Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Thyroid Blues

About a year ago, I was noticing some hair loss. I was also experiencing constant fatigue and chalked it up to getting older. It turns out my thyroid wasn't working right. This should have come as no surprise to me since my mom has taken thyroid medication since she was in her late 20's. I count myself lucky it hasn't been an issue sooner. My family doctor started me off on thyroid medication and scheduled blood work and a return appointment for two months later.

I should have known when the pharmacist said, "Hmmm. That seems like a high dosage to start with." Within a week, I was a jittery mess. This coincided with consuming large amounts of an energy drink that my daughter was selling for a high school sports fundraiser, so I'd assumed it was due to the beverage. That is, until my blood work came back. My low thyroid condition jumped to hyper thyroid, all due to the wrong dosage of the medication.

My hair began falling out by the hands full. I was in tears after a shower, asking Girl if she could see a bald spot after I felt a whole section of hair give when I combed conditioner through it.

My doctor lowered the dosage, and after two months I gradually began to notice a change in the amount of hair loss as well as an increase in my energy level. I returned to my doctor to review my new blood test results, but he still wasn't happy with my thyroid levels numbers. He changed the prescription to an even lower dosage. What I didn't anticipate was how much adjusting to the medication and the highs and lows of thyroid changes would affect me. 

Internet, can I just tell you how much this sucks? It feels like I'm starting junior high school, everyday. WTH?

I began having anxiety, accompanied by a constant sensation of heartburn and a tightness in my throat. I began losing hair again. The intense fatigue returned and I struggled to show up for my commitments. Things that ordinarily brought me pleasure began to feel overwhelming and burdensome.

In February, I stayed with friends in Ventura the night before a half marathon. I had looked forward to visiting with My Best Girl and The Kent as much as running the race, only to be overcome with terrible anxiety the night before. I seriously considered scratching the race and going home. I somehow managed to show up in the morning and finish the race in 2:17. I'd run the same distance three months earlier in 2:05.

I returned to the doctor to review my blood work for a third time, and he glowingly announced that the thyroid numbers were spot on. I told him, "That's well and good - but I feel worse than I did before I started the medication! I've probably lost a third of my hair. I DON'T FEEL GOOD!"

He returned me to the previous dosage, and I am slowly noticing improvement. The constant heartburn is gone and the anxiety is manageable. I was referred to a dermatologist for my hair loss, but he didn't see any issues with my scalp. He explained that hormonal changes produce a hair loss cycle, such as after a pregnancy. He said that the fluctuation of my thyroid levels triggered the same response.

Silver lining: This is an easily treatable condition. My hair is thinning but the only person that's bothered by that is me. The fact that I ran a 10:29 minute mile in February doesn't make me any less of an athlete. I got this.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Technologically Challenged

Although technology is shiny and fun - one of my friends called the iPhone 'sexy', most of it seems unnecessary and excessive. We only recently got both caller id and call waiting after changing phone companies.

I don't come into this stuff easily.  We unknowingly got these services as apart of a bundle and while I am loathe to admit that I'm sort of in love with our caller id, I despise call waiting. It's bad enough to be put on hold when calling a business - I've got things to do, motherfucker - but I hate being put on hold during a personal call. Apparently it goes both ways; I've had several friends freak when calling my house and they get a busy signal.

I was the same way with cell phones. I figured anybody who needed one was waiting breathlessly for the phone call telling them their new kidney was in. And if they had a moment, could they come on down to the hospital?

The idea of being constantly reachable held no appeal. I also figured if anything serious happened to me that the universe would take care of it. Once our daughter was born, all that changed. I got a cell phone for emergencies and never looked back. My newest phone has a tiny keyboard and texting has become a quicker, preferred way to communicate. This is an actual text I sent today, picking up the girls for the afternoon carpool:

"Here! And I have cupcakes!"

Now that their older, both our kids are acutely aware of and love electronica. Boy enjoys gaming (Wii, PlayStation 3) and Girl is saving money and earning good grades to get an iPhone. So, I still use the phone book, yes, I'm that person - but it has a dual purpose. It's secondary use is to elevate our bedside fan. How's that for multitasking?!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Aside from briefly working at a department store, the only job that I can recall my mom having is as an aide in a psychiatric unit.  About 15 years ago, she went back to school to earn her RN and gets paid boat loads more for doing the same work. When I still was too young to leave unsupervised, my mom would occasionally bring me to work with her to pick up her paycheck or for a quick meeting.

Surprisingly, it was actually perfectly safe. My mom worked on a voluntary unit, which meant the patients were there because they wanted to be and not because they were forced to. Her co-workers doted over me, buying me snacks from the vending machines and giving me markers and paper to color with. If my mom had a staff meeting, I was allowed to play in one of the vacant rooms and use the intercom to sing and chat with the nurses at the front desk. One of my favorite stories they shared with me was the young girl visiting the unit that answered, "...God?" when her name was called over the intercom.

As a girl, I was wildly embarrassed about being there and proud of her all at the same time. There was a certain amount of stigma to get over. It was hardly like my mom worked for a dentist or as a checker at the grocery store, like a 'normal' mom would.

As an adult, many people have told me that they could not imagine working in such a profession. I am sure that my mom has heard this dozens of times herself. However, she is so extraordinarily loving, patient, firm and skilled that people under the hardest and most stressful conditions respond to her.

Several years ago, the two of us were at a restaurant during my mom's visit when a woman approached our table. She said that although she didn't expect to be remembered, she wanted to thank my mom for supporting her during a difficult time and that she would always remember her kindness. I was incredibly touched by this gesture, and I know my mom was as well. What makes this moment even more extraordinary is that my mom hasn't worked in California for over 25 years.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for continuing to inspire me and others around you. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Horsing Around

When we were little girls, my best friend Christine and I were horse crazy. We both collected model horses - Breyer horses were our favorites, and played with them for hours.

We read horse books; Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, C.W. Anderson's wonderfully illustrated Billy & Blaze series, and every book written about Alec and his horse 'the Black' in The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley.

We spent school days playing 'horse' on the playground with our friends, and summers riding our imaginary horses in Christine's yard. Her front yard had a gravestone in the middle of the lawn, but no one was actually buried there. It was perfect for jumping our imaginary horses over.

Christine lived near the bluffs of the beach and just the impression of a horse's hoof in the dirt made us sigh with longing. Occasionally, we'd strike gold and see an actual horse and it's rider on the beach. We'd shyly approach and ask to pet their horse - only to then boldly ask, "Can I ride your horse?" The answer was always no.

Even though I knew we could never afford it, I was constantly asking my mom for a horse. My mom always gave me the same answer; she might figure out a way to save enough money to buy one, but the cost of keeping one was another matter.

Horses aren't for the coupon clipper budget. If we could have afforded it, we could buy four horses with the money it would cost to care for just one. Boarding, feed, tack, and farrier costs are just the beginning. For such big animals, horses are unbelievably fragile. Known for hoof, leg and gastric problems (colic or boredom issues such as cribbing), one visit from the vet could quickly add up to thousands of dollars.

Then Christine's mom, Marilynn, had a stroke of brilliance. She decided to lease a horse for Christine. Not just for cars, a lease is a horse-lover's dream: all of the fun with a fraction of the cost. I can still remember the car ride with them out to the stables to meet the owner and see the horse. The mare's name was Trillium, after a pretty white flower that was similar to the white star on her forehead. Trillium was a seal brown, so dark she was almost black. I was absolutely in love.

The car ride home was when the deal only got sweeter. Marilynn offered to let me ride Trillium as well. Christine and I divvied up the week: I got riding privileges every Tuesday and Thursday after school by myself, and we shared Saturdays. I could scarcely believe my luck.

This period of time in my life contains some of my sweetest memories. I will always be grateful to Christine for her friendship and her mom Marilynn for her love and generosity.