The Tricky Thyroid Part I
Terrifying but all true
Did you know that 90% of the population has undetected thyroid problems?
What is the thyroid gland and why is it so important?
The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland in the neck which is situated around the trachea (windpipe) above the clavicle (collar bone). This is the most important endocrine gland in the human body because it regulates all of the other endocrine glands in the body.
Have you heard that in cells, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell? This means that the mitochondria, structures in cells, help to produce all of the energy for the cell. This goes for the thyroid gland and having energy, motivation and feeling healthy. If the gland is not working properly, the person will know that they are not feeling well. If the gland is over working, it is called hyperthyroidism. If the gland is under working, it is called hypothyroidism. Please see the pictures for more information.
I first found I had hypothyroidism when I was 22 years old. My mother actually noticed that something wasn't right because in 90 degree weather, I was wearing sweatshirts and using thick blankets during the day time. On top of that, my skin was very dry, my hair was falling out, and I felt stressed and tired on most days. I went to the doctor and was told that my lab results were all within the normal range. But my mother, being a surgeon herself, didn't believe the results. She was looking at my symptoms and knew that something wasn't right. So she asked the doctor if I could go on the lowest dose of thyroid replacement hormone to see if that would help.
I was watched for six months but my symptoms did not get any better. So I was referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Surgeon who did some extra testing. He did a diagnostic radioactive iodine scan first and then he did an ultrasound.
The radioactive iodine scan is a process. First I was told to go on a low iodine diet (no seafood, no salt, no dairy, no egg yolks, etc.) for two weeks. Then I was given two shots/injections of Thyrogen, which is supposed to suppress the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) so that no new thyroid cells can be made. Then I had to have the diagnostic dose of radioactive iodine. Lastly I got the scan done. The scan did not really show anything. However, the ultrasound showed a nodule on the right lobe of the thyroid gland. My surgeon advised me to get it out. So I said okay. He said that there was 95% chance that it was non cancerous (benign).
I went in for surgery in 1999 October and when I woke up I was told that not only did I have this condition called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, I was told that the nodule was indeed cancerous. It was papillary carcinoma of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease where there are antibodies produced against the colloid cells of the thyroid gland. It is like when someone has an allergy to something and if they continue to be exposed to it, the allergy gets worse and worse until you are admitted into the hospital with anaphylaxis. My doctor told me that papillary carcinoma is a very very slow growing cancer, and a well known complication of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. My parents were very upset and sad, but they were there for me every step of the way.
The post operative scan showed that I had about 7% of thyroid cells remaining. So my doctor decided to give me a chemo-ablative dose of radioactive iodine to kill the remaining cells. This dose made me very sick. I had reflux (acidity) and could not eat much for about a week. I slept for most of the days that I felt sick and had a little bit of hair loss and overall not feeling normal.
About 3 months after this dose, I had another scan which showed that there was less than 1% of thyroid cells remaining. However, my doctor was not able to tell me whether or not they were cancerous. About 5 years after this scan, I had another diagnostic scan which did not show anything so I was considered in remission. However, I was told to have another scan in 10 years, which would have been in 2017.
Stay tuned to read all about what has happened since 2006 in The Tricky Thyroid- Part II.
As always, comments and feedback are welcomed and greatly appreciated!
Written by RLaha 8/27/2014