Do Any of you Have a Thyroid Disease or Cancer as a Result of Living in Germany Post Chernobyl?
It still amazes me to think back to my younger days, I had so much going on back then. I was pregnant with my second child, a boy. My husband was on Active Duty in the Air Force. We had gotten a new assignment in Germany. I had been stationed there myself a few years earlier, had friends there, and knew the ‘lay of the land’, so to speak.
So off we went.
Being 7 months pregnant, I was healthy and happy. We easily found off base quarters, picked up the car in Bremerhaven, and were settling in and looking forward to the new baby. Life was good. I knew enough German to pack up my then two-year old into the stroller and waddle through town to pick up items on ‘the economy’ to supplement our grocery trips to the base. My son came into the world healthy and happy, for the most part. Life was good. We were enjoying our European adventures. Back in those days, I lost the baby weight easily, and had a cholesterol level of 170. You remember what it was like before your thyroid decided to change your life?
We arrived in Germany just a few months after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. We were assured that there was no danger, so we pressed on with our everyday lives.
After diagnosis, I had a long talk with my Endocrinologist. He said there may be a connection between my Hashimoto’s and Chernobyl, but who could be sure.
Pre-diagnosis, a few years after my son was born, we were still in Germany and my health started declining. I noticed one morning while dressing that I had some kind of fluid leaking out of my breasts, strange. With breastfeeding behind me, and knowing I wasn’t pregnant; it was time for a trip to the Base Clinic to find out what was going on. The good news was that the liquid was ordinary breast milk, and after making sure I wasn’t pregnant, the doctor decided to check my thyroid levels. I was told that the results were on the high end of normal, and there was nothing to worry about. We would revisit it the next year at my annual checkup.
By that time, we were moving back to the US and there was nothing new going on until my menstrual cycles went haywire. I began having heavy month long periods and the doctor at our new base checked my levels and said the same thing as the doctor overseas said. He began testing me for cancer.
So began my up and down adventure into the medical system. I had more biopsies than I would like to recall. I have been told that it’s all in my head, or my personal favorite, ‘You just think you are dieting’, or when I began missing cycles in my early 40’s and I was asking if it was possible that I was in early menopause, only to be laughed off and told I was too young for that.
Right after I turned 42, I realized that I hadn’t had a menstrual cycle in a year. I was told that I was now post-menopausal. I asked, ‘how could that be, when just a year earlier I was too young?’ The response was a blank stare and a canned response, ‘sometimes that’s the way it happens’. When I returned with questions regarding unusual weight gain or wild mood swings, or sweating until I literally thought I was melting, it was all chalked up to menopause and aging! Ah, that magic word, aging. I would complain about the lack of energy, my libido, my eyebrows falling out and they now had an out for me. I was put on HRT, which only exacerbated my symptoms. I stopped them after a few months because it was easier to deal with my symptoms instead of being in hyper drive.
I unloaded on a poor doctor at the clinic one day because I had finally had enough. I had been dieting and exercising like a madwoman to lose weight for a wedding, only to gain weight, yet again. The doctor was sympathetic. He ran all the usual tests and said the same exact thing, ‘a little on the high side, but we’ll keep an eye on it’. I have to admit I went a tad psycho on him and kept it up until he finally suggested that I see a specialist for a second opinion. I still believe that he only did so to get this large mad woman out of his office. I finally got authorization to see an endocrinologist.
The first questions my new doctor asked was why I there, and what was my history. I even came with a copy of the lab results from the military clinic that said my TSH was at a level 6, and actually stated that the ‘normal’ range was 4. I guess that was what the doctor meant by my being at the ‘high’ end of normal.
The Endo listened to my tale of woe, looked me over, threw some Synthroid at me and gave me a new request for blood work. He felt I had Hashimoto’s and sent me on my way with orders to return in a couple of weeks with the new blood work completed. I thought he was nuts. I had never heard of Hashi’s and how could all those doctors I had been seeing miss something like that?
Well, the Endo was right, and thus began a whole new adventure with Synthroid. At first I thought it was a miracle drug. I felt like my old self, I didn’t lose any weight, but was told not to worry. It would come off eventually. As the months went by, I noticed that all my original symptoms came back with a vengeance, with some new ones came along for the ride. I went from mood swings and the occasional absent mindedness to forgetting how to do my job, knowing what day it was, or how to complete a simple task that I had done a million times. My boss started calling me in for daily talks about my slowdown in productivity, not to mention the rising error rate. I questioned my Endo and was told there was nothing in the medication that would cause that, and maybe I needed to go back to the base to find out the reason for these new problems. He did, however mention that my levels were perfect, so he had no idea what the problem was. It went on like this for months; I eventually had to quit my job, as I could not keep up with the demands. I couldn’t go out on disability because the doctors were telling me there was nothing wrong.
It wasn’t until a few months of being unemployed that I returned to the Endo for a checkup and he commented again that my levels were perfect and he had no idea why I was having these problems. I kind of went a little ‘psycho’ on him too, and asked what good are ‘perfect levels’ if I feel like crap, and couldn’t find my way home without a map. He decided to add Cytomel to the mix. He will not take me off of Synthroid for any reason. He cannot even believe I suggested Amour or one of the natural desiccated thyroid drugs. And please don’t tell me to find another doctor. I tried to get an authorization for a new endo and was told there was no reason for it. My guy was good and I had to learn to follow his advice.
Anyway, I am doing much better now. I actually feel pretty good most days. I have even begun to lose some weight. I had been following a Mediterranean diet for years. I like the flexibility in foods it gives me, plus there is nothing like a small portion of pasta to soothe ones spirit. Not to mention, the occasional glass of wine! The only change I have made to my daily routine is that I now take my meds at night. My Endo sees no problem with it as long as I take my vitamins in the morning. I had read about it on one of the thyroid blogs about it and decided to try it. It made sense to me that having the medication in my system all night couldn’t hurt, plus it really helped with the sleeplessness that I was dealing with since beginning this rollercoaster ride.
Getting back to Chernobyl, like I said at the beginning. It may have nothing to do with any of my health issues or it may have everything to do with it. Who knows? I do know that no one in my family has ever had thyroid issues. I still a friend that lives in Germany and was surprised to learn that she too has Hashi’s as do several of her friends. Coincidence? I just don’t know. I would like to know if any of you fine people that follow these blogs were stationed in Europe during that time frame, and if so, when did your symptoms start?
Written by, Renee
Tags: Chernobyl's impact on thyroid, connection between Hashimoto's and Chernobyl, Dear Thyroid Letters, hashimoto's blog, hashimoto's forum, hashimoto's letters by patients, hashimoto's support, patient letters about Chernobyl and thyroid disease, thyroid support