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Me and My Thyroid ~ My Story
Written and Lived By Sue Rose --{--{@

I have always been considered "overly emotional". I have had a lifetime filled with external stresses and have always wondered why others seemed to be able to take things in stride while I took everything too hard and to heart. Why others were considered caring and I was considered a "cry baby", hyper, and just not quite like everyone else. I would have "spells" of depression, inability to cope, inability to think clearly, crying just because, complaining of aches and pains until I felt like a hypochondriac, and "spells" of feeling quite fine and very much in control of my life and my destiny.

Medical, professional, and personal opinions seemed to keep pointing to the stress itself as the cause of these "bad spells". It was easy to have it all explained away because, on the surface, it made sense. Didn't the "bad spells" come on about the same time as the stresses increased? Sure, they did. So, I was told to take a pill and live with it. How many times did I need to be told the same thing before I began to look "stupid" as well for not listening? So, I lived with it - for years.

Had I known then what I know now, I could have had a very different life. Perhaps one where I had been considered "like everyone else". Maybe one that began years ago instead of settling for life beginning at 44.

I have Graves' Disease. I have had Graves' Disease most of my life. My Graves' Disease caused my Hyperthyroidism. Having Hyperthroidism with Graves' Disease is the same as having any other form of it but with this one little twist - Graves' Disease is an autoimmune disorder and it can recur throughout your lifetime. Thyroid hormones can surge through your body for a time and then ebb like the tide leaving behind little physical evidence that they had been there. Graves' Disease is hereditary. If you are born with it, it may or may not manifest itself. If it does, it may or may not recur. If it does recur, it may or may not be severe. Much of this depends on internal and/or external circumstances. External stress, among other things, can trigger an episode. As in my case, the external stresses triggered the internal changes which affected me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Which in turn made the external stresses worse because of my inability to take care of them, which in turn kept the cycle going until my body finally decided to call a truce - a temporary "stay of execution" - until the next time.

My condition was not recognized until November of 1996 when a counselor I had been seeing for depression and suicidal tendencies insisted I see a physician. I was having one of the worst "spells" I had ever had. I had not been able to cope with the stresses of a job for nearly 4 years. I hadn't been able to sleep for more than 3 or 4 hours a night for 3 years. I'd had diarrhea for over a year. I was unable to concentrate. I was having short term memory loss. I was having panic attacks. I was fired from a job that I was very qualified to do. I had never been fired before. I was becoming a recluse. I was suicidal. I turned to alcohol to take the edge off. That was all I had. I was extremely agitated and constantly felt anxious. Often I was angry and it felt like I was having PMS 4 weeks out of the month. I often wept for no reason in particular. I constantly ached in my muscles and my joints. My eyesight was becoming blurred. My hair was thinning and very brittle. My hands and feet were going numb and my feet were turning dark. It hurt just to touch them. I was developing scaly patches on my skin that did not heal. I was constantly sweating. I could not keep my hands dry. I couldn't think straight at all. My personality seemed to change from day to day. I would wake and literally wonder who I would be that day.

Thinking back, most of what I remember is a fear that seemed to live in my soul. And I remember "knowing" that what was happening to me was caused from stress. Wasn't that what I had been told? Besides, many of these things could be from lack of sleep, getting older, menopause, drinking too much, and the depression itself. The thought of seeing another physician never entered my mind. The results of that were always the same. Why uselessly spend money I didn't have.

Sound crazy? It was.

Especially considering I had a goiter. In my mind, it didn't matter. I just figured I had a cancer that I didn't have the money to pay for anyway. Besides, who cares when they are suicidal. The most interesting part though, was that I had practiced for a lifetime at covering my "odd behavior". I had become an expert at avoiding ridicule. So, aside from my son and my sister being a little suspicious that I was "having another spell", mostly what was noticed by the people around me was my extremely irritating behavior. No one knew until I was caught in the act of calling the suicide hot line in September 1996.

In November 1996, I finally saw a physician. She too assumed depression, stress, and alcohol were the problems. When she examined my throat, she discovered the goiter and ordered blood tests. Three days later, I was taking propylthiouracil. Two days after that, thanks to my niece's connections with the hospital, I was sitting across from an endocrinologist. My Free T4 was 3.9 High - Normal range is 0.7 - 1.9. My T4 was 22.5 Critical - Normal range is 4.5 - 12.0. My T3 was 424 High - Normal range is 59 - 174. My TSH was .03 Absent - Normal range is .50 - 4.70.

At this writing it is March 1997. The goiter is nearly gone. I am still physically weak. My hair is still brittle and some of my skin still feels like leather. It will take a long time for my body to heal. I am not yet able to start the thyroid hormone medications. Hopefully, the blood test scheduled for later this month will be better. The one last month was fantastic. Everything was in normal range except for the TSH which was still .03 Absent.

I have not worked since July 1996. My bills have piled up and the collectors are at the door. I know the fight isn't over. It will get worse before it gets better. But despite all the negative circumstances, these last four months have felt like a rebirth. I have not felt this emotionally and mentally strong since I was in my teens before I had my son in 1970.

I look ten years older than I did when I had some business pictures taken in March of 1996. I found them the other day. As I was gazing at them and thinking about my life over the last year, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. Right in plain view, for all the world to see was the goiter.

Me and my goiter in 1996
March 1996

I visited my sister last night. We were sitting at the kitchen table having coffee. We were laughing and joking, in general just being silly. Something we hadn't done in a very, very long time. I was telling her a story. I was expressing emphasis with my hands, my face was animated, and my voice was solid and clear. I was talking about the future because now, I have one.

This portion of "My Story" was written on March 5, 1997.

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