Tuesday, 15 January 2019



I felt like a sluggish and bloated blob. 

My joints ached, my skin was dry, and I couldn’t remember where I put my glasses – or keys – or cellphone – more often than usual. An intolerance to heat or cold made me feel like I was going through menopause - for the second time. In spite of Miralax, flaxseed, and Colace, I carried around a backlog that could explode without warning. I didn’t feel balanced inside. 

I downloaded the app, MyFitnessPal, and kept track of my 1200 caloric input plus protein, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar and fat. My breakfast and lunch were high protein shakes blended into crushed ice. Dinner was some kind of low fat protein and a salad. Boring. A 6.4 mile hike up and down the equivalent of 64 floors - 15,600 steps - was only worth 245 burned calories.

Irritating to me and so stinking obvious when I wore leggings was that, in spite of my efforts, I continued to gain weight at a relentless half-a-pound a month. The weight gain was unremitting and caused me nothing but grief. That meant in the last two years I had gone from size 8 to a generous 12 and I was still growing. My thighs and waist were flourishing in a way I didn’t want them to. I was ticked.

I went to my practitioner and complained. He ordered new labs – again - and when the results were in he said, “Your TSH is too high so I’m decreasing the strength of your Synthroid.”

Synthroid was my thyroid regulating medication of choice. 

“You’re lowering it? What about my weight gain? What about the way I feel?”

My practitioner mocked me with his bug eyes, abused my trust in him and said, “Those aren’t important. You don’t want me to lower your Synthroid because you like the rush it gives you. Synthroid is a stimulant and you’re hooked on it. You’re a senior woman now. You need to accept that you’re getting older and gaining weight is a natural part of aging.”

His white coat hung loose on his skinny bones as he played with his toy stethoscope, spun on his spindly legs and left me with my mouth hanging open.

Hooked? Hooked on Synthroid? I’ve been accused of being a lot of things: child abuser, liar, whore, murderer – but this was the first time anyone had accused me of being an addict. Absurd. Synthroid is not a stimulant. It’s a replacement for hormones that my body no longer made. There was no rush associated with Synthroid. It takes six weeks or more for Synthroid to affect blood levels. 

TSH - thyroid stimulating hormone - is only one lab to accurately measure what I had: hypothyroidism, or slow thyroid. Eight times more women than men are affected. What is true is I also had Hashimoto thyroiditis, an auto-immune disorder. Almost half of those with Hashimoto’s have a secondary auto-immune disorder such as celiac disease, Lupus, reactive arthritis, or Type 1 diabetes. 

Hope that my practitioner would listen to me died. I became so mad I could cry. His crass response triggered my PTSD and I felt the beginnings of a migraine. Upon check-out, I informed the medical assistant, “Dr. Ozzo is fired. I will send for my records when I have found a replacement.”

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis was first described in 1912 by its namesake Hakaru Hashimoto. According to the EndocrineWeb, around 14 million people in the USA are currently affected by the disease. 

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease. Lymphocytes are the large white blood cells that make the anti-bodies that start the autoimmune process. They are designed to protect the body from harmful pathogens.

As if the thyroid is some vile enemy, Hashimoto’s disease causes the thyroid to be attacked by the immune system via these lymphocytes. Lymphocytes and antibodies build up in the thyroid, making the thyroid enlarged and inflamed. The thyroid does survive, but the consistency of the tissue changes, may lead to the development of a goiter, and makes the thyroid somewhat disabled. 

I developed a goiter in 1990 while I was pregnant with my third child. I found a bilateral lump on my throat and immediately knew what it was because I was an RN. An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed it. 

Though it weighs less than an ounce, the thyroid is one of the master glands of the body. It resides near the Adam’s apple in the neck and looks like a tiny bow-tie. 

The thyroid gland’s major function is to ensure efficient function of heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism. Major complications throughout the whole system can occur when the thyroid malfunctions. Hypothyroidism leads to a general slowing down of metabolism and all bodily functions. The human body has about thirty-seven trillion cells and most of them have thyroid hormone receptors.

Poor thyroid performance can trigger a wide range of issues throughout the mind and body. The thyroid’s function is to take iodine and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).

Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced by the pituitary gland when the levels of T3 or T4 drop too low. TSH then triggers the thyroid to increase production of these hormones. That’s why it’s important to test all the hormones of the thyroid: TSH, T3, T4, and anti-bodies. 

There are various medications for the thyroid. If one doesn’t work, it’s important to keep trying until the correct medication for your body and thyroid are found and balance is restored. 

When my adolescent practitioner dismissed me and how I felt about my disturbing symptoms, I did my own research to better understand why my thyroid and I were working against each other. 

I looked through ZocDoc and established care with an endocrinologist who tested every function of my thyroid and added an ultrasound. When my labs came back, my T3 and antibodies were way out of whack. I was kept on Synthroid but Cytomel, a thyroid medication specific to T3, was added. 

My antibodies leveled off and my weight has stabilized. I no longer feel twisted up inside.
My husband?  I have enough energy for the night shift now … Oh, joy!

For more stories on living with a disabled thyroid:
True Crime Memoir – Survivor: As Long As I Breathe
is dedicated to:
survivors of emotional, physical, spiritual, or sexual abuse,
those who have had to bury a murdered child,
former members of a religious cult based on misogyny,
children born with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome,
and anyone who was falsely accused of a crime.

Joyce A Lefler is a true crime survivor and the author of
From Miracle to Murder: Justice For Adam.
She is a facilitator for Parents of Murdered Children,
a bereavement counselor, registered nurse,
and an advocate against abuse.

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