Tag Archives: health

The Battle of the Thyroid Docs

Statistics

According to studies, which present varying statistics, out of every 10 thyroid sufferers, approximately 7 to 8 are female. It appears that this difference is related to the fact that thyroid conditions are autoimmune in nature for the most part, and that women tend to have more autoimmune illness. (August, 2002)

Prevalence and incidence statistics for Thyroid disorders:

Prevalence of Thyroid disorders: 20 million Americans (NWHIC)

Prevalance Rate: approx 1 in 13 or 7.35% or 20 million people in USA [about data]

Undiagnosed prevalence of Thyroid disorders: about 13 million (based on estimates from the AACE, as reported by Reader’s Digest1; estimated 8 million people (American Medical Women’s Association)

Lifetime risk for Thyroid disorders: 1 in 8 women during their lifetime in the US (American Medical Women’s Association); 1 in 8 for women (NWHIC)

I won’t list all the thyroid symptoms for hypothyroidism but click the link. You will see a biography of my life. After years with our home town GP, I was advised to see a new doctor in high school who finally tested me when I was seventeen. He diagnosed me as being hypothyroid. He made the comment that I had probably had that problem for a number of years. I totally agree.

In third grade I was normal weight. During the next five years I had gained 111 pounds. You can imagine the social problems that caused. My height finally  caught up with my weight in eighth grade and I was able to wear a size 15. Still large but somewhat more proportional.

In high school I gained another twenty five pounds between freshman and senior year.  I lost those twenty five pounds over the summer thanks to Metrecal. That’s basicially a liquid starvation diet. I actually had new friends at college tell me I looked great when I mentioned my weight. They couldn’t believe I was so overweight just three months previously.

My weight yo-yoed for years during college. It once again went down after a tonsillectomy my junior year and once again I was looking fine enough to wear a two piece swim suit.

During that time I never seemed to have much energy, but that was pretty much my life. At times, I was hypersensitive to cold. My face, hands, and feet were often puffy. My hair, which has always been fine, kept getting finer. My brush was filled with hair every day as was the floor of the shower. My nails were brittle, my skin, dry. I lived in a brain fog. My muscles were weak. I was, for so many years, a train wreck. And through all of this I was “normal” on the TSH scale. Of course at that time I wasn’t regularly going to a doctor or having thyroid tests very often. The doctors never discussed the tests with me or told me what the actual results were.  Too often I just heard “You’re normal.”

Then in 1987 my health status really hit the fan. I became extremely tired and my muscles ached and cramped more than I could hardly stand. Those were the early days of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. None of the series of doctors I was seeing (thanks to frequent changes of insurance providers) even recognized either of those problems. I was “depressed” or I “needed to lose weight”. That was in the time of “Yuppie Flu” for those of you who were similarly affected. I don’t remember any of the doctors tracking my thyroid levels. I’ll continue the battle tomorrow. Namaste Attic Annie

 

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Surgery again!

It is 2:15 a.m. and I am still wide awake. I guess that is the price I am paying for the hour nap I took at 5 p.m. I didn’t do it intentionally. Some days all I have to do is sit down and I’m out.

Once again next Wednesday in a week I have an appointment with a surgeon. I joked with Maxine this afternoon that when I’m gone I’m just making it easier for the Egyptian mummifiers to make my body eternal. By the time I die, every organ will probably be gone. I’ve already removed my tonsils, gall bladder, and two lenses due to cataracts in my early 50s. This time it’s both my ovaries.

In spite of several annoying conditions, I try to stay out of my PCPs office. It’s my goal to only go twice a year. Because he won’t let me have a urinalysis when I know I have a UTI, I had to see him a couple of weeks ago. That’s only because all attempts to treat it myself failed this time. Some times I am fortunate enough to head it off at the past.

He ordered the blood work necessary  for the tests I need to have run twice a year. While he was keying (I guess that’s the term now instead of typing) his orders into his computer I asked him about the C 125 test. He told me it gave a lot of false positives and was usually only used to monitor the progress being made during cancer treatment.

I told him that in my father’s family there are seven female cousins. Three of them have already had breast cancer. I was the lucky one who caught it early enough to only need a lumpectomy. I told him about my cousin who died one year ago of ovarian cancer. I realize that first cousins are usually not included in direct blood lines but I tended to see a pattern among us.

He ordered the C 125. Of course I was assuming I would only use it as a reassurance that all was well. It came back slightly high. Since it was time for my yearly visit to my OB GYN, he told me to get over there. Of course he repeated the same thing about false positives that my PCP had said. He said he would have his x ray tech (I guess that’s an outdated term) do a sonogram just to make sure since he wanted to prove it was a false positive.

The sonogram showed I needed a CT scan which I did last Thursday. He called the next day so I wouldn’t have to worry about it the whole weekend. He doesn’t know me all that well even though I’ve been his patient for almost twenty years. When you only see a doctor once a year for fifteen minutes, I guess we really aren’t BFFs yet. That’s only a total of 5 hours when you come to think about it.

I’m carrying around an ovarian cyst the size of a golf ball. He says the type of those cysts are about 96% benign. Women can have them for years without having them removed. There can be one problem. The ovary can torque (or twist) and that shuts off the blood supply. That can create a nasty problem. Also, there is a 30% probability that once it affects one ovary, it can affect the other…thus the pair are coming out together.

You see, because of my heart valve, I have to be on blood thinners the rest of my life. Surgeons don’t like to cut on my any more than absolutely necessary. It’s a big pain going on and off the warfarin and getting the dosage adjusted.

So…next Wednesday I’m losing two more parts of my body. Most of these cysts appear in the bodies of women in their 30s. I have no idea why this one waited twice that long. I’m betting on being in the 96% and that there will be no problem with the surgeon using a laproscope instead of making a big incision. But he told me, and I knew, there are never any promises. He has to wait until he gets in there to see what has to be done. If the ovary has already anchored itself to my bowel, that’s a whole other story. But I’m affirming that isn’t the case.

For those few readers who may see this, say a small prayer on the 16th. If all goes well, I’ll be in recovery before 10 a.m. and home the next day ready to resume full activities in a couple of days. Thanks. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Now you can protect yourself from shingles

Good morning. I have a suggestion for you while you are in this lull between the two major holidays.

I can remember many years ago hearing that an aunt had gotten shingles. I giggled the first time I heard it. I only knew of shingles as something that was put on a roof. I stopped giggling when I heard how much pain the shingles were causing her for the length of time she had them. I never saw them, but from what I understand she had a rather severe case.

As I’ve grown older, I, of course, have learned more about it. I have never known anyone else personally who has been afflicted with shingles until a childhood  friend who has struggled with colon cancer told me she had gotten a case. The way she described it, I finally was convinced enough to move my bottom into action. She has been on chemotherapy for fifteen months which of course has weakened her immune system. As far as I know, my immune system is intact, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

If you’ve ever had chicken pox, you are at risk of developing shingles some time in your life. I can still remember being sick with that. That’s one of my first memories of being ill with something other than asthma. Somebody tied mittens on my hands to keep me from scratching I had them so bad.

From what I understand, shingles doesn’t make you itch so much as cause you to be in intense pain. The medical name for this illness is Herpes Zoster. If you’ve ever had the pain of a fever blister on your lip, multiply the intensity of that pain to sometimes a rather large area of your body. Once you’ve had chicken pox, the virus never leaves your body. As you age, your immune system tends to weaken. Then it can strike again.

Usually it only affects one side of your body. It can last two to four weeks. That was something else I didn’t know. I thought maybe you would be uncomfortable for two or three days and the discomfort would subside.

My doctor had recommended me getting the shingles vaccine, Zostavax,  probably eighteen months ago or more. I just heard him but was really in no hurry to do anything about it. Then my friend told me about her shingles. A few months after that, I saw a morning show host on a channel and a program I don’t think I’ve ever watched. I was just surfing and landed on that particular show. She was talking about just coming back from a case of the shingles. Hers had affected the whole side of her face and eye. Her eye was still slightly swollen. It had been swollen shut. It wasn’t entirely hidden by a make up job. She also talked about the severe pain. I decided it was time to act. She happened to still be in her 40s because she and another medical guest were discussing her relatively young age to get shingles.

I was planning on getting all my vaccines at once but my doctor recommended I spread them out. I got the H1Ni one week and the shingles vaccine the next.

While I was waiting for the nurse, I was handed a flyer on the shingles vaccine entitled “what you need to know”. I had not idea that the herpes virus  could also cause fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. What really caught my attention was that a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, breathing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalits) or even death. About 20% of patients with shingles can continue having severe pain long after the rash clears up. If you know anyone with neuralgia, this it it. It’s called post-herpetic neuralgia.  If you are over 60, your chances of developing the neuralgia rise to 40%. At least one million people a year in the US get shingles. That was enough information to convince me I was doing the right thing.

I was given the vaccine in the back of my arm. It’s a subcutaneour injection. I felt very little discomfort during the injection. My arm started hurting a couple of days later. By standing to the side, I could see the injection site in the mirror. The area was slightly swollen to maybe the area of a playing card. In the center of that was a very red rash about 1/2 in. wide and 1 1/2 inches long. It hurt but was not excruciating. I realized that if my body had reacted to the small amount of vaccine like that, I knew I didn’t want shingles anywhere on my body. The literature says that only 1 out of 3 people will have any kind of reaction.

The shingles vaccine has only been around for three years. If you are not up on lastest medical treatments you might not even be aware of it.

Unfortunately, current data suggests that the vaccine only reduces the risk in 50% of the people receiving it, but it can reduce the pain in people who still get the shingles after having been vaccinated. The vaccine is especially  recommended for those over the age of 60.

There are some people who shouldn’t get the vaccine. If you are allergic to gelatin and have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to it, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of the shingles vaccine you shouldn’t get it. However, the flyer I got didn’t say what the other components of the vaccine were. To my knowledge I’ve never had a physical reaction to any medication so that didn’t concern me. Perhaps, however, I should have asked anyway.

Those who have AIDS or any other disease that weakens the immune system or those who are on prolonged use of high-dose steroids should also not get the vaccine. Radiation like chemotherapy weakens the immune system as well.

They suggested that I wait in the waiting room for 15 minutes after the injection. If anyone is going to have a severe allergic reaction, it would occur within a few minutes to an hour after the shot.

This is a live vaccine. It is a choice that someone has to make. There are risks involved, but there are also benefits. It hasn’t been around long enough to determine its effect in the general population other than for those who participated in the field studies. You’ll have to make up your own minds. I have friends who are against any and all vaccines. Personally, I figure anything that can reduce or free me of potential pain is worth the risk.  I get a flu shot every year, I’ve had the pneumonia vaccine, the H1N1 and, because of having moderately raised levels of liver enzymes, my doctor recommended the Hepatitis A and B vaccines as well. I’ve had my first set of those. I go back in a month and then in six months. I’m not looking forward to the last two shots but at least that one didn’t hurt after the initial discomfort of the injection.

My doctor says that doctors are usually the last in line to receive any of the vaccine medications. He recommended I go to the county health clinic. The wait was not especially long. There were also two other women there to get the shingles vaccine. I guess you might have better luck with less of a crowd if you wait until flu season is over. Think about it. I did.

Namaste. Attic Annie

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Tis the season for concern

It always seems so much sadder when things that cause us grief happen during the holiday season.

Last week we lost one of the council members of our village. She had chest pains and went to the hospital. Before they could schedule surgery to put in stents, she had a heart attack. She appeared to be very healthy at Halloween. She was directing the cake walk and was wearing a delightful witch’s outfit. She, by all outward appearances, was healthy the day before and gone by 11:oo the next day. She was in her 80s.

Maxine, who always has the latest news, talked with me this morning. It seems two husbands in our neighborhood are having medical difficulties. One of them fell and broke three ribs and is now in rehab. He has been having physical problems for some time now. It was decided his body would heal better if he could stay in a rehab situation. I don’t know his exact age, but he is in his mid to late 70s I think. He is also dealing with cancer.

Right across the street from him, another man was going to have a gall bladder operation. He went in for pre-op testing and was admitted to the hospital with liver enzymes, kidney function, and blood pressure issues that were off the chart. There is some talk of perhaps his needing liver or kidney transplants. When I heard that news, I was floored. My first thoughts were for his wife. He got laid off his job a month or so ago and lost his insurance. I was so worried that she would be wiped out with medical bills.

I called a friend of hers to find out just how bad off he was. The friend told me as much as she knew. I asked where he was a patient. When she told me the name of the hospital, I was somewhat relieved. I was expecting to hear that he was in the county hospital. It seems a couple of weeks ago, he and his wife were able to get on COBRA and are covered for the next fifteen months. I am so thankful he was able to get insurance. There is some talk of his needing a liver or kidney transplant.

A few weeks ago I wrote a response to someone who thought insurance was a privilege for those who could afford it and too bad for those who couldn’t. This would have been a perfect example of a woman who has been for most of her marriage a traditional stay-at-home wife. She devoted her life to her husband and two children. Without insurance, she and her husband would have lost everything. It just wouldn’t have been right. Due to the high number of people who have lost their jobs, I guess that COBRA has become much more reasonable. However, I’m wondering what the next step for them will be. Perhaps he will be on SS disability by then. I know nothing of insurance in that situation. However, I’m wondering how she will get coverage. She is scared.

The friend I called has been fighting four bouts of pneumonia the last two springs and falls. She has been extremely healthy all her life. Now she has something that is proving difficult to cure. She has an appointment with an infectous disease specialist to try to find out why she can’t shake this problem and be well again.

Maxine’s husband has had troubles with his knee. I thought he was going to be scheduled for knee surgery in the near future but I guess that option has been postponed in lieu of doing other things first. Supposedly there is a new treatment available. There is a new medication available made out of the combs of roosters. Who would believe something like that could be discovered?  It is an injection called synvisc one and is supposed to give relief for six months. Maxine is very thankful this treatment is available since her husband is now 88 years old.

Next door to me, my neighbor has aterial disease in her legs. She had to have veins removed, turned around and transplanted into her arteries in her legs. Both her legs were sliced open from her groin almost to her knees. Her doctors told her she had “skinny white woman’s disease”. Evidently, in that subset of the population, arteries tend to close down as women age, and very petite women have more of that type of problem than more average size women or men. She was in so much pain she could hardly walk from her bed to the bathroom nearby. She is still in her fifties so it wasn’t a result of too much aging. Maxine and I were happy to see she was outside taking a brief walk this morning.

I saw a friend at the church concert yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. She was walking with a cane. When I asked what had happened, she replied that she had had a cancerous tumor removed from her kidney. It was much larger than they had suspected from the MRI. However, she admitted that the films were taken last January. She just hadn’t done much about it.

My neighbor across the strett has lived with a bad knee for quite a while. It has finally gotten to the point where he has finally agreed to have a knee replacement. He will be recovering after the surgery the first week of February. Two of my other neighbors have also had knees replaced in the last year or two.

I guess this time of our lives is when we start to wear out. Everyone I mentioned today is over 60 except for the woman with the arterial disease. We are all starting to fall apart.

I guess I could concentrate on how much pain and suffering is occuring in this neighborhood, but that doesn’t do much good. I am praying for them and hoping their situations will improve.

This is the season when we are all supposed to deck the halls and be merry. We are all supposed to be filled with the holiday spirit. In truth, this month is no different from any of the other eleven months when it comes to medical problems. It just seems so much more serious at this time of the year.

So far I am doing quite well, thank you. I hope to continue to enjoy the season and my friends. I am trying to be as much support as I can to my friends and neighbors. I’m happy I know them well enough to care. How much do you know about your neighbors? Is there anyone around you who could use some help? How are all of you doing? I wish you good health. Now it’s time to walk with my neighbor. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Experiencing “Wellness”

“Life is one indivisible whole. A person cannot do right in one department whilst attempting to do wrong in another department.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

balance_wheel

Today was a first. I had my blog all done last night and I forgot to publish it before I went to church this morning.  I just now realized it. I don’t know if anybody stopped by the front porch today or not but if you have found me and like to drop by, I apologize for not being home.

I volunteered along with my friend to work representing our church at a Wellness Expo this afternoon. We were the last shift before closing. By the time we sat down there was very little traffic passing our tables by anyone other than other church members. The church I attend is very big on holistic health methods, meditation, and prayer as very effective ways to help the body achieve maximum health.

Since there was so little traffic, we took turns visiting other booths. I wanted to have my aura photographed but it was a popular place. By the time my turn for the photograpy would have come up, it would have been past time for me to begin my turn at our table. I had my aura read three years ago. I was of course my skeptical self but when the reader asked if I had problems with my neck, I cautiously said I had been in a car accident a couple of months before and my head snapped side to side. She proceeded to show me the photograph, and there, on the left side of my neck was a black spot from my shoulder to my ear where there was no light. “Signs of recent trauma,” she said. “Weird,” thought I. I was hoping to compare the two photos but no such luck this time.

There were a number of chiropractors, acupuncturists,  and gizmo sellers. I especially enjoyed talking to the essential oils sellers. They have an oil for everything, but boy, it’s not cheap.

Fragrances for sale

There was a chiropractor who had a gizmo which “read your spine” neurologically and projected it on a monitor. The severest sign of misalignment showed up as black marks on either side of the picture of the spine. Mine was black bars starting with my neck all the way down to the tail. I thought, “They probably have it set that way so the chiropractor could gain new customers.” I have to get a new chiropractor anyway, so I took the bait and made an introductory $30.00 appointment for a week from this Tuesday. My beloved chiropractor is moving to east Texas. I will certainly miss her. She’s kept me pain free for five years. I know I am getting old when this expo chiropractor looks like she belongs on a high school pom pom squad, petite, blond hair and all.

I asked my friend what the results of her reading was, truly expecting similar results. She said, “Oh, I had a couple of black bars at my neck and  a couple of blue bars on my lower back. Why?” Well, there went that theory. I had to admit I’m really screwed up.

Of course some of my problem might be the amount of time I find I am spending at this computer. I read a blog on MSN several days ago that sitting too long at a computer can make your breasts sag and your belly pooch. http://health.msn.com/blogs/print.aspx?post=1205816

David Zinczenko wrote,  “So let me explain the importance of posture in a way that’s a little more specific: A bent spine might mean back problems, a big protruding belly, and saggy breasts.

Did that get your attention?

Here’s how it works: When you slouch forward all the time—like you probably do while working on your computer or driving your car—your chest muscles actually stiffen, which pulls your shoulders forward into a permanent slump. The result: A look that’s unbecoming to your bosom. Worse, hunching forward also puts more stress on your upper spine, which leads to neck, back, and shoulder pain. Did your neck start hurting one day and never stop? It’s probably the result of poor posture.”

Of course the title of his work mentioned how high heels can do the same thing. Fortunately, I cannot wear high heels and I’m beyond the place where I care if my shoes are fashionable or not. High heels would be the death of me.

I talked with the aroma therapy vendors about my frequent lack of sleep. One pair seemed to be quite interested in helping. I walked away with a $34.50 (wholesale) bottle of “Peace and Calm” containing 240 drops of a mixture of oils. I’m supposed to put one drop on the tip of my nose or right under it for a good night’s sleep. She had put a drop of it on my hands. I’m glad my friend was driving me home because I yawned all the way. Now that I’ve been home for a while the scent is not as evident so I’m no longer quite as sleepy. I’m looking forward to bed tonight if it really is that effective. Six hours of uninterrupted sleep sounds heavenly.

Another vendor had me take a whiff of a bottle he  passed under my nose. He had asked me if I knew what chakras were. He said this oil was guaranteed to open some of my chakras. I whiffed the first time and felt a very light change to my throat. He told me to remember the feeling. He passed it under my nose again and then a third time. The second pass I felt something in my abdomen, the third under my breastbone. He then had me read the label. “For throat, heart, and solar plexus chakras,” it said. Blew me out of the water!

There was a heated mat you could lay on that contained amythest crystals which are supposed to be able to aid your immune system, etc etc etc. It was very soothing and comforting but not for $1700. If you have money to burn….http://bio-mats.com/products 

I never had a chance to visit the reflexologists and massage therapists. Oh well, maybe next year. It’s almost 9 by the time I get some chores done, I will be more than ready for bed. Yes, I’m writing this blog the night before. In case I’m still sleeping when you drop by, just ring the doorbell. Ri-Leigh will wake me up! Namaste Attic Annie

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