Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thyroid Awareness Month

Did you know that more people have hypothyroidism than diabetes? Yep, it's true (if you're wondering why it's relevant, they're both endocrine disorders).

I imagine that a fair amount of people have little to no idea what hypothyroidism is. January is Thyroid Awareness Month, so I will share some info and first hand experience with you!

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland in your neck. You can actually feel it (and your doctor should totally check it!) it's your Adam's Apple. Your thyroid is responsible for producing hormones that regulate your metabolism and growth rate and about a zillion other things in your body. That is the quick and dirty description of it. It's a little gland, but it's incredibly important to many, many of your bodily functions.

When your thyroid is functioning well, life is good. When it goes bad, it goes bad. There are two autoimmune diseases (and the most common problems with your thyroid, aside from cancer) that effect the thyroid. One is Graves disease, which causes hyperthyroidism. Basically, your thyroid starts producing too much thyroid hormone. The symptoms associated with Graves are heart palpitations, excessive sweating, excessive hunger, weight loss and muscle fatigue. Treatment focuses on ways to slow down or stop the production of excessive thyroid hormone. One method for treatment is radioactive iodine, basically to destroy parts of the thyroid. One unfortunate part of Graves disease is that it leads to hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism is the result of a decrease in the amount of thyroid hormone in your body. The name for autoimmune hypothyroidism (which is what I have) is Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. In my opinion, the hyper people have a better name for their disease. Anyway, there is a laundry list of symptoms for hypothyroidism: lack of energy, hair loss, abnormal weight gain, brittle nails, dry skin, extreme sensitivity to coldness, brain fog, muscle soreness, difficulty getting pregnant. The list goes on and on. Treatment is fairly easy, hormone replacement pills, to be taken everyday for the rest of your life.

Although treatment is fairly straight forward, getting diagnosed was tricky. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are vague and can be caused by many other diseases. Fortunately, all you need to get diagnosed is a doctor who is paying attention and a simple blood test. I saw maybe close to half a dozen doctors over a span over seven months before I was finally diagnosed. It was a long and scary battle. I started feeling better a few weeks into the treatment. For the better part of 18 months, I was getting tested monthly, and my dose changed several times. Since my pregnancy ended, my thyroid has been stable.

I am obviously not a doctor, but if you have concerns about your thyroid, you should definitely check with your doctor. I am happy to discuss my experiences further if you have any questions!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's Regan's Fault*

We had quite a memorable New Year's Eve. I woke up on New Year's Eve at about 4:30 that morning in Columbus, Ohio. We had stayed the night in Columbus on our way back from Kansas City. I rolled over and over but I could not get back to sleep. See, Jeff has sleep apnea and if he sleeps without his mask, it sounds like some one is cutting down an entire forest of trees! Unfortunately, for us both, his mask broke the first day of the vacation, so for nearly two weeks, neither of us slept well.** Anyway, I wasn't getting back to sleep, Doug was restless between us and Jeff kept on waking himself up. So I decided that since none of us were sleeping we'd at least get on the road and be home by that afternoon. I was able to clam down and blow off some steam in the shower (don't mess with my sleep) and I come out into the room to find that Doug had thrown up all over the place. So there went my nice relaxed mood. I started working damage control. Jeff had done a good job on keeping the bio hazard localized, but Doug was still very upset. I calmed him down and took his temp, which was 102.3. So I dosed him with some Tylenol and called our pediatrician's after hours line. The line told us that Dr. So & So was covering for him and to call her. I called Dr. So & So and the message told us that our pediatrician was covering for her! Epic fail! So I called my mom. Anyway, long story short, we got Doug calm, clean and dressed and put him in the car. I think we left Columbus at about 7ish? I do feel badly for the person who had to clean our room. Doug sure knows how to destroy a hotel room!

For the rest of the day in the car Doug mostly slept. Unfortunately I couldn't get his fever down. I called his Dr.'s office and they were concerned about his high fever too, but as we were in Ohio, not much could be done about it. The nurse said we could take him to the ER or an urgent care facility, but neither of those were available at the time, so our goal was to just get him home. At about 11 we stopped some where in West Virginia for lunch. We wanted to eat quickly so we could get back on the road, so we headed toward a McDonald's. But lo and behold, what was next to the McDonald's!?!? An urgent care facility! I told Jeff that I thought it was a sign, so we took Doug in. We were told the wait was long, but actually we got in an out in a relatively short time. The doctor saw Doug and agreed with us that it was a stomach virus and told us the correct dosage*** of Tylenol for Doug. He also recommended that we try ibuprofen instead. So after the visit we got back in the car and drove to a pharmacy in town, dosed Doug with ibuprofen and headed back to McDonald's.

You know how some times something happens to you, or somebody does something to you accidentally and you really really want to throttle them but you know it's not their damn fault? That's what happened to me at McDonald's. I'd been going on no more than four hours of interrupted sleep the past two nights. I was beyond fatigued and in a lot of pain. I'd been dealing with a sick baby all day. In short, I was thisclose to going over the edge. Doug was asleep on the table in his carrier and Jeff brought the tray to the table with our lunch on it. Jeff reached for something and some how his gigantic Dr. Pepper was knocked over and spilled all over the table. A good portion went onto my lap, and the rest went into my brand new purse. Luckily, nothing in my purse was ruined, but everything was soaked and sticky. There were pools of soda in my purse. Jeff jumped up and helped me mop up and helped me pull things out of my purse. At the time the only thing I could say to him was to tell him to go to the car and get some plastic bags for the contents of my purse.

It was probably really good for our marriage that Jeff left me for that minute in a half. I was able to pull myself together and calm down. I realized that I had some options at hand. Option 1, I could yell at Jeff, which would allow me to vent. However, this will make Jeff feel worse and in the end will make us both miserable. Option 2, I could let it go and we can move on. I chose option 2. We were already both pretty miserable and really needed a break.

Anyway, Jeff came back in and we got resettled and began our lunch. After a few minutes Jeff said to me, "This whole trip has been my fault." I grabbed a french fry while I pondered my response to that. "Well, actually no. It's not your fault that you grew up in Kansas City. That's where your parents lived. They probably settled there in the 80s because of the economy. So, actually, it's Regan's fault. Yep, I think the blame resides squarely on his shoulders." So we had a nice quiet lunch and loaded Doug back up. By the time we got home on NYE, we were all dead tired, but Doug's fever broke. All in all, not a terrible end to 2010.

*I was in Kindergarten when the 80s ended. History classes never covered something as recent as the 80s, so really I have little to no idea what the economy in the 80s was like. Humor me.

**Fibromyalgia symptoms are worsened by poor, interrupted sleep. They've actually done studies in which they've screwed up the subject's sleep, and they have many fibro like symptoms. So seriously, don't screw with my sleep!

***Tylenol, or at least the generic we got, doesn't give you dosage per weight for children under 2. You're supposed to talk to your doctor about it. The last time we got that info for Doug was at least 5 lbs ago. On the other hand, the Advil we bought ONLY gives dosing instructions for children under 2. Go figure.