Archive | January, 2007

Thyroid Awareness: Hashi’s Info

 Frightened Woman Clutching Her Neck in Fear Buy at Art.com

As many of you know by reading this blog, I suffer from Hashimoto’s disease.

It took a team of doctors over two years to figure out what was happening, even though my Irish grandmother died from complications of Celiac disease.

And guess what? January is thyroid awareness month.

Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis, causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leads to hypothyroidism.

It’s a pain in the butt redhead an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system inappropriately attacks the thyroid gland, causing damage to thyroid cells and upsetting the balance of chemical reactions in the body.

Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of hormone deficiency, so it can lead doctors in another direction.

At first, most barely notice symptoms, such as fatigue and sluggishness and attribute it to getting older.

But as the disease progresses, many of us develop more obvious signs and symptoms.

I believe I have been dealing with this condition my whole life and it finally took me down (literally), forcing doctors to look at all disease possibilities.

My Hasimotos symptoms were:

  • Sensitivity to cold. I always had these strange “cold attacks” where I’d get cold and nothing raised my temperature. It is a type of hypothermia, and hot showers left me shivering in the shower. One solution was to take a blanket and cover me over a blowing heater vent. I’d became exhausted, still shivering and fall asleep. I awoke feeling hung-over as if I ate too much sugar. My doctor felt I was experiencing a mild form of Myxedema.
  • Pale, dry skin.
  • A puffy face.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Unexplained weight gain, followed by weight loss, then gain again without changing lifestyle.
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in shoulders and hips.
  • Pain and stiffness in joints and swelling in knees or the small joints in hands and feet.
  • Muscle weakness, especially in lower extremities. If I wasn’t careful and turned wrong I’d have a nasty fall. The first few times it happened I thought nothing of it, but after a while it began to scare me.
  • Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).
  • Depression.
  • Tingling and numbing of hands and feet.
  • Catching many colds.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Memory problems.
  • Hair loss.
  • Extreme fatigue.

The thyroid gland produces two main hormones, Thyroxine (T-4) and Triodothyronine (T-3). They maintain the rate at which the body uses fats and carbohydrates, control body temperature, influence heart rate and help regulate the production of protein.

The rate at which T4 and T3 are released is controlled by the pituitary gland and the area at the base of the brain, which acts as a thermostat for our system. The brain signals the pituitary gland to make thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland then releases an amount of TSH depending on how much T4 and T3 are in the blood. The thyroid gland regulates its production of these two hormones based on the amount of TSH it receives.

Blah. Can you believe I know all this?

Neither can my mother.

Normally, our immune system uses antibodies and lymphocytes to protect against viruses, bacteria and antigens that invade the body. As I stated at the beginning, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system creates antibodies which damage the thyroid gland. The disease causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, known as “thyroiditis”. This can impair the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.

Doctors don’t know what causes an immune system to attack the thyroid gland. Some scientists think God is getting back at redheads a virus or bacteria might trigger the response, while others believe a genetic flaw may be involved (yeah I married it). My mother has thyroid nodules and elevated TSH.

Since my Hashimoto’s disease caused a thyroid hormone deficiency, I needed replacement therapy with thyroid hormone. This involves a daily dose of Armour Thyroid and Cytomel, other people may be prescribed Levothyroxine.

This medication is suppose to restore hormone levels and reverse the symptoms listed above. It has taken me another two years after starting treatment to begin to feel better. They say it can take time to reverse symptoms, especially if the disease went untreated for a number of years or if you are raising your ex husband.

Here are a list of websites for more thyroid information:

  1. AllThyroid.org
  2. Celiac Disease Foundation
  3. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada
  4. Thyroid Disease-Org.UK
  5. EndocrineWeb
  6. Genetics Home Reference
  7. Dr Lowe
  8. Dr Hotze
  9. The Experience Project
  10. A Hashimotos Story
  11. Stop The Thyroid Madness
  12. Myxedema
  13. Armour Thyroid Information

At first the diagnosis and day to day dealing with the idea of a disease was difficult. Doctors don’t say much when they deliver a diagnosis. As patients we are often left to search for our own answers and hope. Thank God for the Internet, books and medical studies.

There is also the worry of being able to handle one’s life and how ‘un-sexy’ the word disease can be. We think some foolish thoughts before we settle into the idea that we are stronger mentally than we ever knew. We fight back, manage the pills and get on with the day to day living of our lives.

I still have good days and bad days. There are the occasional “crashes”, where for some reason the meds don’t work and some difficult symptom reappears. I think this is the cycle of auto-immunity. When I catch a simple cold now (it is rare) the old feelings of exhaustion return and fear overtakes my thoughts. I have to remind myself it is “just a cold.”

In a few days I will be up and running again bugging the crap out of my son (it’s a mother’s job). I rest, then recover — thrilled that my body is doing what it is meant to do: heal.

Some people overcome this disease, and for some strange reason the body stops attacking the thyroid and TSH returns to normal. For me, I am not sure about the outcome since I think I went too many years undiagnosed.

Thank God for red wine.

Catherine

 

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Word To The Wise: Do Not Mess With A Redhead

Brian and I arrive at his basketball practice a half hour early, because my son can nag the hide off a grizzly bear.

“Mom, can we go now? Can we go NOW? Can we go now…? MOM, can WE go now?…”

As we walk from the parking lot towards the courtyard outside the gym, we pass one of Brian’s team mates and his dad. They are walking to the parking lot. There has been this ongoing time issue with the last few practices. The Christian high school basketball team has been practicing a half hour into the practice of the grade school league.

To add further fire to the flame, the high school coach doesn’t want anyone in the gym while his players are on the court. (Because the high school team might go all the way to the to being the most unknown team in history). This has caused an argument between the coaches about when the high school team is actually finished with practise.

As with all things volunteer, no one seems to take charge or solve this dilemma. You’d think they were voting to raise the minimum wage. For three weeks we are told practice will definitely start at 7:00pm, only to have the high school coach continue with his team until 7:30. It was supposedly solved.

We parents have nothing better to do than wait in the cold school gym at a school that has a senior class the size of a quilting circle.

As we pass the dad leaving with his son, he stops to tell us the coach to the high school team won’t let him in the gym and practice can’t start until 7:30. He is angry enough to leave. His son looks like someone shot his dog.

I look at Brian and tell him we can go play basketball together on the outside courtyard. His yearning to play overcomes his certainty that his mother lacks a skill which doesn’t involve cooking or cleaning. He runs to the courtyard where there are several basketball courts.

Since this is a small school, the outdoor lights work about as well as a candle in a cave. I miss my first couple of shots and Brian grins the kind of grin where he is thinking girls. On my third try, I make a shot and he congratulates me. How did I ever know how to do anything before he was around to tell me?

We enjoy playing in the dark until one of the other boys arrives with his dad. I throw the ball to the kid and walk away to sit on the picnic table. I am smart enough to know when a parent is no longer needed. His dad wanders the courtyard. Several more kids and their parents arrive. I am still sitting off in the dark, and the parents find odd places to sit while we wait for the gym to open.

Brian’s coach arrives next. He spots me first, even though I am sitting in the dark. He walks up and asks why we aren’t in the gym. I tell him about the first boy who left and we can’t be in the gym until 7:30pm. The coach sighs, mumbling this was suppose to be solved. He walks to the gym to find out what is going on.

Brian’s best friend on the team’s dad follows the coach to the gym. He stands outside the doors, pacing back and forth waiting for the coach. Suddenly, I hear this loud voice yell, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”

Being that I am at a Christian school, and having never actually heard the voice of God. I look up, to my right, then to my left and all around the courtyard and I don’t see anyone.

Maybe this is my sign? Then, the same voice yells,

“HEY! I AM TALKING TO YOU! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!”

The boys stop playing to look around. I look around. We can’t figure out where the voice is coming from. I assume it is someone in the gym and we are hearing it outside. I look around for the burning bush, a flashing star or some sort of sign I might be over-looking. I haven’t committed a mortal sin in ages, so what would God want with me in the middle of a dark basketball court in rural Northern California?

Again, the voice yells,

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM? DON’T YOU RESPOND WHEN SOMEONE IS TALKING TO YOU?”

God, is that you?

This time the yelling continues falling together into the echos from the buildings and I can’t tell what is being said. I  finally spot this man at the far end of the courtyard, standing at a door, yelling towards the gym. I realize this is our yeller. My heart sings with relief – it’s not God after all.  The boys look to me, to which I respond, “He’s not yelling at you -  go ahead and play boys.”

The man walks off his platform. He is still yelling. It dawns on me that this man is yelling at the back of Brian’s best friend’s dad. The dad has been slowly walking back toward the boys. I watch as this short, fat, scruffy-looking yelling man tries to catch up with the dad. By the time he reaches him, they are next to the boys on the court.

He gets beside the dad and yells,

“WHAT IN THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM? WHAT, YOU DON”T UNDERSTAND ENGLISH YOU?”

I should stop here to say that the dad is Hispanic.

Before the nasty man can yell another word in front of the boys (here I go) I yell (calmly),

“DON’T YOU DARE SAY IT MISTER. DON’T YOU DARE. STOP IT RIGHT NOW! YOU WILL NOT SAY WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO SAY WHILE I AM SITTING HERE AS A WITNESS! NOT IN FRONT OF THESE BOYS. DON’T YOU DARE SAY IT – I AM WARNING YOU!”

Shocked, the yelling man stops in mid-breath and squints his eyes to see who is sitting in the dark. The boy’s dad (who the yelling guy was about to say something bigoted) has stepped back and is looking down, as if willing to take what this jerk is about to say. The yelling man begins to yell over at me,

“I WATCH FOR SECURITY HERE AND WHEN I SEE SOMETHING SUSPICIOUS IT IS MY JOB TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON!”

Now I should say that this so-called security guy is in a dirty white t-shirt, with a belly that hangs 50 inches over his jeans, which sit on his hips so low it is really the upper thigh, exposing his belly button. His belly button is the size of a football, and covered in gray hair. He needs a shave and looks like someone who just woke up from sleeping in the park. A gum wrapper left in a parking lot is cleaner than this guy.

Security my ass. He is the scariest person here.

I respond, calmly yelling back,

“THIS IS WHY YOU ARE BOTHERING HIM? WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US?? I AM TELLING YOU TO STOP IT NOW! I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO DO AND I AM THE WRONG WOMAN TO PISS OFF, TRUST ME ON THIS. I WOULD STOP NOW IF I WERE YOU.”

Little did I know, at this moment Brian is huddling with the boys and saying, “Don’t worry. NO ONE messes with my mother – just watch.”

I can tell the man is sizing me up, but he  is confused, as I am sitting there in a business suit and a long black trench coat. I can tell he is weighing the situation but has too much of an ego to listen to a woman. It is obvious he has not caught the fact that my hair is red.

He begins to turn back to yell at the man, when I stand up and say,

“Look you poor excuse for a representation of the male species. It is obvious to me by the dirt on your body that you never wash your ears, so I am going to assume they are filled with so much wax that you can’t hear me when I say you will stop this right now. I am the wrong woman for you to continue this argument, since you don’t know whether or not I am a complete nut-case, for which I just might be. And since I don’t give a crap what you think, and unlike you I have showered this week, I can say with conviction that you will wish to your dying day that you never met me and that you would have stopped when I asked you. Am I making myself clear or do I have to move closer to draw you a more unpleasant picture?”

The man has stopped talking with his mouth open as the boys stare from me to him, me to him, me to him. By this time the coach has come out of the gym to witness the last part of the scene. The other parents are beginning to stand around us.

The coach walks straight up to the dirty so-called security man and asks,

“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?”

This guy as it turns out is really the janitor and he turns to the coach to try one last yell,  to which the coach tells the man to go back to his room. They exchange a few words. The man mumbles as he walks off back to his hole in the dark.

The coach grins at me and says,

“I’d ask if you are alright, but I can tell you don’t need my help.”

Brian runs over and sits next to me.  He is happy that I didn’t let the yelling janitor say something awful to his friend’s dad and humiliate his friend. There was just no way in hell I was going to allow that to happen.

It has been said, Napoleon was a redhead.

Until next time -

C

http://www.aweekinthelifeofaredhead.com

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