Carisa’s mom thinks that when I use the word “senile” to describe myself, I may be overreaching a bit. She witnessed how I lost my cell phone and became blissfully unaware that I had missed 5 calls and messages on the first day she was here. On the second day, I lost the dish towel 4 times before I finished washing the pots and pans from our meals. Yesterday I managed to put up a whole blog post before realizing that I completely forgot to mention some updates I had regarding issues I had mentioned in the last few weeks. If senile isn’t the word, then I am not sure what to call it.
Anyway, I figured out why I might be going senile. Back when I was in college, when I was about 17 or 18 years old, I went to the campus clinic with a list of strange things that were happening to me. All it took was 1 blood test for them to figure out that I had thyroid disease and needed to be placed on drugs as soon as possible. More particularly, I have the autoimmune type of thyroid disease called Hashimoto’s disease. This means that my disease is progressive – it will get worse over time.
The thyroid produces a hormone called T4. If there isn’t enough free T4 in your body, then your pituitary gland will produce another hormone called “thyroid stimulating hormone” (TSH) to trigger the thyroid to work harder. The doctors can tell how well your thyroid is functioning by testing the levels of TSH in your blood (they also test free T4, but that seems to get less attention in the doctor’s office). I am embarrassed to say that I do not know what units are used to measure the volume of TSH (my guess would be milligrams per deciliter, maybe per liter), but the average woman functions best if her TSH is between 1 and 2. If your TSH is below that range, you have hyperthyroidism. If it is above that range, you have hypothyroidism. In college, mine was 7 the first time they checked. If you have above a certain threshold of anti-thyroid antibodies in your blood, you have Hashimoto’s disease. I had 50 times the upper limit – I guess my body really hated that gland.
In the last 10 years (dear God, I’ve been taking a pill every day for 10 years. Holy cow.), I’ve had to make minute adjustments to my medication as the disease progressed. The dosage of the drug used to treat hypothyroidism is measured in micrograms, so it becomes hard to imagine that this little pill makes that much difference. I am here to tell you that it most certainly does. You see, the thyroid regulates metabolism. In effect, you are suffering from malnutrition if you can’t metabolize what you consume. If your thyroid is under-producing, the symptoms include such things as insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety, muscle pain and weight gain. Sound familiar?
I don’t know why I didn’t see it as a likely cause of all my symptoms before. I was seeing my endocrinologist several times a year. I know what my TSH levels have been (closer to 1, for the most part, venturing to just above 2 when I would get a slight increase in my prescription). I guess that since the symptoms come about subtly, nothing was blatant enough to trigger that thought. I was just floored when my doctor called and informed me that despite all my monitoring and faithfully taking my pills, my TSH had jumped to 6. It appears that I have had a comparatively huge change in my thyroid function. Even though I don’t have to change my routine – just the dosage of my pill – it feels like something really bad happened.
Unfortunately, this is a terrible time to be moving. I have to find a new doctor in a hurry. More importantly, I have to find a good doctor in a hurry. In case this ever happens to you, know that not all doctors are created equal. When I got out of college, my husband’s job came with an HMO. The doctor to whom I was assigned through the HMO was not competent enough to handle my disease. She thought that since my TSH levels were normal, I should stop taking the thyroid meds. I had to beg the doctor for a referral to a specialist. When I got there, the endocrinologist determined that I had developed a goiter (a hardening/swelling of the thyroid gland) and that I needed to be put on a higher dose of the drug than I had been on previously. In the intervening months, I felt like crap. Like I feel now, actually. I learned from that experience that, if a doctor won’t listen to you, run. Find someone who does listen – it could save your life. If thyroid disease is not treated, it could lead to heart disease and premature death (not in the short term, but it can take years off your life).
Unlike me, though, the car turned out to be OK. The oil in the coolant turned out not to be a leak from within the car. Given that the level of oil had not changed from the last time my mechanic looked at the car, he believes that someone accidentally dripped some oil in the coolant when I was getting an oil change. The next step, then, is to get the little parking lot dings out of the car. There are spots where the paint is missing, and if they aren’t covered up when we go through an area where they salt the roads, the car could rust through. I might not believe that if I hadn’t had a firsthand experience with metal in salt water. I didn’t get stainless steel pruning shears for a lab experiment I was doing in the Gulf of Mexico when I was in college because I assumed they wouldn’t rust in my hand. Boy, was I wrong – less than 30 minutes after I started working with them, I noticed orange rust forming on the blades.
The cats still seem healthy, but I plan to take them to find a new vet within the first few weeks of being at our new home. Buttercup’s belly is still bald (it has been for years now, and I’m hoping to find a cat specialist who can help me solve the problem), but she’s in good spirits. Wesley is whiny, but he isn’t standoffish like he had been for awhile. Serra seems to be going through an affectionate stage that I am quite happy about. I sure hope the move doesn’t squash that – she is not good with new territory.
The bright side of all of this is that I am leaving with a clear idea what is wrong with me (and most importantly, how to fix it) and a clean bill of health for all the other things that matter most in the move. I think it will all work out in the end.
P.S. I had a bit of an “unexpected” day today, and in the midst of it all, I learned I am going to be getting something awesome tomorrow. Stay tuned…