I’d always been skinny. I don’t mean stylishly slim. Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive Oil, used to make me cry. Twiggy’s popularity did not help during my teen years. It was cool to be skinny. Regardless of fashion, I didn’t think it was normal to eat so much and lose weight. I didn’t think it was normal to always be too cold or too hot. I hoped it wasn’t normal to fly off the handle over everything. I prayed it wasn’t normal to be this afraid. My doctor’s opinion, “I’ve got 30 women who wish they had your problem” didn’t help. It would take seven years and a goiter to confirm that I had Graves Disease, a thyroid disease that attacks 20 million Americans.
My hyperthyroid body was not storing any of my food. A dietitian suggested eating every hour. I drank weight-gaining milkshakes daily. I was eating almost 5,000 calories a day. Food became a medicine. Cookies had a lot of calories. Frosted Poptarts with butter had more. I lost all sense of taste. At 5′ 7″ and 101 pounds, I looked like a concentration camp survivor.
Because the Graves disease was an extreme case, I decided on radioactive iodine treatments. It wasn’t a fashion choice. I was a living Tsunami. I was constantly restless and irritable. My mind jumped through topics like Robin Williams on steroids. If I was awake, I was busy. My over stimulated thyroid created a storm that raged against my metabolism. All physical and chemical processes were being stimulated by an over achieving cheerleader.
Once you get through the discovery phase, life becomes a series of choices that either keep you active or put you back in bed. Control stress. Eat well. Stay active. Become an active participant on your health care team.
After the radioactive iodine treatments, I became acquired hypothyroid. For the rest of my life I must take a thyroid replacement. Graves disease is chronic. The thyroid hormone is vital to survival, so checking hormone levels is mandatory. Any doctor can order a blood test, but a certified endocrinologist is best qualified to interpret the results.
Today, I no longer buy clothes in the junior department. I’ve learned to talk myself out of panic attacks unless a knife-wielding stranger has me cornered. I eat all the food groups. Walking on the beach, exercises everything. And when I watch cartoons, Olive Oil is funny.