I think the hardest part of hearing “you have the good cancer” was not just because there is NO good cancer or that the word “good” and “cancer” should never be allowed to be in the same sentence. But because there are daily struggles that even I didn’t realize I would end up dealing with on a daily basis. I thought when I had my surgery and I had my radiation, my fight would be done. Over. But that has definitely not been the case. I’m not saying there aren’t other cases that aren’t by far more difficult, I’m just saying, mine isn’t “easy” like some might say.
Prior to finding out about my Cancer, I honestly don’t think I knew what the functions of the Thyroid was, much less where it was in my body – might sounds silly, I know. I knew I had heard many people mention they blamed their thyroid for their weight issues but I didn’t even know what that meant. But boy did I have a lot to learn!
I think one of the hardest parts of the last few months is the constant doctors appointments to figure out what a new symptom or side effect meant. I just recently started getting migraines (for the first time since High School) a few months ago – I know what a migraine feels like and these felt slightly different and by different, I mean I was losing vision in my left eye. And with my new “medical history” I talked to my Primary and he referred me to a Neurologist who conducted a MRI of the brain. They did find a small spot but they said it was consistent with those that had migraines. They also said that people that have migraines will have them come and go with their hormones – they will come around puberty, around the time you start having babies, then finally back around menopause. Makes sense. In the mean time, I am put on preventative migraine medication to hopefully get rid of these horrible migraines!! Of course we just wanted to ensure it was just a coincidence with the timing (they started about 4 weeks after being diagnosed). They did, of course, say some could be stress related as well – but hopefully that will change with time.
During the removal of your Thyroid, there are great chances of damaging or the need to remove your parathyroids. There are a total of 4, 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom near your Thyroid, which control your calcium and magnesium (among many other things in your body). I was VERY lucky that my surgeon was able to work around mine without having any issues. Sometimes, if there is any damage – they can actually chop it into little pieces and implant it into your shoulder muscles and it will regrow and function normally – how COOL is that?!?! It’s crazy how your body works!! Anyways, so after surgery, your body goes into “shock” and your calcium dips so most everyone is put on calcium supplements and that is why most with more extensive surgeries – to include the Total Thyroidectomy and Neck Dissections they will keep you over night to monitor your levels. My calcium was checked about a week after surgery and my levels were actually higher than “normal” levels which is great so I was taken off the additional supplement and back to just taking my “one-a-day” vitamin. Some of the symptoms of a calcium deficiency is numbing and tingling of the face, finger tips and toes. If it persists, it can quickly turn into muscle cramps or spasms, joint pain, and weakness all over. If it goes untreated, you will end up in the hospital and can have seizures or even heart attacks. Very scary! So when I started experiencing the numbing/tingling about 4 different days this past week and taking additional calcium didn’t help, I decided to consult with my doctor. After a long talk, I found out the following information: because of my cancer, she needs to suppress my body to create “hyperthyroidism” to make sure my body doesn’t produce Thyroid tissue that could end up making my cancer reoccur later in life (which I knew that part). That brings on a whole new set of symptoms (in addition to the ones listed below) and one of the main one is anxiety. Apparently with the anxiety attacks that I knew I’d been having but didn’t want to talk to her (or anyone) about because I lead myself to believe that I was becoming a hypochondriac due to the fact that all these symptoms kept coming up – which she very quickly said I wasn’t making them up and all these symptoms were very real and that it was important that I discuss them with her and others to know what was going on. But the anxiety attacks I was having were causing the calcium deficiencies. So more tests needs to be done to see what my calcium levels are and what supplements I need to be put on in the mean time. I was told to make another appointment with my primary to discuss the anxiety medicine I will be going on. So long story shorty – know you body and trust your instincts.
I know there are many symptoms that people are affected by when they are either hyper/hypo or have no thyroid. The below list are just those symptoms that I have personally struggled with. I just want to put this out there now: this is NOT a pity party in no way, shape or form. I have good days and bad days just like every one else. I just wanted to explain the reasons why the struggle is much harder than a quick surgery to remove the cancer because that is almost NEVER the case. I just wanted someone to take me seriously when I say I’m tired, a nap may not fix that. Or if I’m just out of sorts today, I might just need some time to myself.
WEIGHT (Hypo/No Thyroid): For the last several years I have struggled with weight gain and that was what made me continue to follow up with my doctor. I have always had pretty good metabolism so I knew there were some issues somewhere. I would diet for weeks, exercise, and try everything with no satisfaction – I would only gain weight. It ended up gaining about 45 pounds in about 4 years.
HAIR (Hyper/Hypo/No Thyroid): I’m pretty sure if I’ve showered at anyone’s house they would know what I’m talking about – I could clog the drain in the shower in the matter of 2 days or cover the floor of someone’s bathroom just after blowdrying my hair. Every day I would just run my hands through my hair to put out enough to make a wig. It was very depressing and knew it was always a matter of time before I would go bald! Not to mention, needing a hair trim after just a couple weeks because it would get so dry and frail (even when not using my straightener).
HEADACHES (Hyper/Hypo/No Thyroid): I have always had pretty bad headaches all my life and I’m sure some of them might be stress related but I have been told that they can be hormone related too. With all the hormones in my body that are going crazy (or the lack there of) it wouldn’t be out of the norm to experience it for that reason.
SKIN (Hypo/No Thyroid): I know most people deal with dry skin, especially in the winter, but you know how your hands and face can crack they are so dry? Well I have gotten that on my knees, feet, and elbows – and even a few times on my shins! It’s not fun and doesn’t matter how much lotion I put on, my skin is always extremely dry and itchy year round.
SENSITIVE TO COLD (Hypo/No Thyroid): I often times carry around a blanket (and now a heater) from room to room in my house. My Hubby is very hot natured so I normally have to double up on the sweatshirts/pants/blankets when he is around lol. It is always like a feverish cold to where you can’t get warm – another reason I prefer to always live in the South!
FATIGUE (Hypo/No Thyroid): I know as a parent (especially a Mom) we just keep going until we collapse but I feel this especially that much more true with hypothyroidism (or without a Thyroid). I feel exhausted all that time and all it takes for me to sit down for me to fall asleep on the couch. If I could sleep standing up, I’m sure I would. I can get 2 hours or 12 hours of sleep – I will still be exhausted – nothing seems to help.
CHANGES IN MENSTRUAL CYCLE (Hyper/Hypo/No Thyroid): For a woman, this is a big deal in so many ways. The hormones need to be consistent in your body to remain stable and if they are constantly off, then they can create many problems – that can be with your moods, as well as fertility. This, for obvious reason, can keep you from becoming pregnant or cause you to have miscarriages.
CONSTIPATION (Hypo/No Thyroid): This might be TMI so I’ll keep it short….plain and simple – it happen and it hurts. This can affect your eating and your digestive tract and can pack you up for days on end. Not only does your Thyroid cause you to be constipated, once you have your Thyroid removed, some of the medications you are put on following your surgery, also causes it so it’s a double whammy.
DEPRESSION (Hyper/Hypo/No Thyroid): I think one of the worst symptoms (thankfully one that I have yet experience) is depression. I know that your Thyroid controls most of your hormones and depression is a big one. Often times you feel so alone through these struggles and even with all the support I have – you feel like you are going crazy and might be making it up in your head. I know that I am NOT depressed but like I said, when you are going through this battle, it is so easy to fall into this hole where you just don’t think you have the strength to get out of bed that day. I know everyone has these days – especially nasty rainy Mondays, but imagine if you had these a few times a month. It can make it hard to relate sometimes. If you are struggling with something, maybe with conceiving or even with depression then it’s hard to be around someone with a new baby or someone that is extremely happy. So I feel like it might be really easy to fall into that.
I would love to know if anyone else out there has any other bad symptoms they feel like it’s worth adding? I know there are a few other big ones but I just have been affected by it!