I’m 4 days off of my thyroid medication and on the low-iodine diet in preparation for my radioactive iodine treatment in 12 days. I’m tired (but if you’ve seen me recently and asked me how I’m doing, you probably already knew that 😉 While every day my face is morphing back towards one I recognize, my body is starting to gradually break down leaving me feeling empty by late evening. “Tired” doesn’t accurately capture it, maybe I should start saying “really tired”. I’m sure I’ll have all kinds of adjectives as my condition of hypothyroidism or “hypo” (the non-technical term for not having enough thyroid hormone in your body) progresses through this coming week. I feel like each day I’m aging 10 years; I’m weaker, slower, more “foggy headed”, and forgetful. But the process is so gradual that I didn’t really notice it much until tonight. I’m expecting at some point in the near future (likely this weekend) to have to give up my car keys [I’m keeping my ears open for any talk of putting me “in a home”…just kidding of course….kind of].
The reason for feeling worse is that without thyroid hormone, my other organs can no longer metabolize (“use”) nutrients to do the things they normally do…..like grow hair and nails, move muscle, regulate my body temperature, pass food through my digestive system, or enter REM sleep. I’m like a car stuck without a carburetor, no matter how much I eat or sleep, I’m going no where. If I were to continue this path I’d be dead in a matter of months – though I’ve been warned that after the first month, possibly two, I would pretty much be totally immobile and incoherent.
My new pharmacist (who has three rounds of being hypo under her belt), described the state as “walking around underwater”. She also said she survived on Pringles potato chips, claiming they use iodine-free salt; I’ve never been a fan of potato chips, but whatever gets you by (which in my case has been globs of “no bake cookies” from the Low Iodine Cookbook). She also said that the experience has been so horrifying that she is considering denying further treatment even though she believes her Cancer has returned for a fourth time. Mmmm….probably not what I wanted to hear going into this after just going through two back-to-back surgeries.
I’m also haunted by a paragraph in a memoir I recently read by a woman in her 30s, Lorna Brunelle, who went through the same diagnosis and treatment that I am. In her book she describes being hypo as feeling “like a slug living in a turtle’s body.” After providing numerous examples of just how bad she felt, her experience being hypo can be summarized as: a “dry empty shell of a body”; experiencing arctic temperatures; dry skin, hair, and nails; lots of crying; hair loss, aching, stiff muscles, the inability to concentrate; weight gain; and a constant fog for weeks.” I should note that Lorna, at least at the time she wrote her book, had never been pregnant, so she probably had a more normal view of “normal” than some of us. Some of us don’t even remember where our brain”defrost” switch is anymore and for years have gotten by by adjusting our heads and occasionally wiping somewhat fruitlessly at our minds’ interior windshields.
So the Curious Case of A.L. continues and I’ll try to keep you all posted as much and as long as I can…until I’m too old and tired and beside myself to remember. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and it won’t be so bad, any way it’s only temporary. Near Christmas I expect to be on the “other side” starting to get young again (and with my new face, braceless teeth, smoothed hair, and clear skin, I’m totally going to rock junior high this time!).