Friday, March 25, 2011

Living With Hashimoto Syndrome (Part 1)


I was so tired all the time. - photo by ClatieK



“It happens to somebody else” is what people often think, even when they don't have just common sense telling them it could happen to them too, but other reasons also to believe it's neither unusual nor something reserved for others only. It's so easy to dismiss, to never really think about certain kind of problems until it hits us directly, and to realize in hindsight something could've been done about it much sooner.

My grandmother (mother of my mother) had had thyroid gland problems, but that was before I was born, when my mother was just a child. The stories of my grandmother suffering from Basedow's Disease were just that, stories from my mother's childhood. I mean, I understood she must have been scared to see her mom with eyes bulging out, but that was a thing of the past, she had it treated, and suffered no such problems during my life.

Then my mother's sister started having some weird problems, like constantly forgetting things, lack of concentration, muscles in her legs hurt... It turned out she had hypothyroidism. It also turned out to be one of rare forms, so, for quite a while, the medications didn't work. My aunt was in such a pain that she was taking marijuana (she lived in Netherlands, where marijuana was legal). She never had a substance abuse problem of any kind, this was just to stop the pain, for it was unbearable, and she stopped using it when she found medications that did work for her.

Some time later, my mother was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She responded well to the regular treatment, and, since she has always been checking for this or that disease, I didn't pay all that much attention to it.

Besides, I was busy. I was writing about six articles per day, almost every day, and it was making me tired. The constant change of subject required to successfully write six 400 words articles every day also made my concentration lacking. Since I was tired, I didn't really exercise, and my muscles were getting weaker. I was having cramps in the legs in the morning, I had no idea why. My cholesterol level was sometimes high, I attributed it to unhealthy eating and energy drinks I was sometimes taking to keep me awake and clear-minded enough to do my job. I lost some hair in patches, I didn't know why. I became sensitive to cold. And I was too depressed to question what was happening to me – after all, I did write a lot, it was normal that I was tired and that it was hard to keep focus after writing six different articles every day, since I didn't exercise it wasn't unusual I wasn't exactly strong, not to mention I wasn't as young as I used to be (I was a little over 30, which isn't old, but isn't 15 either)...

One day, my doctor (a wonderful woman, one of the most cheerful people I know) sent me to check out the thyroid gland hormones, just in case, because of my mother, aunt and grandmother. The result showed that my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was higher than 75. The normal level is between 0.4 and 4.0. Higher than 75 can't be measured – it could be 76, could be 200... The other result showed it was an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto syndrome. My thyroid gland was being gradually destroyed by antibodies from my own organism.

At the time, I almost fell asleep while waiting for my doctor to see me. She asked me if I was tired. I showed her the results. She did her best to hide her shock.

After I got the results, but before seeing my doctor, I searched it up a bit on the Internet. I looked at the symptoms, and it was like: “Whoa! So that's what was happening to me?” I was surprised, but not scared, because I understood what was going on with me. I knew my mother had thyroid gland problems too and was feeling much better, so I was confident I was going to feel better too. We had the same doctor, so if she could help my mother, I had no doubt she could help me too.

And help me she did, although it took quite a while. Because of my small weight (hypothyroidism slows the metabolism down, making people gain weight easily, but it didn't happen to me), my doctor had to be very, very careful with the doses. We were gradually increasing it, seeing the results, she told me about some sort of problems a dose too high might cause and what to do if it happens, I looked up some possibilities on the Internet too, and yes, I did get some of the problems. Like my heart beating so hard I felt like it was in my throat and I was going to suffocate (it didn't help that I was also under considerable stress at the time). Like feeling nervous and not being able to sleep well. I was sweating a lot.

The part with feeling like my heart was beating in my throat was the scariest.

4 comments:

Cathy said...

Be well Ivana and may your heart beat in the center of your being, instead of your throat ;)

angel011 said...

Thank you Cathy, I wish it a bit lower than my throat too. :)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

How brave of you to share your story. Sending warm thoughts and a hug your way. Be well :)

angel011 said...

Thank you, Samantha.

I was hoping my story could help someone, thyroid gland problems are quite common.