My Mister Big
(From here on out, I’m going to call my thyroid Mr. Big because that’s who I picture him as if he was starring in the movie of my life*. Not the 80’s hair band, Mr. Big, but Mr. Big from Sex and the City. Mr. Big is completely indecisive, and he drives the writer in his life crazy. Plus, deep down, he’s pretty much an asshole.)
2000-2001 sucked for me. First my grandma died. Then I lost my job in the dot.com meltdown. Then my mom got sick. And then she died.
In the middle of all this, I started experiencing horrible stomach pains and yes, everything that goes with it. I chalked the issue up to stress, but when it started completely running my life, I underwent all sorts of fun tests where I would drink barium or get wands shoved in uncomfortable places. The doctors tried a variety of medications and all kinds of different diets, but nothing fixed the problem. I could eat a completely organic crunchy-munchy meal or a greasy burger and fries from Hardee’s – the result was the same.
Then the heart palpitations started, and my mind went wonky. I would be in Target and all of a sudden get that “oh shit, I have to get out of here” feeling, leave my cart in the aisle and rush out to my car where I would just completely panic. I also began forgetting things – like how to open blinds, and I chewed out waitresses which is something Mrs. P never, ever does. When an account executive changed a word in an ad I wrote, I bawled in the bathroom for a half an hour.
No doctor could figure out was wrong. I was sure I had hepatitis. Or AIDS. Or any one of the thousands of diseases I Googled (Prostate cancer? Sure – I did have discomort in my pelvic region). Finally, one day, I had enough. My fancy-schmancy specialists with their butt wands could stuff it. I walked into my local hospital and spoke with the first doctor who would see me. An awesome second-year resident named Dr. J. We went over my symptoms until she mentioned, “Have you had a thyroid test?”
I have had every damn invasive test you can think of, but no thyroid test.
“I think you have Graves’ disease. I’m going to request a blood test.”
And that was it. One blood test and one day later, I had my diagnosis.
Yep, Graves’ disease – an autoimmune disease that leads to an overactive thyroid. Though rarely life-threatening, Graves is a colossal pain in the ass. Literally.
Immediately, I was referred to an endocrinologist who was an expert in the area. For months, we tried numerous different levels of medication to get Mr. Big under control. When that didn’t work, I underwent a radioactive iodine treatment, which disrupts the function of thyroid cells. A super easy treatment, but one that, well, leaves you radioactive so Mr. P slept in another room and I avoided women at work and school just in case they were pregnant.
I fully expected to be better after treatment. I mean, you take a Tylenol and your headache goes away, right? That’s what medicine does.
Nothing could have prepared me for the crash that came after treatment. My body completely sunk into hypothyroidism, another condition when Mr. Big doesn’t produce enough hormones. I was utterly and completely exhausted. My joints ached so much I could barely get out of bed, and I had such horrible shin splits I could barely walk. Oh, and my skin dried up, and my hair fell out, and I gained 25 pounds. Sexy!!
It took a good six months for my body to become completely regulated through medicine. Everything was groovy until 2007 when my body crashed into Hypo-Land. The doctor was concerned I had thyroid cancer after discovering large nodules on Mr. Big, but a biopsy determined they were benign. The worst part was Mr. Big acted up right at the time we were trying to get pregnant with #2. Dr. H was blunt. “You likely won’t get pregnant with these numbers. If you do get pregnant, it’s likely you may lose the baby.”
Eventually we did get pregnant. This time seeing the faint blue line was much different than it had been with our first daughter, MJ. With MJ, we were positively giddy and spent those first few weeks giggling over names and imagining our future little one. With our second, we didn’t discuss that blue line out of fear, which along with my whacked-out hormones, sent me into a deep depression. And then I thought about all the wonderful ladies I knew who had trouble getting pregnant and how happy I should be that I was. So that made me feel incredibly guilty and sink down even more.
Once we finally, finally saw Itty Bitty’s itty bitty heartbeat on the ultrasound, we could relax. After changing medication doses five times in my early pregnancy to regulate Mr. Big, my body finally began to relax too and I got to enjoy the little baby growing inside me.
Since then, my hypothyroidism has continued to be a roller coaster. When my numbers are too high, I am the irritable and high-strung Mrs. P. When they’re too low, I’m utterly exhausted and curse my stiff and painful joints. Thankfully, with the right dosage and regular blood tests, those days are extremely rare. Best of all, I have a great doctor who’s been on my side for eight years, and a very supportive husband who’s joined me on that crazy roller coaster even though I’m sure he’s gotten motion sickness along the way.
So that’s it. My relationship with Mr. Big. No woman needs to be screwed around by Mr. Big. That’s why encourage all of you, if you have any of the symptoms above, please see your doctor and ask for a TSH test.
*If you’re wondering who I would have play me in the story of my life, that would be Tina Fey. We look absolutely nothing alike, but she is awesome in her awkwardness and social ineptitude as seen in this clip – my favorite of the year!
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