December 19, 2012 by Kriscinda Lee Everitt
Not a great start to the week, blog wise. I’ve been a tad under the weather. Long story short, two years ago at around this time, I began to get really sick—nausea/vomiting, the shakes, dizziness, exhaustion, painful joints, really rapid heartbeat, oh, and uncontrollable rage and depression. I went to the doctor’s a few times, had a bunch of tests (including for my thyroid), but nothing came of them. Until my thyroid blew up the day of my thesis defense (in April). Went into urgent care the next day (it was on a weekend), had the guy pull up those test results I’d had weeks before. It turned out my thyroid test had come back abnormal—apparently, it wasn’t anything I needed to know about. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease* (hyperthyroidism, as opposed to the more-common hypothyroidism).
Over a year and a half later, I’ve been on an anti-thyroid (methimazole) to cut back on the hormones my overactive thyroid was producing and a beta blocker (metoprolol) to regulate my heart rate. My thyroid eventually calmed down and fewer than six months ago, I came off the anti-thyroid. About two months ago, I cut the beta blocker. And everything was great. Then, this past Sunday, my heart rate very suddenly went from a normal resting rate of about 65 to 84. The “average” heart rate can be anything from 40 to 100—everyone is different depending on their overall health, how active they are, etc. 84 resting, for me, feels like I’ve consumed a very strong pot of coffee, all the time.
I think I panicked. Before I was diagnosed, I had about six months of being really, really sick. I was just not at all excited to have to do that again, even for a day. The rapid heart rate was enough, so I went right back on the beta blocker (luckily, I kept the rest of the bottle from two months ago). It started on Sunday, and I sent my doctor a message via the system they have asking for advice as to my meds and a blood test. Monday, I didn’t hear back, and constantly feeling like I needed to run a marathon to squeeze out some of this excess energy isn’t exactly the most pleasant sensation. By Monday night I said ‘screw this’ and got back on the beta blocker. Yesterday, I rested. I sent another message just telling my doctor I’m getting back on the beta blocker and I’m moving up my next blood work appointment from next month to this Friday (the advice I was asking for). I finally heard back around 4:30pm telling me to go ahead and do what I had already done (thanks!).
Today, I finally feel better. Whether or not my thyroid has gone into overdrive again remains to be seen. I’ll know next week, after the blood tests.
People I know, friends and family, are familiar with my thyroid issues. What I haven’t really gone into is how frustrating it is. First, I get almost incapacitatingly sick (not cool when you’re trying to finish up grad school). And then, for months, they don’t know what’s wrong with me (I was told that I just needed to relax). Then I’m tested for what the problem is, and they don’t tell me the results: “We’ll call you if anything is abnormal”, allowing me to be sick-sick-sicker for a few more weeks. When I go to the endocrinologist, I am told my options are as such: we try anti-thyroid meds and if those don’t work, we destroy your thyroid and you’re on synthetic hormones the rest of your life. There’s zero discussion of nutrition, exercise, lifestyle (oh, except, again, that I need to just relax). So Big A (mostly, I was still trying to get through grad school and stop being sick) got and read a bunch of thyroid illness-related books. We took care of the nutritional side of things ourselves (you know what you’re not supposed to have with an overactive thyroid? Iodized table salt. Thanks for the tip, doc!).
I won’t even go into the cost of all of this, but I will say that having to deal with my school-sponsored health insurance ending in the middle of it didn’t help matters. I had to find private health insurance that would cover my costs. Suddenly, my insurance cost a lot. And at first they didn’t cover it. This is great: I read the paperwork and sent in the proof of prior insurance they required in order to cover my ‘preexisting condition.” Months went by and when the bills started coming in uncovered, I was confused. I called. Turns out, they didn’t process the paperwork I sent because…ready? Because I hadn’t called them to let them know I’d sent it. Yeah. So they didn’t process it.
I won’t even go into how many times I couldn’t get a refill on my prescriptions because the endo center screwed it up and so had to have the pharmacy front me pills so I didn’t have to suddenly quit because the center never gets back when I need them to. Facing the prospect that, indeed, my thyroid might be screwed again is actually less upsetting than the idea that I have to deal with these jackasses for another couple of years.
Why is any of this relevant? Life sucks, right? Well, it’s frustrating because no one seems to know why your thyroid goes kaput. The two best guesses are diet and stress. And, seeing as though my doctor wasn’t interested in my diet, we do our best here to make sure my diet is what I need—all the things that are good for normal thyroid function, none of the things that are actively bad for it. But life is stressful—in the last year, I’ve gotten married, bought a house, lost a loved one, and am trying to make ends meet. Stressful. Actually, due to some circumstances that I won’t go into, a few of these things were several times more stressful than they would have been normally. But, still, it’s life.
But all the stupid bullshit one has to deal with when just treating the stress-related illness is pretty ridiculous. And the people with whom you have to deal with for treatment—the doctors, the insurance company, the pharmacists—they don’t care. It’s a little like, say, getting treatment for your injured back and every time you have to deal with anyone related to that treatment, they hit you in the back with a hammer a few times before you leave. Make sense? I didn’t think so either.
* You have to admit, Grave’s Disease is a pretty metal-sounding disease to have.