Melanie Jeanne

Twenty Years In – The Journey of my Thyroid Disease

I am twenty years in and I am just getting started all at the same time. That is the thing with this disease. I am 36 and finally taking the time to investigate, learn, challenge and understand my thyroid disease.

I have been blessed to have wonderful doctors for the last twenty years. When this disease presented itself I was young, too young for a doctor to even pursue exploring thyroid disease, but the docs I had at the time were tireless in their pursuit to determine what was ailing me. I was a high school student, sleeping through most of my classes, unable to swim on the swim team as I was simply too tired (a sport I loved) and incapable of doing much beyond what was required of me due to exhaustion. After months of blood work, after every-other-day blood donations to explore what could be, finally the results were in and the disease was defined. I was a mere 16 years old with a disease most middle aged women get. Immediately doctors put me on medication and as a teen, I simply went with the flow and on with my life. I followed doctors suggestions and did as they said. I started feeling better and life got back to normal.

At 16 I was diagnosed with Hoshimoto’s Disease. 

At some point in my early 20’s my disease pendulum swung. I was gaining weight (let’s pretend that none of the weight gain was because of alcohol and late night snacking – hello 21). I was bloated. I was becoming depressed. My skin was troubled – dry, breaking out, dull.

At 22 my disease had become Graves Disease.

Again, my doctors were incredible at helping me travel this journey. Unfortunately, I was still young and not aware or focused on what symptoms thyroid disease presented. I saw doctors as regularly as requested, followed up with blood work, adjusted medications as directed and lived life.

At 24 my weight dropped. Dropped quickly and drastically. I grew what looked like an Adam’s apple. I noticed the lump in October and let it linger until January (young and naive). I finally saw doctors and got my first (of many) throat ultrasound. The ultrasound tech immediately indicated that the lump could be cancer. This pissed off my mom and doctors as a tech is not supposed to convey any opinion or results, that’s what my docs were for. The docs reviewed the results and deemed the lump as an over-worked gland due to my thyroid disease and it’s pendulum swings. This was early January 2006. I was deemed to have Hoshimoto’s Disease again and my meds were adjusted.

At 24 my disease had become Hoshimoto’s Disease again.

In June of 2006 my Adam’s apple was still present, but my level of exhaustion had increased to the point that as I drove home from work I would have to roll down the window to stay awake. I fought sleep throughout the day and immediately settled in for the night when I got home from work at 6pm. My throat also started to hurt. The lump felt like it was getting in the way. I was ready to take action, if only to remove the lump and clear space. I saw my first ENT who presented three option – do nothing drastic, focus on adjusting meds to see if the lump was still simply being caused by an over active gland or do a needle biopsy to determine what was happening within the lump or go into surgery and have the lump removed and further explore my thyroid gland as needed. At this point my blood work presented no concerns and no cancer. I, being a gal who likes immediate and drastic action to be taken, chose option 3. I was done living with a lump.

Two days after my 25th birthday I went into the hospital for what would be life changing surgery. My lumpectomy was successful, but the lump was funky and was sent away to be further reviewed and evaluated. One week later I received the news that nobody wants to hear – I had Hürthle cell carcinoma. One week later I was back in surgery removing my thyroid gland and any additional cells in the region. It was important to get in and get the darn thing out because Hürthle cell carcinoma can metastasize.

At 25 I was a cancer patient.

After my thyroidectomy I got another new doc – an endocrinologist. I saw a top rated doc and expert in the space to make sure we got all the cancer and that I could get my hormone levels to a functioning place. Getting my levels regulated was a tricky task as my blood work presented no signs of cancer. In November I had a radiation treatment to kill any remaining thyroid glad. There is a beauty in being young and naive and fighting cancer – I never felt fear, I never worried, I always knew I would survive.

At 26 I was a cancer survivor.

At 29 I got pregnant with Doodle and my thyroid was watched like a hawk. We ensured that my levels remained in a good place in order to have a successful pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Based on this here blog, we all know, we succeeded.

At 29 I was a mommy!

At 33 I became terrified that I would get sick again. I had fears, major fears. I have a family I adore. I have a Doodle I want to watch grow. I have a love I want to enjoy. I was scared. For the first time I started taking my health seriously. I started watching what I was putting into my body and actively started doing more to protect my health.

At 33 I was a scared and fearful thyroid patient.

I am now 36. And my thyroid is out of whack again. I have gained significant weight. I am bloated. I am swollen. My skin is dry, dull and bruising. My throat stings often. I am tired and lethargic. I am depressed / funky / moody more often than not. I am currently re-evaluating how my body is behaving and where all of my hormone levels are. I am getting back into good habits, evaluating how and what I eat, refocusing my fitness and ultimately tracking my thyroid levels.

My levels are currently (as of my last blood work results) way out of whack. I am, for the very first time, interested in learning about my thyroid, about understanding how food, fitness and rest impact my body. I am working with my doctor to ensure my levels get back to normal. Ultimately, I am working to ensure that my best years are yet to come.

At 36 I am a fighter learning new in’s and out’s of thyroid disease.

I will be sharing details of my journey with thyroid disease here. Join me, will ya?

Photo by Steve Gallagher 

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