Archive for January 5th, 2009

For some reason Jan. 5 rang a bell.  Ahh, yes, that was the date I had my thyroid surgery in 2001. The plan was to remove only part of the thyroid gland which had a fairly large nodule. But after further testing, the surgeon decided to take the whole thing.

In November 1999, I went to the doctor to see why I was having a difficult time getting pregnant. The first thing she did was look at my droopy eyes, feel my protruding neck and ask me if I had ever been diagnosed with thyroid disease. No, but it had been suggested by another doctor to get it checked about seven or eight years earlier.


Within the following several weeks, I had about 15 blood tests, an ultrasound and a fine-needle aspiration to test the nodule (otherwise known as a tumor).  No amount of pain killers or sedatives can relax you during the biopsy when a very long needle is stuck in the base of your neck and the doctor taps on it to get cells. Nine times. After all that, the results were still inconclusive and the surgery was set for Jan. 5.

A little background on the thyroid gland: It is a butterfly-shaped organ in the base of your neck. It basically controls your metabolism, so when its levels are out of whack, so are you. Because of that, it is often linked to weight gain. For a more scientific description, here’s a link.

When I woke up after my surgery, my husband had that concerned look on his face. What? Again, the tests were inconclusive and the entire gland was removed. More testing would have to be done. For a week I was convinced I had cancer and the treatments would be ongoing. At the follow-up appointment, the surgeon said it was not cancerous and I would go on thyroid-replacement hormone for the rest of my life.

Since then, I have taken a daily dose of Levothroid to replace the hormone my now non-existent thyroid gland would produce. At the time of my surgery a friend with thyroid disease said she wished she could have her gland removed to better regulate her levels. I have since discovered that is not necessarily the case. I have my levels checked (a simple blood test) every 3 to 6 months. There are times in between when I request it because of the way I feel.  Some of these symptoms include extreme fatigue, stiffness in the joints, shortness of breath, irritability and loss of concentration. Yes, I know most of these are common and could happen anytime, but when your thyroid levels are off, they are magnified.

Some sort of thyroid disease is fairly common, especially in women. However, many times it goes undiagnosed and untreated. I have often wondered if I would have had the surgery – the last resort – if I would have had my levels checked when my college doctor first suggested it.

If you consistently have the above-mentioned symptoms, ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels. Like I said, it’s a simple blood test and can be regulated by a daily pill. If you don’t like needles, just think of one going in your neck multiple times for a biopsy.


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