiter. My doctor said, “If you have an enlarged thyroid, it has to be looked at. It’s simple, no question.” I was stunned and thought I might be dreaming a wonderful dream. He affectionately called me his “FUO girl,” which I now know is an abbreviation for “fever of unknown origin”. Apparently, having a fever, low-grade or high, for an extended period of time is a very serious thing. Any worthwhile doctor would know that. I didn’t know that, I am not a doctor, so why didn’t these other doctors at least take that seriously?
After a few weeks of tests, I saw my doctor again. My thyroid scan came back at 59 percent, extremely high. Not only was my thyroid hyper, it was very hyper and my doctor was going to start treatment that day.
My family doctor is my hero. He did everything a doctor should and could do for his patient. Sadly, today fewer and fewer doctors do. He has started me on this journey of healing and, although I still have miles to go, I am comforted knowing that I have him, his team in his practice and, finally, a good endocrinologist to guide me through this poorly understood, poorly treated illness. I am forever grateful that I have them – my sister, my husband and family, as well as the amazing online support groups that I am a part of. I know that fighting for proper thyroid healthcare for myself, my family and friends around the world will bring the change that is necessary to heal the millions who suffer needlessly today.