There are people with worse cases of my disease. Those people are all in hospitals. All of us, even the people with tubes in them, will most certainly live. How we do so is up to us. Now that the drugs are having some positive effect, I can tell you about it.
I started losing weight a few months ago. Nothing serious, just enough to get friends asking if I’d lost any weight. I denied it at first, but then I had buy all new Levi’s in a waist size I hadn’t worn since the late Eighties.
My first instinct was a good one. I gave up the evening cigars, convinced that the nicotine was spoiling my appetite. When the weight didn’t come back, then I got serious. Forget the forgotten cigars, I needed to eat. And, man, did I eat.
I ate healthy food. I ate crap food. I ate any food. I ate them all at once and all of the time. Before I knew it, I was eating up to 4,000 calories a day, sometimes more. And never less than 3,000. I tried working out to put some muscle back on, but that lasted only a few weeks. Maybe I still had some strength left, but I didn’t have any wind at all. Yet I was still down twenty pounds.
And I looked bad, gaunt. Gray, even. I was also angry all the time, irrationally and inconsolably. Not mere anger, but rage. It’s hard to tell you just how bad the rage was, but I’ll try. I was getting groceries at the Safeway here in Monument, and I saw some asshole had parked his giant Ford F-250 pickup across four parking spots. The lot wasn’t busy, this guy could have taken ten places and still let me park near the store. But still I revved the engine and played the clutch on my old Wrangler, bracing myself for impact. I damn near rammed the guy, just because I didn’t like the way he parked. I damn near rammed the guy again and again and again.
Yeah, awfully threatening stuff, from a guy who’d taken to wearing a sportscoat everywhere, hoping the padded shoulders would give him the illusion of having real ones.
The rage came up everywhere, all the time. I hid it as best I could from the baby, but Melissa saw some of it every day. I wouldn’t let her see the outward-anger part, but you just can’t hide violent self-loathing from your wife. Melissa hasn’t left me, but some days I hate myself enough to wonder why she’s still here.
I know that’s the disease talking, but I can’t always remember.
This thing fucks with my memory, as in, I don’t have any. Long-term memories I can dredge up, provided everybody shuts up so I can concentrate long enough to figure out what it was I was figuring out. My short term memory is… re-read that first part; I just had to.
A couple months or so ago, I started to shake, to tremble. Figured it was all the caffeine and sugar I drank. After giving up cigars and changing my entire diet, giving up coffee and Cokes was almost easy. But the shakes got worse, not better. First my handwriting got comical. Then unreadable. Then I had trouble holding the pen. When I was finally ready to see an endocrinologist, she wasn’t ready to see me for ten days. Those days were spent sometimes crying, often huddled, and always useless. I was too weak to pick up my baby. I’d become a lousy father, and half a husband at best.
I should have seen a doctor sooner, but couldn’t. At first I was afraid I had the same thing that killed my father so young, and I couldn’t face that. Couldn’t even admit it. By the time I’d figured out I probably had some kind of hyperthyroid disease (thanks WebMD!), we were in the middle of changing our family health insurance. In the meantime, I dropped down to 116 lbs. I’m 5’10”, people. At that height, doctors will tell you that 116 lbs is “not good.”
As soon as the new insurance kicked in, I went to see my GP. When the blood work came back, hyperthyroidism was as obvious as a kick to the crotch. Let’s look at the numbers.
If you have a thyroid count anywhere above 180, then you are sick. To rephrase, if your thyroid level is at 181, then you have a problem. On November 17, my blood thyroid was 1,480. Yeah, that’s over eight times the maximum healthy level. Then it got worse.
There was some good news in all this. My thyroid was busy, but it hadn’t grown over-large. No goiters for my vain self, thank you very much. Also, I’ve kept all my hair. And if I ever get this skinny again, I’m going to tell people I did it on purpose. Auschwitz Chic, I’ll say.
The endo doc saw me on Dec 1. Dr. Susan Henley told me I “probably” have Grave’s disease, maybe not, and that, whatever, the treatment isn’t difficult. She also told me that there’s no ever getting cured, and that blood tests and medications would last my lifetime. The good news is, the weight will come back all by itself. The bad news is, my strength is gone — I’ll have to work to get it back. Anyway, the doc put me on three drugs, not one of which was any fun at all, not even when combined with medicinal Scotch prescribed by Dr. Steve.
Two of the drugs were for my blood pressure. It had always been low, but now it’s on the low side of high. The first one (I’ve forgotten the name) lasted only a few days, and worked on my moods swings and attitude along with my BP. Without it, I’m not sure I’d have made it another 20 days to tell you this story — and that’s not hyperbole. The second drug is Inderal LA, and that’s pure BP medicine. The third drug is a little more interesting.
I’ve done my my web research on hyperthyroid drugs, and so I know a little something about Propylthiouracil. For “moderate to severe” hyperthyroidism, 300mg a day is indicated. My prescription bottle tells me to take that much — each morning, noon and night. And let me say that at 50mg per pill, 900mg is an awful lot to swallow. Generally, that first course of treatment takes two-to-six months. Which isn’t too bad, considering my thyroid probably started to go out of whack over a year ago.
At least hyperthyroid has this happy irony: The worse your condition, the faster the meds work. Doctor Henley told me she expects me to see real results much closer to the two-month mark than the six-month. Let me also tell you I’m experiencing some, uh, apparently “not”-real results. Though they sure feel real to me.
Henley warned me that my new drugs “might” cause my shortness of breath to temporarily get worse. Uh-huh, thanks, doc. I started my pills on the night of Friday, Dec 1. I spent the entire weekend in the prone position, batting the cat away from my chest, trying desperately to catch my breath, I kid thee not.
Monday, I felt a little better. That first week I picked up two pounds, maybe two-point-five, and my hands were steadier. Last weekend the scale read 118.5, and I hadn’t seen a number that high in weeks. This morning I weighed 124.5. Before I got in bed to write this sob story, I weighed 125. Untreated, I lost thirty pounds since late last year. At this rate of increase, I figure I’ll put them all back on in about 50 days. In twelve weeks I might be shopping in Levi’s Big and Tall (But Not Really Tall, Bub) Department.
Really, I wish it were that easy. Today, I have the waist of a girl. Actually, a chick — a really hot chick. Tomorrow I could just be blubber. Since I already have high blood pressure, getting fat is no joke. So I’ve got to put the weight on, but I’ve got to do it right.
Insurance isn’t going to pay for me to go to re-hab, much as I might need it. Whatever muscle I get back, I’ll have earned – but it’s up to me, and just me, to do it. The other day I tried, and failed, to do a single pushup. So I leaned over on the bathroom counter and pushed myself up from there.
Ten of those was effort on Sunday. By Friday, three sets of ten, spread throughout the day, weren’t enough. Before the new year, I aim to do five real pushups, all in a row. I’d talk about the work I need to do on my legs, but I am so not yet ready to talk about my spindly weak little legs.
Look. The disease I have, whatever it is, isn’t going to kill me. It’s going to be a nuisance for the for the rest of my life, but a nuisance I can deal with. Whether it’s weakness or anger or depression or whatever, I’ll cope. Not just cope, but prosper. And I’ll do so with the help of my friends-as-family and, especially, with the never-flagging support of my bride, Melissa.
To everyone else…
I appreciate every concern everyone passed my way, and I apologize for not answering you weeks or even months ago. I should have, but I wasn’t yet ready to. Words can’t express what your words meant to me, and how godamn lousy I feel that these few words come so late.
Work was neglected, too. Sorry (pay attention, Robert B and others), but my judgement and temper were both so out of whack that no sane reply was possible. Nor could I ask Melissa to speak on my behalf. That would have been unfair to her, and to you, too. And wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since nothing sensible from me would have resulted.
However, just because I’ll be popping thyroid pills every day for the rest of my life doesn’t mean I won’t recover. I’ve made what feels like remarkable progress in just two weeks, so I’ll blog when as I’m able, as my health and strength return. I can’t make any promises, but now I can say at least that I have some sanity.
And when will you get the real-deal VodkaPundit again? The day I can throw my son in the air and not worry about catching him — that’s the day I’ll return.
In the meantime, cheebus, it’s not like I’m dead or anything. Laugh already.
Here’s a postscript of stuff I tried to include in the original post, but it didn’t quite fit. Because it’s yet another example of how much your thyroid can mess you up.
I went to see my endocrinologist, and we talked about my symptoms, disease, prognosis, and treatment. There are three ways to treat hyperthyroid: by taking pills to control it, by drinking radioactive iodine (RAI) to kill the excess thyroid cells, or by surgery to remove them.
Henley told me that my thyroid was so hyper, that surgery wasn’t an option. You know that before surgery, they clean the to-be-cut skin with iodine. Well. If that pure iodine got inside and touched my thyroid, it could kill me right there on the table. “OK, let’s not do that,” I agreed.
Two options left, and I started to weep. I didn’t sob, I didn’t wail; I wept. I could still speak, so I told her, “Whatever works fastest, just do it. If I have another week like last week, I just, I just can’t.” And literally, I couldn’t have, I think.
Look, if you have thyperthyroid, you already know what I mean. And if you might, then don’t dick around like I did. Just get to your doctor so you don’t have a “last” week like I did.