When I was in my mid-20’s I noticed that my hair was thinning and falling out a lot more in the shower. This was extremely concerning, because I’m a female and was so young. Around the same time, I also noticed that I was becoming sensitive to the temperature (particularly when it was hot) and my energy level was decreasing.
When I went to the doctor about my thinning hair, she ran some tests and I was diagnosed with Graves disease. This means that my thyroid gland was working too quickly. I met with an endocrinologist who prescribed medication to slow it down, but the medication caused me to gain over 50 pounds! I panicked, stopped taking the medication and did not go back for my annual doctor’s appointment– which I now realize was a big mistake.
A couple years later, my energy level dropped and I started to gain weight again. I became increasingly tired and couldn’t stand being hot! I went back to the endocrinologist, but all of my thyroid hormones levels were within normal range. I continued to raise concerns about my thinning hair, weight gain and low energy level. My doctor listened to my concerns but after many rounds of tests told me that everything was ‘normal’. I knew this wasn’t normal for me. Finally, a year later, my lab results concluded that I was not producing enough thyroid hormones and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease —which was the complete opposite of my original diagnosis. That certainly explained the weight gain and my other health changes.
For almost 2 years, my doctor tested my hormone levels through blood tests and adjusted my medications trying to help me feel ‘normal’ again. We eventually hit a wall with adjusting my medications- nothing was working anymore. I was scheduled for an ultrasound to see what may be going on that we could not see with lab tests. The ultrasound showed a deep nodule inside of my thyroid, so I made an appointment for a biopsy. The biopsy revealed that the nodule was likely cancerous and the cause of all my problems for over 4 years. The day after my biopsy, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was scheduled for surgery to completely remove my thyroid.
My advice is to anyone reading my story is to recognize when you feel ‘off’ and not yourself and to speak up if what is prescribed doesn’t make sense or isn’t working. I knew that feeling tired and not having the energy to do the things I normally do was concerning. I had regular blood tests to adjust my medication, yet I still was not feeling any better. I spoke up to my doctor about how I was feeling, and explored alternatives with her regularly. The communication and good relationship I had with my doctor eventually led to my diagnosis. For a while, I felt like a broken record – but if I did not continue to share my concerns about my health changes with my doctor, they may not have found my cancer before it continued to spread.
- thinning hair
- hair loss
- sensitivity to temperature
- decreased energy level
- unexplained weight gain