Over the years I’ve been called a hypochondriac, lazy, “slow”, unmotivated. But in my heart of hearts I’ve known that it was my body that let me down, not my brain. I am not alone. If you log onto Facebook you’ll find groups of women (and a few men) who complain of lethargy, weight gain, balance problems, kidney stones, and exhaustion. You’ll also discover that doctors are quick to diagnose mental problems, female problems, hormones problems or at the most they’ll suggest drugs for depression. It’s definitely depressing to feel unhealthy and yet be unable to find a doctor who cares.
In the 1990’s my thyroid numbers escalated and I was diagnosed as having hyperthyroid disease. Doctors told me the only option available to me was Radioactive Iodine Therapy to “kill” my thyroid down to a “normal” level. You bet I fought the diagnosis since I was slender and energetic and felt fine. But I was warned that my eyes would bug out if I remained hyperthyroid and I would soon die of a heart attack. There was no other choice. I had to have RAI so I trusted the doctors and didn’t do any further research, one of only a few life decisions I’ve regretted.
This year I discovered that the decision to have RAI therapy eventually resulted in the cause of my diagnosis of hyperparathyroid disease.
For over a decade since the RAI I’ve had to struggle to maintain a decent weight while at the same time dealing with exhaustion. I’ve struggled with feeling unmotivated. Part of me wanted to go for long walks but my body wasn’t having any part of it. Over the years I changed from synthetic thyroid medication to natural medication yet the lethargy continued. I beat myself up thinking I must be very lazy, sometimes forcing myself to walk, do yard work, and try harder to be in perfect physical shape. Yet, no matter how much I tried, no matter how much I didn’t eat, how many times I gave up sugar, flour, bread, milk and on and on, my weight never moved. I bought a Fitbit and walked around the neighborhood but still the weight never budged.
Last year my doctor suggested I have another Dexa scan to measure any bone loss. At that point I was falling a lot, in pain, and losing muscle tone. The doctor also did the yearly blood work to see if anything was amiss. In September I received a life changing call from the doctor’s office. I may have something called HYPERPARATHYROID disease, “A destructive disease that causes high blood calcium”. She set up a Sestamibi scan at the local hospital to check for tumors around my thyroid and parathyroid glands. My head was reeling with both excitement and fear. My bone loss had doubled over the past year, which is very unusual. My calcium levels were also going up. You can call someone a hypochondriac all you want, but blood work and scans and x-rays don’t lie.
My POC (piece of crap) insurance company would not pay for the expensive Sestamibi scan. A few moments after the local hospital notified me that my scan was therefore cancelled I did what we all do. I logged onto Google and found www.parathyroid.com, the place that would give me a step toward a new life. The POC insurance company was ditched during my Medicare changeover period for a much better company. I started emailing and phoning the Norman Parathyroid Center in Tampa, Florida to make arrangements for an operation. The four months until my surgery date seemed to take forever. Would they find a tumor or tumors? Would they find cancer? Would I have my energy and health back?
During this time I found a couple of support groups on Facebook for parathyroid problems. Some people found the surgery to be life changing. Some people had nothing but bad things to say about the Center in Tampa. But with the blessing of my doctor I decided that I would gamble with the Center. They specialize in parathyroid surgeries. They are experts. They did not disappoint me.
On January 12th, I found myself in the Center with an IV in my arm, only a few hours away from surgery. Of course, nothing ever goes perfectly in my life. Before the surgery I came down with bronchitis. The nurses at the Center said as long as I didn’t have a fever I should be okay. As I was wheeled into the surgery room I had a panicked bout of coughing. The head anesthesiologist was called in. He checked my lungs and said I should be okay. They put a huge mask over my mouth and I was told to breathe deeply into the mask. As a bit of claustrophobia struck me I started panicking and felt like I was drowning. That was all I remember. Seemingly five minutes later I woke up from the surgery.
It was a huge success; the bronchitis was the only immediate problem. But on the trip back from Tampa to Pensacola I felt a sense of calm again. Imagine your body living in a hyper state for years, an almost fearful state, and then one day feeling totally relaxed.
The surgeons found an old ten-year old “adenoma” behind my thyroid. It was not cancerous. They usually aren’t. Amazingly my thyroid still has a bit left that is working. I’ll need to be on calcium, multiple vitamins and thyroid medication for the rest of my life. But I’m whole again. I’m me, I’m energetic. I’m also having a hard time not going out and walking and mowing and cleaning the garage.
I need to give myself time to heal.
I feel empowered. I feel positive. I am not and never was a hypochondriac. I’m not lazy. I’m not “slow”, “unmotivated” or antisocial.
(I urge everyone to visit www.parathyroid.com and read everything on their website. Very few medical professionals know about the parathyroid glands. This is not just a THYROID problem. It’s a PARATHYROID problem and undiagnosed it can cause life changing problems.)