I’ve been researching personal accounts of thyroid conditions and have found them very helpful so I thought I should create a new category for my blog and whip up a few entries to bring the story of my journey with a thyroid condition up to date before my surgery.
This one is about how the condition began, what I first noticed, the symptoms I am sure are thyroid related and so on.
The very first sign, looking back, that I can remember was a change to my neck. As I was brushing my hair one day, about four years ago, I noticed what looked like a little roll of fat just above my collar bone on the right side of my neck.
I remember thinking it was a bit strange that it was only on one side of my neck but I am overweight and I thought I was just starting to put excess weight on my neck as well as everywhere else.
To be honest, I still think it is a roll of fat, but the growth of the lump in my thyroid gland underneath it has pushed it up and made it noticeable.
The roll of fat became more noticeable, to me, as time went by but I still thought it was just fat. It really didn’t sink in that, if my neck actually was getting fat, it should have been happening on both sides not just one.
I was not aware that thyroid conditions are so common. One site said if you live to be 80 there is a 90 percent chance you will develop a thyroid condition but I never thought of my thyroid gland as being the cause of the change in my neck.
Since then I have seen that it is recommended you do the drink test. Stand in front of a mirror and drink a glass of water. If you see a lump moving in your neck as you swallow you should get your thyroid checked. I don’t know if I would have seen a lump move back then but there is a large lump moving when I do that test now.
There were a couple of other little changes about that time but nothing that could not be explained by menopause, too much diet coke, too many smokes, a poor diet and lack of exercise.
Some things stand out, however, including a change in my eyesight. I began to get what I can only explain as shiny spots in my eyes. These were like “floaters” but instead of being dark spots they were shiny and they passed. I had them a couple of times and I have since found out they are described on the internet as the start of a migraine. I never had any migraines after getting them though.
The next main symptoms I noticed were shortness of breath and heart palpitations but I blamed my smoking for those. Since finding out I have a thyroid condition I have had my chest, lungs, and heart checked and there is nothing wrong with them so I am assuming those symptoms are thyroid induced.
At first they were just one or two episodes in a whole year but, four years or so later, the heart palpitations happen more often and the shortness of breath is a daily occurrence.
The shortness of breath is a bit odd now I think about it. Sometimes I get short of breath just from getting out of my chair and walking to the kitchen or from having a shower and drying myself. Other times I can do these things with no problem. I can go to work and climb the stairs to the first floor at the start of my shift and be out of breath but, by the end of my shift and my third or fourth trip up the stairs, the problem can improve. Sometimes I climb the stairs for the last time in a shift and I’ll get to the top without being at all short of breath.
Another sign was a change to my voice which I could not hear and did not notice but I work as a telephone counsellor and, gradually, more and more of the callers began to mistake me for a male. I’ve had this job for almost seven years and nobody ever mistook me for a male until about two years ago. At first it was rare but now about 70 percent of callers assume I am male, 20 percent are uncertain and ask me, and 10 percent think I am female. My name, Kim, is given to males and females so callers have to decide what sex I am based on just my voice and, clearly, it has deepened.
The next symptom was more problems with my eyes. They began to feel dry and always seemed to be irritated. I was constantly rubbing them and the right eye was worse than the left. It got so bad I went to have them checked. All they found was an increase in oil production, a decrease in the vision in my right eye, and no obvious reason for the changes.
I’m not sure if the eye symptoms are actually related to my thyroid or not as I had some blood tests done and they came back showing I was vitamin D deficient. I got the results a couple of weeks ago and promptly went and bought some vitamin D pills which I have been taking every day and my eyes feel much better now but I know some thyroid conditions do cause problems with the eyes.
Another symptom that I didn’t really notice was pressure from the lump on my airway at night time. It happened so slowly that I adjusted without realising I was doing it. I stopped curling up in bed with my head tucked down and began to sleep with my head thrown back to keep my neck straight so I wouldn’t feel like I was choking.
This symptom, however, had an unexpected bonus as the deep lines that had begun to appear in the front of my neck have all but disappeared! The down side is that my neck and shoulders always feel tense and knotted up and I have deep lines in the back of my neck instead now.
By this time I was noticing I seemed to be regularly feeling as if there was a lump in my throat but lots of throat clearing and swallowing seemed to make it go away.
The final symptom, and the one that led to the discovery of the thyroid problem, was a cough.
I’m a heavy smoker so I’ve always had a cough but this cough seemed to come from my throat instead of my chest and it got so bad it interfered with my ability to work.
I went to the doctor who had me tested for whooping cough and TB and sent me for an XRay of my chest. When nothing showed up in those tests, but the cough got worse and was making me throw up on occasion, she sent me for a CT scan.
The CT scan showed nothing in my chest but it revealed a bend in my windpipe and it looked as if there was a lump in my thyroid which was causing that. Their report recommended I have my thyroid checked so my doctor sent me for an ultrascan of the throat and that showed a large nodule in the right lobe of my thyroid and several small ones in the left lobe.
My doctor ordered a biopsy of the large nodule and that came back suspicious for follicular cancer so she passed me over to the specialists.
I saw the surgeon a few days later and he ranked me as semi-urgent and added me to the waiting list for an operation to remove the half of my thyroid gland that has the large nodule. I was added to the waiting list on December 2 of 2011.