Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Patience, grasshopper.

This phase of my weight loss program, heck, of my life, is one where I need some serious patience.  Patience with myself, mostly.  At a time when I'm feeling better and better about what I can do with my increasingly fit and slimmer body (I felt my hip bones today!  How cool is that?), I've also run up against some unexpected limitations.

Back in September, I started experiencing an odd symptom; namely, my right arm began to tingle sporadically and with no discernible pattern.  It was uncomfortable and disturbing, and after it went on for a couple of weeks, I went to see my doctor.  She encouraged me to try anti-inflammatories and referred me to a neurologist if the symptoms didn't resolve within a week.  Well, they didn't resolve, so I made the appointment to see the neurologist and waited anxiously.

Because of my symptoms and my family's medical history, my neurologist had me do bloodwork, a cervical spine MRI and a nerve conduction test to figure out what was going on.  Bloodwork, no problem.  I do that all the time, and I have a really great vein for drawing blood (but that's another story).  Cervical spine MRI, also no problem.  It was the second MRI I've ever had, the first one being on my knee, so I knew what to expect. And since I'm not claustrophobic, the small space didn't bother me one bit - especially because I had no trouble fitting into the MRI machine!  (Another benefit of having a smaller body these days.)

That nerve conduction test was a nasty experience though.  Imagine having your arm tasered with increasing levels of electricity in a wide variety of places.  Then, once that was done, the doctor stuck a needle into each of the muscles of my forearm and upper arm, wiggled it around to find the nerve (OUCH!!!) and then made me move my arm with the needle in it (DOUBLE OUCH!!!!).  I'm not a fainter, but I almost passed out at the end of that test.  It sucked.

The followup appointment with my neurologist came, and I was prepared for the worst.  I'd worked myself up into a solid anxiety state in the eight weeks since my first appointment.  The neurologist came into the room, bravely faced me and my husband (whom I'd brought for moral support), and informed me I had... muscle tension.  Or maybe inflammation in the nerve, it was hard to say for sure.  But it wasn't any of the diseases I was half-convinced I had (thank God!).  Later that afternoon, the neurologist called me and let me know that there was one unusual and unrelated finding on the MRI that he thought we ought to check out.  Turns out the radiologist reviewing my MRI noted that my thyroid gland looked enlarged, and recommended further testing in that area.

At this point, I feel the need to point out that about five years ago, I began to wonder if I had thyroid problems.  Anyone who knows me knows that my body temperature runs on the cold side.  I distinctly remember one night when my particularly cold feet elicited a "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" yelp from my husband who was warmly nestled into bed.  There's the fatigue that I have regularly felt, even after getting 12 really good hours of sleep.  And then, of course, there's the struggles I have had to lose weight even when counting calories very carefully.  But my doctor has always run the basic blood tests in response to my questions, and told me I was within normal range (so shut up).  You can imagine, then, how vindicated I felt to have this unknown radiologist recommend what I had been asking for over the course of years.

To make a long story short (I know... too late, right?), the thyroid ultrasound showed that my thyroid was enlarged as well, and had no signs of cysts or cancer (whew!), and my doctor finally sent me to an endocrinologist to look at my thyroid situation.  Within a few minutes of talking to me and reviewing my test results, he gave me a preliminary diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.  In other words, my immune system is attacking my thyroid gland and it's failing.  He did some blood tests to confirm the diagnosis, and when those results came back as expected, he gave me a prescription for a thyroid supplement - which is the standard treatment for this condition.  Incidentally, it's pretty standard for it to take 5-7 years for this condition to be diagnosed, so it's entirely possible my hunch from five years ago was on target.  We'll never really know.

I've been on the medication now for about a week and a half, and it's been an odd transition to say the least.  My body temperature, which has always been cold and has been even colder since being on the diet, now swings between being cold, being normal, and alternating hot and cold.  My energy levels fluctuate pretty significantly; one day I'll be peppy and the next day I'll be dragging my ass from stem to stern, with no particular explanation as to why.  My mental clarity and memory also fluctuates to some degree, though thankfully I haven't had days when I really just can't think or remember what I need to know.  My weight loss, which has slowed down over the past month or two, has picked back up again but still varies pretty dramatically from week to week.  My endocrinologist says it takes about two months for the body to adjust to the new level of thyroid hormone being provided by the supplement.  Until then I'm riding the roller coaster.

Which brings me to having patience with myself.  I'm used to being able to just do what I want to do without consideration for my body's condition, my mental exhaustion, or anything else.  Over the course of the last seven and a half months, I've started giving myself that consideration instead of pushing myself to the extreme and then giving myself food to compensate for the poor treatment.  This new phase, however, is like the advanced placement course in patience with myself.  I literally don't know what to expect from one day to the next, or one moment to the next.  Thankfully, I have a normal level of functioning that I don't ever lose, but there are days when the plans I've made just can't happen because I'm too tired physically or mentally, or I'm feeling too off-kilter.  The good news is that since I've spent the last seven and a half months paying attention to what I need and giving it to myself as best I can, I'm much more OK with acknowledging what I'm capable of in the moment.

On that note, today's a tired and mentally foggy day, especially as the day progressed.  You might have noticed by the rambling above.  So now, I'm headed to sleep.


  1. Hey girl,
    I'm so thankful for the neuro test results, I remember talking about that horrific test several weeks ago. And, for the thyroid diagnosis. I also experienced the same thing - no, you're fine, and then an ultrasound proved otherwise. Hoshimoto's it is. I relate to your roller coaster and do know that it gets better. Whew, right? :)
    I'm thrilled for you and can't wait to hug you soon. Take care, Kim

  2. Patients is definitely a must. I've been through it all before and still do. It takes time and listening to what your body needs... not what your brain says. If your body says rest, then rest, if it says go run around, run around. And as always keep in moderation. Balance is a hard place to find when you're used to running around like a madwoman (and I know!). Hang in there, it'll even out and you'll be surprised!

  3. Kim - I'm so glad to hear from you! Your empathy for my process, as well as your own, has been a wonderful support to me. It's a huge relief to finally have the diagnosis and be able to move forward with some confidence! See you soon and e-hugs until then...

  4. Jess - Thanks for the reminders! :-D