3 years ago this fall my health changed dramatically. I was sitting on the floor of my apartment working on a scrapbook and eating peanuts when I started to feel dizzy. I lay down on my bed and waited for Jay to arrive home. Within an hour my throat felt like it was closing up and we were walking to the hospital (which was a few blocks away). That evening I didn’t actually enter the hospital, but it marked the beginning of a 2 1/2 year battle with my body.
All sorts of thoughts were running through my head, but ALLERGY was lit up in bright lights and blinking on my forehead. I’m allergic to many things, but as far as I know I’ve only ever been allergic to one food: chocolate. My dad has some mild food allergies (including peanuts) but they started much later in life. Could I possibly be allergic to peanuts? My father also suffers from urticaria where his lips and face swell. Perhaps I had that? The thoughts alone began to drive me crazy.
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Humans have this interesting ability to not only adapt to pretty much anything, but to become attached.
When I was 15 my doctor felt a lump in my throat; it was a thyroid goiter. Not just any thyroid goiter though. It was so big that it’s embarrassing to say I didn’t notice it myself. The most surprising thing about it? It wasn’t cancer and all my levels were normal.
I kept that thyroid goiter for 13 years.
Over the years I had a few dates “confirm” with me that I was in fact female. I guess the combination of a low voice and a lump in my throat threw some of them off.
At the doctor’s office I was a celebrity; every time I went for a visit I would be paraded around like a prop to all the residents. Apparently it is unheard of to have a benign goiter that large causing no major health issues.
Despite the endless blood samples and the mildly lopsided reflection in the mirror, I grew to like my goiter. It became part of me. Eventually it began to grow again, pushing on my esophagus. I had it removed a couple of years ago. It’s a good thing I did- they found precancerous growths underneath it.
Now, all I’m left with now is a somewhat numb (but almost unnoticeable) scar and a normal sized right thyroid. To this day I still reach for my throat expecting my goiter to be there. I’m still shocked when I look at my neck in the mirror and it”s not there.
The goiter caused me discomfort, countless trips to the doctor, pints of blood, and the unspoken concern that it would become cancerous. I wasn’t born with it and I certainly didn’t want it. But now that it’s gone I feel like a little piece of my identity went with it.
The human mind is a strange thing.
I have had a mild weight problem since I hit puberty; I didn’t lose my baby fat like most of my peers. My mother had a significant weight problem, and she struggled with it her whole life. My metabolism isn’t amazing, but at 16 I managed to get to a weight I was comfortable with. Soon after I was diagnosed with a thyroid goiter and then less than a year later, after a family tragedy, I fell into a deep depression.
During the next 5 years I gained, and then lost 80 lbs. I hated myself and stopped really living. I felt like my old self inside, but my mirror mocked me. I tried to watch what I ate, and I tried to exercise but my weight kept creeping up. My doctor told me I wasn’t working hard enough. I could feel the stares from the strangers on the street and the pity from my friends. It took me 3 years to realize that the anti-depressants (perhaps with a side order of thyroid issues) might be the problem. It took me another 1 year to convince myself that they were definitely the problem. It wasn’t until I lost the weight that I convinced my psychiatrist. I’m still not sure my family doctor believes me.
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