My Story

My thyroid had been causing me problems most of my life, but it wasn't until I was 6 months pregnant and gained 20 pounds in 2 weeks that I realized things were really wrong. I tried to explain to my doctor that I wasn't doing or eating any differently than I had done in the past, but he was sure that I was overeating because of the holidays. I carried that weight until I became pregnant with my daughter 2 years later, at which time I lost 20 in a week-end. I would experience an unexplainable and considerable, albeit short-lived, weight loss 2 more times after that.

As the years progressed I had various problems. There was nothing concrete, it was simple things like being tired a lot of the time, gaining a few pounds here and there (that always came around at the same time my rings and shoes got tighter). I began to question my doctors about the possibility of thyroid problems.
One doctor's reply to me was,
"You fat people will do anything to keep from dieting!";
I was 20 pound (13 % of my body weight) overweight.

Although I was tested ~eventually~ I never had an abnormal thyroid (TSH) test result.

In 1991 I took up long-distance bicycling. (I had hoped to replace my loved, but lost, sport of weightlifting.) I started out riding 4 days a week for a total of 52 miles. Over the next 3 months my mileage increased to 115 mile per week. That's when the my problems REALLY began.

Each Wednesday I would cycle my longest distance and by early September that meant 55 miles. The first week I did it without a problem but the next week I rode 20 miles and could go no further. I was feeling so bad that I had to hitchhike to get to my destination. I remember thinking that I must not have gotten enough sleep the night before or maybe it was because I was at the end of my menses cycle. Although the next day I did my 25 mile 'easy' ride with no problems.

But the previous day kept replaying in the back of my mind.

With Wednesday's failed ride and the realization that I had ridden 928 miles over the last 11 weeks and lost only 15 pounds (I was 60 pounds overweight), I decided I needed to see my doctor. His response was, "I'm glad to see you're exercising." and "Honey, just how much weight did you think you'd lose?" I knew that I had gained new muscle since I had started bicycling and that muscle weighs more than fat, but I also knew that muscle burned calories long after the exercising stopped and that I had been eating a very strict diet to amplify my riding endurance and my weight lose. In my opinion, 15 pounds wasn't even close. Little did I know that what I was experiencing was but the tip of the iceberg.

By the end of September I had quit riding my bike. I had gone on a sponsored 150 mile, 2 day ride from San Antonio to Corpus Christi but had to leave after riding only the first 75 miles; our food providers had managed to give a handful of us food poisoning. Once I got over it I didn't have the drive to get back to my riding.

By October I noticed that I didn't have the drive to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do. Sewing, gardening, bike riding, nothing that had once held my interest could get me going. By November I noticed that my memory had started to suffer to the point that I confided in someone "that if I weren't so young (36 years old) I would swear that I had Alzheimer's Disease". They thought I was kidding; I wasn't.

I started sleeping more and more, I had to sit down and take rests after the slightest effort, my hair started thinning out and was becoming coarse and dry, just like my skin. This especially worried my since my hair had always been soft and fine and so oily that it needed to be wash everyday. In December I had gotten so bad that I was sleeping 15-16 hours a day, I was always cold (before that I had always been the guy standing outside in the cold wearing shorts), my memory was so bad that if I turned my head during a conversation I couldn't remember what we had been talking about, who I was talking to or even what sex they were. I also started being bothered by carpal tunnel syndrome and yet I did absolutely nothing that would have caused it. By January it had gotten so bad that I could no longer hold an open book, drive a car or open a door without using my wrists instead of my hands.

Fortunately I finally found an endocrinologist that believed I honestly had a problem and started me on Synthroid .112, but he also prescribed antidepressants; those I never took. It had infuriated me that he felt that the reason that I didn't have the drive to do things was because I was depressed. If I was depressed, it was because I hadn't been able to find a doctor before that that believed there was something organically wrong with me.

In February I went to see an endocrinologist at a diagnostic clinic in Houston. After 2 weeks of blood test, x-rays, poking, prodding, seeing 2 different doctors and spending over $2,800 I was told that they hadn't found anything they could hang their hat on. I went home, started the Synthroid and waited for my life to begin again. Several months later I found out that the last entry the Houston endocrinologist had made in my file was,
"I'm beginning to believe that there is nothing physically wrong with Mrs. Startz."

In November of that year I was fortunate enough to find an endocrinologist that not only believed what I was telling her, but was gifted enough to know what to do about it. She increased my thyroid replacement levels over the next 2 1/2 years with beneficial results. The problem remained that the amounts of replacement that gave acceptable test results gave lousy results in my system; they were never enough.

In March, 1995 I asked that my thyroid be removed. April 19, 1995 I had a near complete thyroidectomy; the next day the news came back that there were 2 cancerous nodules in it.

During the month prior to my surgery I told each of my three doctors that my thyroid was cancerous, each of them assured me that it wasn't.

After eleven years, one ablation, numerous checkups, another neck dissection and a parathyroidectomy my health is now far more stable. I've learned that a TSH level means virtually nothing in titrating my meds, that the true indicator is my Free T4 and Free T3 levels.