By: Zana Carver, PhD
Hello, I’m a survivor of thyroid cancer that was found in 2005. Initially, I had a goiter that had grown over a 2-year period and required surgery. It was a surprise that the pathologist found papillary carcinoma in my thyroid gland when it was removed, because the goiter itself was non-cancerous. My pathology report included comments on multiple papillary tumors and a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The best part of my surgical experience was that the surgeon could have only removed the lobe affected by the goiter, but he chose to remove the entire gland-I’m very thankful for his wisdom!
After the removal of my thyroid gland (thyroidectomy), radioactive iodine ablation (RIA), and follow up testing I was put on thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) suppression therapy. This is where thyroid hormone replacement is given at a slightly higher than needed level to suppress or reduce TSH because this hormone could stimulate any possible remaining cancerous cells. For the most part, I felt well and functioned well on TSH suppression therapy. This is not where my true thyroid experience began…
Real Thyroid Problems
Fast forward to 2015 when an endocrinologist decided to take me off of TSH suppression therapy, this is a logical decision because long-term TSH suppression is associated with osteoporosis. I tolerated the first dose reduction well, but my TSH level remained low at each visit, so she continued to lower my dose. About a week after the second round of going to a smaller dose I felt exhausted and weak. My condition quickly progressed; I was freezing cold and couldn’t maintain a stable blood sugar level. When my blood sugar would drop between meals, I would start sweating and shaking, and I nearly passed out at work on multiple occasions despite snacking throughout the day. I was so dizzy that I had to hang on to the wall to walk straight and not fall over. My work during this time suffered because I could barely stay awake, much less concentrate or remember. I also caught every cold and respiratory infection going around and spent most of this time in bed, having to call in sick….falling behind on everything! It’s difficult to express the guilt and shame I felt because I was useless at work during this time but could not admit to my co-workers that it was related to my health.
I’m going to summarize the rest of my struggle. Despite my intolerance of the lower dose, my TSH remained very low, and my endocrinologist did not believe that my symptoms were thyroid-related. She continued to lower my dose (initially 175 mcg, then 150 mcg, then 137 mcg, to 125 mcg). When I was ready to give up I started taking a higher dose of Synthroid (a T4 medication) and my symptoms dramatically improved! However, the next endocrinologist visit was a nightmare because my doctor was so angry with me for not listening to her. She did though, decide to lower my dose more gradually and put me on a low dose of T3 (Cytomel).
My story does not end here. At that time I feared losing my job and losing my husband (who bless his heart could not understand what I was going through). I found an excellent integrative physician who worked with me to restore my nutrient deficiencies and gut health and put me on the path to wellness. I also drastically changed my diet to find my food triggers. I’m so thankful to physicians who listen to their patients and treat them as more than a lab value. Because of my experience and what I’ve learned, I’m very passionate about sharing information to help others struggling with similar issues. There is excellent information out there; please help spread the word about amazing sites such as Thyroid Nation and Thyroid Code to help more people restore their thyroid health!
Oops, I stumbled over Cindy’s name trying to get her middle name in without saying Sterner:)