Life Without A Thyroid: An Overdue Update

Life, Running / Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Hi Friends:)

It’s been a minute.

Last time I hopped on here to give a running update- or any kind of update- was a few weeks ago, just before I flew on down to Florida for the Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon. Let me start by saying UNIVERSAL AND DISNEY WERE SO FUN AND THE HALF WAS A BLAST!!! But in between all those caps and exclamations, I had some other stuff going on.

I’ve written a bit on here about my life without a thyroid gland. To recap: I was diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer at age 18. My treatments went super well, but I had to have a total thyroidectomy as part of the process. And living life without a pretty critical part of my endocrine system can be tricky.

I like to write about this stuff here because there honestly isn’t a whole lot of first-hand information out there for thyroid cancer patients and survivors. Especially for younger thyroid cancer patients/survivors. See, when I was diagnosed at age 18, I was kind of confused to learn that the average age of thyroid cancer diagnosis was 40-50, but that it was on the rise with younger women specifically.

Being young and sick was an incredibly lonely experience, and it’s probably a huge part of the reason why to this day I’m still a bit of a loner. When I went through surgery and radioactive treatment, I wasn’t able to access any kind of community to learn about what my life might be like after my treatment was over. If I had been able to read about/talk to someone who’d been through it, I would have known that the real challenge with having thyroid cancer is living life after your thyroid is removed.

Still today, almost 12 years after my diagnosis, the fight to keep my hormones balanced and my body at the high level of functionality I want it to be at is a really hard one.

So. Life lately.

I had an amazing January. I was happily logging 30-ish mile weeks and nailing my cross training week in and week out. Around the first week of February I started feeling a little tired, but I figured that was just my body being ready for a little bit of a taper. Right before I left for Florida I noticed a few other symptoms of some kind of hormonal dysregulation, but I wrote it off as nerves.

Once I was in Florida, though, I kind of realized that things were feeling really tough. Given, I’d gone from ~20 degree temps in Boston to ~90 degree temps in Orlando, and I was averaging about 10 miles of walking a day in the parks. But still.

I was tired. My skin looked grey and my hands were so dry they were bleeding no matter how many nights I spent in moisturizing gloves. My head started pounding every day at 2:30pm and didn’t let up until I went to bed… Which I did before 8:30 most nights. My legs were constantly cramping up, even when I was just sitting at the breakfast table. And worst of all (at least for me) my brain was so, so foggy.

I know I have a few readers who are thyroid-less; Any of you hate the brain fog with all your heart? I feel like it takes the ME out of me. I’m normally witty, a quick talker, the person who solved the problem before you even noticed there was a problem. But when my hormones are off I’m indecisive and easily confused and crave quiet in a way that clashes directly with my lifestyle and profession.

Running the half was really fun, but I didn’t feel the way I should have considering how thorough my training had been. I was exhausted that whole week following and finally called my doctor on Thursday; she had me come straight into the office, and by that evening we’d confirmed that I was suffering from a bit of hypothyroidism.

As someone with no thyroid, I am reliant on medication to give my body the hormones my thyroid would be producing. Modern medicine is super amazing, but not amazing enough to perfectly mimic the functions of a dynamic, adaptive body part like the thyroid with a static dose of daily medication. Tiny lifestyle changes trigger a normal thyroid to make tiny adaptations in order to maintain balance. Tiny lifestyle changes for someone who has no thyroid mean that tiny imbalances occur and grow into larger and more impactful imbalances unless medical intervention takes place.

Less than a week after running the Disney Princess Half, I spent 3 straight days in bed re-adjusting to a new medication and reading all the upbeat chick-lit I could get my hands on. (reviews to follow!)

I didn’t start really feeling BETTER until yesterday, a full 12 days after my doctor and I met. I’m still not 100%, though, and I don’t really know when I will be. But I know that I will get there! I’ve been through this same exact process probably a dozen times before, and it will always be part of my life.

I get messages sometimes from other runners-without-thyroids. They ask about how I keep my hormones balanced while training, and I always tell them firstly that I DON’T, and secondly that everything about our lives is a trial and error process. And as long as you trust in that process and it’s ability to get and keep you as well as you can be, there is no reason to hold yourself back from the experiences and challenges you want to take on. If you want to run a marathon, go for it. If you want to travel the world, go for it. If you want to, I don’t know, move out to the country and start your own alpaca farm, DO IT. Just make sure you find yourself a good, communicative team of medical professionals who will help you solve issues as they arise. Don’t let any doctor sweep your symptoms under the rug; fight for your best self! And if you do that, there’s no limit. There’s good times and there’s bad times, but there’s always time and that’s what matters.

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