Howdy from across the Atlantic. Reporting live from my living room where I am drinking all manner of ungodly potions in an attempt to eradicate a sore throat. It occurs to me that having hypothyroidism and celiac disease is quite a lot like having a little common cold in one respect: you feel mildly crap at all times. Always a little on the invalid side. Sure, you can laugh at TV shows and drag your butt out for a drink, but inside, your body is moaning a low and steady, “bleeeeeurrrrgh” at all times. That’s where the similarity ends and one glaring difference appears – having a chronic disease of the thyroid gland, and being allergic, but not fatally, to gluten, is very unlike the common cold in that the general public have no idea what you’re talking about when you inevitably have to talk about it, and thus they illicit very little understanding. Because it is just as disruptive and inconvenient as the flu, often more so, but not as familiar as a peanut allergy, or as obviously uncomfortable as arthritis. So when I explain about not being able to eat gluten or having a gland problem, I come across like the sniveling little sissy boy from The Secret Garden:
“I really can’t eat that bagel. Not unless you want me to travel home on a poo rocket”.
I’ve had hypothyrodisim, a condition that means my thyroid gland is forever straggling along at sub-par levels, since I was twelve. I’ve known I have celiac disease for the last four years, but gaging by my childhood health problems, I’ve probably had that a lot longer too. This doddling duo don’t do anything dramatic if you keep general tabs on them, really they’re about the long game. The thyroid gland is an essential part of the endocrine system which governs your orchestra of hormones – your metabolism, sleep, mental health and clarity, lust for life and sex – all these get their cues from the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands, and if one isn’t in harmony then they all tend to go off key. Celiac disease manifests itself in umpteen symptoms, which is why it classically goes undiagnosed. I myself react with oozey, bleeding, pustular rashes that would make a plague doctor flinch, and a kooky medley of digestive and mental side effects, the mildest of which include diarrhea and anxiety, the most severe including holes in my gut and raging OCD. Nice stuff.
So Amanda and I chit chat on the regular about being unwell. Recently, we’ve both been going through a rough patch. She was having a (bum) bleeding awful time in and out of the doctor’s with her Crohns, and I was being continually disconcerted by my GP’s lackadaisacal handling of my general poor health and my upcoming annual thyroid cancer test. My thyroid is covered in nasty little nodules which have to have an eye kept on them for signs of cancer. So every six months I have an ultrasound to check on their fluctuating size, then a needle is jiggled, yes jiggled, deep into my nodules to collect cell samples.
Like this but less scary because it’s not John Travolta.
Sometimes I get the all clear, sometimes, the test comes back inconclusive for various reasons, and the endocrinologist gives a helpful shrug and consoles me with the knowledge that thyroid cancers are very slow spreading should I have one, or that I could always have the whole damn thing removed and replace this very vital gland with thyroid medication that has never worked well for me at all, for the rest of my (probably sluggish and miserable) life. For both of us it has often seemed that no one really knows what you’re experiencing or how best to help, which leaves you squinting at endless internet sites compiling a hodge-podge of notes on how to fix yourself. Well dear readers…
Welcome to our hodge-podge!
We’re two best friends separated by an ocean but joined by many bonds, one of them being our crummy bods, our inflammatory tendencies. We’re trying everything within our reach – traditional medical routes, alternative ones, ones my Serbian grandmother suggests (it involves a candle and… maybe the devil? I don’t know, cabbage features heavily), anything and everything to feel a bit better, and who knows, maybe even glorious. Ha! We’ll see.
Fingers crossed, buttholes clenched, minds open.
Love Glandy x