When I wrote an essay titled “Attemptus Interruptus” about having to postpone conception to deal with Graves’ Disease, autoimmune hyperthyroidism, I had no idea that the woman I referenced in the second-to-last paragraph would face the same disease. I was best friends with S in eighth grade and spent most of the summer of 1987 on her boat, watching her waterski.
Today, S was scheduled to have surgery to remove her thyroid, which was 2-3 times the normal size due to Graves’ Disease.
We hadn’t seen each other since 1994, but we were friends on Facebook, where she saw my birth story, read a reference to thyroid problems, and reached out to ask me about my experience. She had just been diagnosed with Graves’, she said, and she was exploring her options since she wanted to have more children.
I told her I had the same disease. In 2004, I was on anti-thyroid medication for almost 11 months. I’d rejected the standard treatment of radioactive iodine (RAI) to ablate my thyroid. For one thing, my uptake was only 45%, so I’d have to have had double the dose of someone whose thyroid would soak up 90%. But regardless of the rates, I didn’t want to kill such an important gland.
I wanted to get better.
So I spent a ton of money and time on complementary treatments including acupuncture, energy work, lots of supplements, detox protocols, eventually a major diet change (going gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free), and some spiritual inquiry as well. I saw an endocrinologist and a naturopath regularly and got blood drawn every month, sometimes more frequently.
When S told me she felt pushed around by her doctor and didn’t want to pursue RAI for a variety of reasons (you can’t try to conceive for 6 months, and you have to stay away from young children for a week and flush the toilet at least two times every time you use it for that week, if I remember correctly), I found an alternative care center near her home for her to check out.
But that much enlarged is a whole other story. I can’t imagine how she’s coping with the symptoms of the disease and with a toddler. I am hoping that things go well today and that she can find the right balance of medication or iodine or whatever to keep her from falling into depression, which can happen when thyroid hormones are too low.
I have to wonder about all the time we spent together engaging in various typical teen and some not-so-healthy behaviors or if anything about the neighborhood we lived in had any role to play in this coincidence. Her cousin, who also lived nearby, wrote me on Facebook asking for natural fertility advice.
It’s bizarre to be reunited with someone by symptoms. This is one of two people who came to my brother’s funeral in 1987 and with whom I spent untold hours at a very formative time in my life. We were never destined to pursue the same academic or career paths, but it did bring a smile to my face when she said that she watched a post-Homecoming Dance video of us when visiting her parents this past Thanksgiving, and boy, did we have big hair!
Having not actually seen anyone from high school in real life since running into her in 1994, and facing a possible 20th high school reunion this year (if anyone organizes it), I’m feeling both very old and, at the same time, like someone must have just pushed a fast-forward button.
How has Facebook surprised you?