Early in 2016, my running pace suddenly got slower, and has only gotten worse since then. I tried not to be too hung up on it, but I did search for some tips on improving pace, and nothing really worked for me. I was plagued by plantar warts all year, so I figured the pain in my feet was causing the slowdown, and once I finally got rid of them, I’d get my pace back where I wanted it.
Those plantar warts stuck around for an awfully long time, but once they finally left in a blaze of glory, my pace kept slowing down and my weight started creeping up. I try very hard not to obsess about my weight, but it is my native language (thanks
dad society!) And I think even regular, not so neurotic people* would at least be frustrated if they were being as active and health conscious as they always are, but suddenly half their clothes don’t fit. By the time of my annual checkup in March, I’d been compulsively googling unexplained weight gain and reduced pace for months, and Dr Google was pretty sure it was hypothyroid. I just needed my actual doctor to get on board, and then I could get on medication, run faster, and fit into my skinniest jeans again. Make it happen, doc!
I have to be the slightest bit fair to my doctor here, because all I said to him was, “I’m having trouble managing my weight, can you check my thyroid?” So I cannot really fault him for referring me to a dietician when my thyroid levels came back normal. It was still incredibly frustrating to hear, because I know I wasn’t just suddenly overeating, and my pace and fatigue issues started before my weight started changing. I’d been so sure it was my thyroid that I never mentioned any of that to him, so, lesson learned, doctors only address the symptoms you tell them about.
I very begrudgingly made an appointment with the dietician, and in the meantime I went for my annual ladybusiness checkup. Is it weird to say I love my gynecologist? Ok, then I won’t say it. I chatted with her about the struggles I’d been having, and we decided to take my IUD out. Neither of us really thought it was the cause of my issues since I’d had it for six years, but she knew that if we didn’t take it out, I would have that seed of doubt nagging at me and making me crazy. She gets me. And since our plan had been to keep it until I was 51, the average age for menopause, and since I’m only 45, we would have had to swap it out at some point anyway. So we took it out, assuming I would see no changes and come back for a new one in the fall.
I told the dietician I was there under duress, but was open to whatever feedback she could give. I had become extra disciplined at that point, because I was determined to prove that I really did have something going on that was causing my issues. She did have some suggestions, but overall, she agreed with me that based on what I was saying, I should at least have been maintaining, and definitely not gaining. Looking at my chart, she said that she wouldn’t rule out hypothyroid, because my numbers were all at the bottom of the normal ranges, and hormones fluctuate. She recommended seeing an endocrinologist, and ended the visit by saying, “I wish all my clients were like you.”
It turns out, it takes a very long time to get an endocrinologist appointment. While I was waiting, I realized that three months had gone by since removing my IUD and I still hadn’t gotten a period. Now, I know this part doesn’t make any sense, because I’d been dealing with this for about a year, and Rich got snipped ages ago, but I can convince myself of anything, so off I went to the pharmacy, because apparently I want to give as much money as I possibly can to the makers of home pregnancy tests. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
99% relieved, 1% would have named her Lois.
I finally got in to the endocrinologist, and it was just about the worst experience I’ve ever had in a doctor’s office. She clearly did not think anything was actually wrong with me, and therefore was not very interested in finding a cause. She said my thyroid numbers looked great, and, for better or worse, it’s just not in me to tell a doctor, “Okay, now I know this is your specialty, but according to this hypothyroid blog I found, the standard ranges are way too broad.” I was trying to focus on my pace and fatigue issues so she wouldn’t think I was just in overeating denial, but she couldn’t seem to get her head around what that meant. She actually asked me why I don’t just run faster. She did think it was somewhat noteworthy that I still hadn’t had a period after four months, and said we could do a blood draw to see if my FSH was high. But when I asked if high FSH would explain it, she just shrugged as if to say, “Eh, maybe, but I’m not really going to think about it because I don’t think there’s anything going on with you beyond being a middle aged woman who wishes she were skinnier.” It was a very expressive shrug. She emailed me a week later to say that my FSH was a little higher than she’d expected, but that hormone fluctuates quite a bit, and if I didn’t get my period in the next couple months, I should follow up with “someone.” The only thing we saw eye to eye on was that “someone” would not be her. Then I got my period a month later, so she was officially no help at all.
By fall I had mostly resigned myself to this sucky new normal. My friend Jen suggested a naturopath, and though I feared she’d try to make me eat only organic food with the dirt still on it, I decided it couldn’t hurt. She was very receptive to everything I had to say, and while she ordered some blood draws to essentially “look at everything,” she suspected it was probably hypothyroid after all. Holy hypothyroid roller coaster! I mean, why can’t I just walk into a pharmacy and say, “Hey, google and three of my friends think I have low thyroid, so can you hook me up?” Would have saved a lot of time and angst. So I patiently await these lab results, assuming that they will clearly point to hypothyroid and I will finally get on medication and get faster and back into half my wardrobe.
In a nutshell: My thyroid was sluggish but not abnormal. Insulin, vitamins, proteins, etc, everything else was normal. FSH had doubled, and the rest of my hormones all pointed to the same thing. “We can’t definitively diagnose menopause until it’s been a year,” she told me, “but based on your numbers, you will probably never get a period again.”
Am I supposed to have a lot of mixed emotions about this? Because I don’t. I feel pretty fricking great. I’m so relieved to finally have an answer that does explain everything, and I’m not just crazy or a hypochondriac or in denial. I do kind of feel old, but like, the youngest old person, like when Carrie was in that fashion show on Sex and the City, and Stanford told her, “You’re not Heidi Klum, but you’re the modeliest of the real people.” I love any milestone that lowers people’s expectations. And it’s kind of fun to think I’m about to hand my daughter the baton in some fertile female relay. Take it from here, Lucy!
The best part of this is that my older sisters are still in the game, and as the youngest of five kids, it’s really exciting to get to be first at something. They got to ride a bike first, learn to swim first, read Forever first, drive a car, vote, get married, buy a house, have kids first…but look who just stopped menstruating first!