Did you know, up to 20 million Americans have a thyroid condition and up to 60 percent of them don’t know it? Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/
My thyroid health journey began when I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school. Growing up I was involved in cheerleading and tumbling and thought my high energy was just a result of my personality and who I naturally was. Remembering back I was always hungry and could eat and eat and not put on additional weight (not a bad problem to have, I thought at the time). My sleep quality wasn’t great and I spent most nights tossing and turning. One evening my dad randomly decided to check my resting heart rate and it was 138 bpm. Totally alarmed by how high it was, it warranted further testing. After having some blood work done, I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease Hyperthyroidism. This condition is an autoimmune disorder which causes the thyroid to overproduce hormones. These hormones regulate the body’s metabolism, heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, and mood and bone maintenance.
I consulted with an endocrinologist and was given three options at the time: take medication to control my thyroid production or more definitive treatments being radioactive iodine or surgery to remove my thyroid. At the time, I didn’t want to do anything permanent. I was so young and had hopes that through altering my lifestyle my condition might go into remission. I opted for the medication to decrease and control my thyroid hormone production.
When first put on the medicine, it was a balancing act to find the right dosage for my body. At one point I was on too high of a dose which made my hormone levels go in the opposite direction and into a hypothyroid state. The symptoms I experienced with this were extreme tiredness, lack of motivation, and weight gain. I was getting my levels tested through bloodwork every 3-4 months so my doctor could alter and adjust my dosage as needed. During this period of time, I found a passion for health and fitness. Working out not only helped me shed some of the pounds I had gained but gave me energy and a mood-boost that I couldn’t find elsewhere.
Two years later, my Graves’ Disease went into remission and I was able to go off of my medication. This period of remission lasted about 6 months to a year before then again finding my levels out of the norm. I went back on the same medication as before and had reached a euthyroid state (normal) and maintained it for 8 years with minimal adjustment to my dosage. In the normal range, I felt great. I had good energy, was motivated with school, work, and working out, slept great, and didn’t have a racing heart rate anymore.
Last August, just two months after my wedding I had an ultrasound on my thyroid which hadn’t been done since I was initially diagnosed in 2009. The ultrasound revealed a suspicious nodule on my thyroid with some qualities that had my doctor and myself a little worried. Jeff and I were visiting friends in Nashville, Tennessee when I got the call from my endocrinologist about the nodule and he wanted more testing to be done. Immediately, Jeff and I thought let’s get it checked out but definitive treatment would probably be best for going forward. When I got home, I had more blood work done that luckily came back within normal ranges. I didn’t like the idea of just going for routine testing to see if the nodule grows or changes down the road and didn’t want the risks and worries on my mind as we hope to build a family one day.
Through lots of googling, I found a surgeon at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Jonathon Russell, that specializes in a relatively new ‘scarless’ thyroidectomy approach. He performs the surgery transorally by making three small incisions on the inside of the lower lip as opposed to the traditional surgery of an incision on the front of the neck. I was so intrigued by this approach and never would have thought it was possible! Many doctors and medical professional friends I had consulted with about the procedure never knew this type of surgery existed either. I quickly scheduled a consult with Dr. Russell and he determined I would be the perfect candidate for this surgery. His confidence and assurance really put my mind at ease going forward. I had the surgery done on November 21st, 2019. The surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure but I stayed in the hospital for one night so my calcium levels could be monitored. All went well and I am beyond grateful to have been in the hands of an exceptionally skilled surgeon and a really great God. I’m thankful for the prayers from many and for my parents and husband being by my side through the whole process. The recovery was quick and painless and I’m happy to have it behind me now. I was back to work and running/working out within a week!
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and every season has a purpose— through this experience my faith grew deeper and my passion for health and wellness grew stronger. I hope to use my experience to encourage others who might be going through something similar!
Signs that you may want to get your thyroid checked:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Significant changes in body weight (losing or gaining)
- Body temperature sensitivity- always hot or always cold
- Energy levels at an extreme high or low consistently
- Bulging or protrusion on front of neck