In retrospect, I wonder if the thyroid troubles started before my 26th birthday. I was told I had extremely dry eyes in elementary school. In high school, I tried to tell Doctors how anxious and emotional I was. None of them really paid attention to my complaints about PMS and depression. In University, I was told to see a therapist because Doctors couldn’t do anything for me. I started anti-depressants in 2003.
On May 23, 2005, my 26th Birthday, I was swallowing and my mother noticed a large lump on my neck. A doctor first told me that I was probably hyperthyroid. Then I was told it looked like I had “a little bit of cancer”. Of course that scared me. It was strongly recommended, after ultrasounds and biopsies, by an endocrinologist and surgeon in Toronto, Canada, that I have a partial thyroidectomy. After all, I was “young and thin” and shouldn’t have to live with a large tumour on my neck.
On October 4th of ’05, the left half of my thyroid and the 28-gram tumour that had grown on it was removed. No one warned me of what would happen next. As I understood it, the remaining half of my thyroid would compensate for what was surgically removed. As in 35% of the cases, however, it did not compensate and I was left hypothyroid. Within 2 weeks I gained 8 pounds…and then another 7 pounds. My body felt awful. Everything ached. A strange and mild but constant headache developed. I was so bloated every morning that my face looked very odd. I hated the way I looked and felt. I started fighting with everyone I came in contact with. I had few emotions other than sadness and anger. Something was very wrong.
With a TSH level almost at 7, I was instructed by my endocrinologist to wait another 4 weeks before starting thyroid hormone replacement. If I had waited another 4 weeks I would have gained another 20 pounds and wanted to die. I walked into my family Doctor’s office and asked to have tests done again. By this time my TSH was almost 10. I was immediately started on Synthroid. Relieved that someone listened to me and hopeful that I would start feeling better, I went ahead with the synthetic T4 medication and prepared myself for drastic changes in “4 to 6 weeks”. Eight weeks later and there was no change. I felt worse, in fact. So I started reading. What is this synthetic T4? What was my thyroid producing before I became ill? Why is my doctor not listening to me? Why is he so insistent upon TSH levels? If my levels are “normal” or “close to hyperthyroid” why do I feel like I am slowly dying?
I read about Natural Thyroid Hormone and knew that I wanted to try it. But I was cautious, because of the mixed information out there. Why are other women saying that Synthroid does not work and that Natural Thyroid Hormone does? Why are doctors saying it’s unsafe? I asked this to my family doctor and she looked at me, puzzled. “I don’t know why you are reading that”. I told her that there was a medication called Thyroid in Canada, made by ERFA, which was equivalent to the American Armour. I told her I wanted to try it. Since she had never prescribed it before, she was hesitant. She rattled off the expected arguments against desiccated thyroid. But I persisted. I wanted to try it. I presented it as a learning experience for both of us and eventually she prescribed it. I left her office, once again, relieved and hopeful.
This time, I was not disappointed. Within one day my headache disappeared. Within two days, my body stopped aching. Within three days I felt like the 26 year old I was supposed to be. It has only been a week since starting Thyroid, but the changes in my emotional and physical health have been nothing short of amazing. My temperature has increased more than one degree. I am happy and positive. I can get out of bed and I feel alive. I am starting to lose some of the 18 pounds I gained in the long three months of being hypo.
Although it sounds unbelievable, I think I have responded so well and so quickly to Natural Thyroid Hormone because I only waited three months and knew something was wrong. I knew that Synthroid did not work for me and I was not going to patiently wait for my endocrinologist to tell me that it just takes time. I was not going to wait three months for him to see me and tell me that my TSH is normal, so therefore, I have recovered. On Synthroid, I had not recovered; I had worsened. On Thyroid I am well on my way to recovery. I am almost the same Nancy I was before all of this happened, however a lot stronger, a lot happier, and a lot more in control of my personal well-being.
I have a scar across my neck now, which is almost like a badge for everything I have been through. As it turns out, I did not have cancer. I punish myself everyday for having not properly educated myself before having surgery. Unfortunately, I trusted that my doctors would tell me everything and would prepare me for likely outcomes. If, however, I have gone through all of this in order to share my story with another young woman and help her, I can honestly say it is worth it. Therefore, if I can end my story with three valuable pieces of information, I would like to express the following:
1.The thyroid is an extremely powerful gland – one that I would not recommend surgically removing without knowledge of its function and importance to every aspect of your health and life. Educate yourself because your doctors wont do it for you.
2. Synthroid is not the only option for hypothyroid patients. Just because it is newer, more common, and advocated by most doctors, this does not mean it is the best option for you. If it is not working, don’t wait. Empower yourself and demand that you are given the opportunity to explore your options.
3. Natural Thyroid Hormone is available in Canada. It is manufactured by ERFA and it is called Thyroid. Although it was on backorder for some time due to a change in manufacturers, it is available and it works.