What a difference a year makes

So this time last year, I was lying in a hospital bed wondering what the heck had just happened. How was a 46 year old woman, who until two months earlier had felt healthy and active was now dealing with blood clots, heart issues and a thyroid condition?

The answer? The thyroid condition. I had ignored the lump on my neck for over a year. Well not ignored so much, as became a Google doctor. My diagnosis was that it was a goiter caused by a low thyroid.

It made sense. I was eating mostly vegetarian and leaning even closer to vegan in most meals so I could justify I was missing some vitamins. And I was tired and cold and could tick most of the boxes in the “hypoactive” thyroid column.

Google doctoring not a good idea

So I did what any good Google doctor would do. I self medicated. First it was Brazil nuts since they are supposed to be good for your thyroid. When I realized how much I was spending on these nuts and not really seeing an improvement, it was time for a more drastic approach – iodine supplements.

This may have worked out fine, if in fact, I actually had an under-performing thyroid. What I had instead, was a hyperactive thyroid and the iodine pills were just like its crack!

Now if at any point in time, I had made a visit to a healthcare professional, the above mentioned hospital stay would have been avoided. But I continued to ignore signs that something wasn’t right. That is until severe abdominal pain forced me to the ER on Good Friday.

I’m a lucky, lucky girl!

After all sorts of tests and consultations, they discovered I was in Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB), had the beginnings of congestive heart failure and the pain in my belly was a blood clot attacking my kidney. YIKES!!

But what was the cause? I had never hear of AFIB so had no idea it’s causes. Turns out there are numerous reasons why someone could develop this – among the long list is excessive intake of alcohol. Which is the one factor the ER doctor focused on. I must be drinking too much. That was the only possible cause.

But not an alcoholic…

So for 12 hours, the doctor and the nurses asked about my alcohol consumption. How much? How often? Now I enjoy my wine and I won’t say no to visiting a brewery and trying the local creations. Could I drink less? Yes. But to say I drink to excess regularly? No.

The next morning, and after my liver panels came back normal, it was back to the drawing board for the medical team. What was causing my AFIB and associated health problems.

The same doctor came into my hospital room and asked if I had any history of thyroid problems. Now this lump on my neck was seriously the size of a half tennis ball. It’s pretty hard to ignore especially when I’m laying in a hospital bed. I had been poked and prodded the day before. Hooked up to heart monitors, given IVs and who knows what else. How do you miss the tennis ball sized lump on someone’s neck???

Feeling a bit better after some good meds, I replied to her question with some sarcasm, “well no, except for this thing on my neck – I think it might be thyroid related.”

And it was. A severely hyperactive thyroid was causing this whole mess. But at least I hadn’t permanently damaged my heart or my kidneys. There was a fix and I’d be better.

The road back

But I didn’t realize it would be a year-long journey to feeling better. Who knew that the thyroid controlled so much of your health?

In the span of one year, I’ve gone from having a hyperactive, out of control thyroid, to having a hypoactive, let’s sit and do nothing thyroid. I have a cardiologist and an endocrinologist. I’ve seen more doctors in one year then I probably had in the previous 10. I’ve gained so much weight thanks to that hypoactive thyroid. I have struggled with my mood, my energy, my libido, even just living a day-to-day life.

As I mark the one-year mark though, there is light at the end of the tunnel. My endocrinologist is amazing! After hearing how I was feeling and the struggle to get out of bed each day (and not go back for numerous naps), she ordered a complete panel of anything that could be affecting me. Turns out my Vitamin D was severely low. That combined with process to find the right dosage of the thyroid replacement was affecting my whole being.

Now I’m much happier. I’m no longer gaining weight (not losing it yet but not gaining is an improvement). I’m motivated to accomplish things everyday. In fact, I’m feeling better than I have in years.

The next step in this process is to lose the thyroid weight. I have a clean bill of health from my cardiologist and off all the meds related to the heart and blood clot problems. So exercise is in my future. I want to start running again. I want to do yoga again.

I came close to losing it all last year. If that clot had gone to my lungs, who knows. If I’d ignored that pain any longer, who knows. But it didn’t and I didn’t. It’s time to live my best life and make every day count. It’s time to be my husband’s SmileyGirl.

Stay safe and happy cruising!

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