How Thyroid Cancer and Hypothyroidism Changed My Body

Here’s a link to my post detailing my Cancer diagnosis and treatment timeline . I used to have a very predictable, dependable body. I knew how much exercise I had to do to work off that cookie I had at lunch. I knew how long it would take for me to recover from vacation/travel eating. I knew my body really well. Then I got cancer. I think an active list of my symptoms might not only help me, but might benefit someone trying to figure out their new life as a hypothyroid patient. I am not a doctor, so please track your own symptoms and discuss them with your doctor. Symptoms I have experienced so far:

  • weight gain
  • hair loss
  • insomnia
  • nightmares
  • pungent body odor
  • brain fog/forgetfulness
  • language/writing problems

1. Weight gain After my other thyroid was removed I gained 10 pounds in a month. While I understand that 10 pounds is not much when compared to other thyroid patients, it is unusual for me. It is also a significant amount of weight for a petite person like myself. I am thankful for only gaining a small amount of weight, but I must note it as a way that thyroid cancer and hypothyroidism changed my body. I have lost 2 pounds since my RIA (radio-iodine ablation) mid- September 2014, but that’s the most my weight has budged.I have 8 pounds to go to be at my pre-cancer weight. I eat a calorie restricted diet and try to aim for high protein, low carbs. I eat a lot of fish, and soy. While soy consumption is controversial, my endocrinologist advised that I can eat soy, I just have to eat it 4 hours after taking my thyroid pill. Resolution (for now):  Yesterday (11/18) I started a 2 workout a day plan. I am not doing strength training, but have read that strength training/weight lifting might help with weight loss for someone in my condition. I don’t have easy access to weights, but I’m looking into how to change that. 2. Hair Loss After the second time my Levothroxine was increased I noticed that my hair began falling out. It isn’t coming out in huge clumps, but it does come out daily. I find it on my pillow, in my brush, in the shower, and in my bicycle helmet. This has never happened before. When I get my hair cut it is even worse, so I avoid going as often as I should. I had to explain to my Japanese stylist that I was taking medicine that made my hair fall out so he didn’t worry when he saw all of it come out as he cut. 3. Insomnia For the past 5 months I have been taking Levothroxine at night (per my doctor). I have never suffered from insomnia before, but I would lie awake for about 3-4 hours on average. Resolution: I decided to start taking my medicine in the morning (which is what is on the bottle) on 11/6.  The day of my first morning dose I had a lot of energy (ran/biked 2 miles) and I fell asleep within 30 minutes and had no nightmares. A week later and I still have had no more nightmares and no trouble falling asleep.

4. Nightmares

I would also have terrible nightmares every night. It became normal for me, but just a few days before switching to a morning dose my husband commented that I have had persistent nightmares. Over time I just stopped noticing.

Resolution: (see #3)  5. Pungent body odor I have tried many things to alleviate the body odor that has accompanied my thyroid condition. What was strange is that after I had my surgeries the odor was gone for a few months while my thyroid medication was very low. Once it increased to 125 mcg the odor came back. I don’t drink coffee, only 1-2 cups of black tea a day. I don’t drink much soda, maybe 1-4 diet sodas a month. I’ve tried washing my armpits with baking soda, stainless steel (smooth stone) soap, rubbing alcohol, lymph drainage massage, antibacterial body soaps, and all kinds of deodorant+ antiperspirant. I shower twice a day, sometimes more. One arm is stronger than the other, and it’s opposite the side of my body where the cancer was present. Very strange. I have tried a variety of laundry techniques, too. Baking soda, vinegar, ammonia, sun drying, boiling water, several different sports detergents and laundry scrubs. That worked for a while, but once my hormones start getting out of control the smell comes back.  Resolution (for now): I learned about transdermal magnesium chloride therapy while talking to another hypothyroid patient on Reddit. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I bought a bottle on Amazon. I have been using it for 3 days, and my body odor is minimal, even while on my period. I did not ask my doctor about this, because he told me he does not believe that non-prescription methods work. He also did not believe that my strong body odor was related to my thyroid issues. I am not a doctor, but this is my body, and I disagree. Update 7/4/15: The transdermal magnesium spray was a game changer. I have been using it since the date of this post and am back to only 1 shower a day, no overwhelming odor (unless I drink cheap coffee), and I couldn’t be happier. My doctor still did not believe that this spray helped, but it worked for me.

6. Brain fog, forgetfulness, scatterbrain, thyroid brain I have always been known for my amazing memory and ability to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. However, after the most recent dosage increase I noticed I could no longer remember even the most basic of things. I repeat stories, I forget what I was doing, I have trouble completing work and household tasks. It is extremely frustrating for me. I have told my doctor, but the symptom remains untreated. I asked about taking ginko biloba, but the doctor told me  that it probably won’t work and that it isn’t FDA approved, and left the conversation at that. Resolution (for now):  I keep forgetting to take it (go figure), but I think that taking my Levothroxine in the morning has helped. I am still foggy and forgetful, but it seems like it doesn’t disrupt my life as much as it did before switching to a morning dose.Update 7/4/15: In May my doctor FINALLY listened to me (once my husband went in to the appointment with me- that’s a whole other blog post in itself) and increased my dosage to the next strength. I have had more energy, and less brain fog every day since then.

7. Difficulty writing/editing As a technical writer this is very difficult for me. My job involves writing, and having to proofread so diligently and STILL finding basic mistakes makes me want to scream. Writing and editing have always come naturally to me, but I can no longer do it in the same capacity that I could before cancer and hypothyroidism. Resolution (for now):  This one is tough. I keep making mistakes. I will keep making mistakes unless I am very careful with my editing. There are probably mistakes in this post that, even though I’ve combed over it a few times, I still don’t see. I just have to keep an eye on it and try harder.

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