This is the view from my doctor’s office. A muddy shot I took with my ipad while I was waiting — that building in mid-construction hadn’t even broken ground when I first started seeing my doctor almost three years ago. I had an appointment on Wednesday, the quarterly one for my thyroid condition called Graves’ Disease. Every four months, I get blood work done, and my Harvard-educated physician and I go over the numbers while we sit next to this view from the seventh floor.
This time, the prognosis was a mixed bag. My condition hinges on the levels of three types of hormones: TSH, T4 and T3. I’m not going to delve into details, but basically two of my numbers are heading in the right direction and the other one is decidedly ambling the wrong way. My results shift around with each lab test. Last quarter, two different numbers were looking better and the third one had held steady so I was definitely improving. I’m not in critical condition now but I’m not really out of the woods either.
I often feel like we’re conducting an experiment together, my doctor and I. Every quarter, I report on my stress level, my diet, my exercise regimen and we examine how they correlate with my numbers. I am an anomaly in that I refuse to take medication and my doctor — who I love and if she weren’t my endocrinologist, I’m certain we’d be hanging out as friends — tells me I’m “so fascinating”. I take zero medications, and the nurse who checked me in (blood pressure, weight check, etc.) marveled that my medication list was empty. “I never see that,” she told me. “Even eighteen-year-olds have a laundry list of meds these days.” That surprised me, though I suppose anyone who needs to go an endocrinologist has some predilection that should or could be controlled with drugs.
For the first time in nearly three years, I was intensely curious about the specifics of my thyroid hormone levels. I didn’t really know what any of those numerals meant. I talked in-depth with my doctor about my test results. I asked her to show me the numbers when I was at my worst, and though I knew I had been in a seriously dangerous state, I hadn’t known or had forgotten that I was “off the charts”. My thyroid was producing nearly four times the normal amount, which as I understand it is the equivalent of shoving every known black market amphetamine down my throat. So sick and haggard and mentally deranged was I at the time, I hadn’t paid close enough attention — hadn’t really needed to pay attention since I was obviously in a downward spiral. I had so much thyroid hormones pumping through me, I could have easily had congestive heart failure. My ticker could have literally jackhammered itself to death. I’m actually surprised I didn’t have a dozen goiters on my neck. My doctor told me that she couldn’t believe my refusal of medication at that stage (she had actually pushed for surgery to remove my thyroid at the time), and that she is still consistently amazed by how much I’ve improved via simple lifestyle changes. I think she may view me as an experiment of her own too, but in a good way. I’m grateful that she stood by me as I learned (and am still learning) how to trust my instincts and listen to my body.
What we know is this: I’m highly susceptible to stress, and I risk shutting down my immune system if I try to revert to my workaholic ways. This is terrible news for me, because it drives me crazy when I can’t get a lot done and a lizard brain part of me believes that I thrive on stress. My version of relaxation makes the President of the United States look like a sloth. But this has also been an epic blessing. I had been steadily killing myself for years with my need to push myself, and now I’m forced to stop. To breathe. To take stock of what’s really important. It is hard for a chronic people-pleaser and productive-aholic like me. In this culture that celebrates doing astronomically more with less, in which the national anthem is “I’m too busy” — in this culture that I used to represent wholeheartedly wearing my workaholicism like a badge of honor, I’m compelled against my will to say “I can’t.” Or more accurately: “I won’t”.
The good news is that I have a fabulous liver of a 25-year-old, according to my doctor. Which doesn’t help with my thyroid, but still. So I will continue my experiment. I think incorporating meditation in earnest might be next…I will record my results here come January 2015, and maybe by the time that building is completed, I’ll finally be able to say I’m in full remission.
It was so heartwarming to read all of the comments for my giveaway — the winner is Danijela, congrats!
K on improving skills:
Mama, I’m not comfortable singing in front of people and I love singing. I think I need voice lessons to get better…it’s time for me to man-up!
Have a lovely weekend, all!
At the end of it
Your health is what’s most vital
Sleep, eat well and move