Thyroid Success Stories: Patients Share Their Experiences

Mature couple riding bicycles on beach
Exercise can be an important part of thyroid management. Bob Thomas/Getty Images

So much of what I cover here at the Thyroid site focuses on the problems -- problems with doctors who don't listen, problems with thyroid drugs that don't resolve your symptoms, problems losing weight.

It seems that problems are so often the focus, that we have to learn from our own and other's mistakes - rather than their successes.

An important aspect of healing -- true healing from within -- is the belief that there are solutions, there is success, and that healing is possible.

So, what better way to focus on healing, and to get ideas on how we can all work towards better health and healing, than to hear the success stories from those people with thyroid disease -- including hypothyroidism, Hashimoto's Disease, hyperthyroidism, Graves' disease, thyroid cancer, and other conditions -- who have a positive success story to tell!

So, read about some fellow thyroid patients and the solutions they've found. I hope they offer you the encouragement, hope, and inspiration that they offer me!

Cindy: Finding Information and Hope

Dear Mary,

THANK YOU! I spent most of the day at your website researching hypothyroidism. I found a true wealth of information. And I found HOPE. I have been wrestling with fatigue, depression, brain fog, and a myriad of other symptoms I've suspected are related to a thyroid dysfunction for over three years, but as you know finding a doctor who will listen, believe us, and help is sometimes a challenge.

I have been working with an M.D. for over a year now who practices traditional medicine coupled with a preventive and holistic approach. Finally, we are getting to a place where we're actually investigating hypothyroidism. About a month ago I began Armour Thyroid and got my second blood test last week.

I'm eager to see the results. I'm feeling a bit better, but I've got a long way to go. Again, thank you for sharing so much information and so much hope. I have been praying for help and today I got it.

Sincerely yours,


Marshall: Success with Armour Thyroid

I've been receiving your newsletter for the last year; that's about as long as I've been taking Armour Thyroid (2 grains). I am 45, male and had felt tired most of my life. Over two years ago I had been going to a psychiatrist and taking Ritalin (but did not want to take antidepressants which the doctor also thought might help me).

I had a TSH test and I was pretty hypothyroid (22.5).

Now, my energy level is much better, overall, and I lost weight. I seem to be doing well on 2 grains.

Fortunately, there are doctors who are sympathetic to the thyroid solution...but previous tests taken by primary care physician said my thyroid was normal.

It's only my own decision to seek out medical care that is predisposed to consider thyroid and test properly for it that led me being able to get thyroid treatment now.


Bette: The Right Doctor and the Right Hormonal Treatments

I was diagnosed hypothyroid two years ago after being seriously ill for about a year. Then I later went into menopause. I am now successfully masquerading as a healthy woman! I take one-half of a .025 mg dose of Synthroid daily, and Remifemin. I found a doctor who was willing to work with me in all my problems, gave me frequent blood tests to monitor my condition until it stabilized (took about a year and a half), listened well to all my symptoms, and is willing to consider alternatives. I can now do everything I want to, as long as I take my medicine, get enough sleep, eat right, and get my exercise!


Lorna: Lost 40 Pounds, & Now a Size 7/8!

Here is what I did to lose 40 pounds with hypothyroidism (now a size 5/6-7/8):

  1. Keep a daily record of what you eat (I used the Weight Watchers point system because it is easier to count).
  2. Drink plenty of water (I drink almost a gallon per day).
  3. Three hours of cardiovascular workout a week (I prefer walking/running).
  4. Three hours of weight training, sit-ups and stretches a week.
  5. Cut out junk food, and begin eating lean meats/seafood, fresh/frozen vegetables and fruits. I treat myself to occasional sweets. Eat nuts, yogurts, hot cereals. Cook with olive oil or canola oil. Switch to whole grain/wheat breads.
  6. Take the steps at work instead of the elevator.
  7. Park further out in the parking lot (don't try to get the parking space closest to the store door).
  8. Subscribe to health magazines and fitness books to gain more knowledge and read success stories.
  9. Write your goals down and read them regularly (how you are going to lose weight, why and how you are going to maintain the weight once you reach your goal).
  10. Treat yourself to new outfits or workout gear as you reach your weekly/monthly goals.

Last but not least love yourself, accept all the compliments with a big "Thank you" and be an inspiration to all of those around you!!!

Love, Lorna

Cindy: Finding the Right Health Care Practitioner is the Key

The moral of this story: "find a doctor who is willing to work with you to benchmark your test results based on how you are feeling!" Also, "find a clinic/provider who knows and understands the standard TSH levels"!

About 2 1/2 years ago I started not feeling good. It was a very gradual process, but in April of 98 when I went in for my annual physical I complained to my doctor how tired and run down I was. I also had many other symptoms...however, not knowing anything about hypothyroidism I didn't mention them. She did request lab work, my first test came back 5.01. When she called me she said the normal range was between 3.0 - 5.0...therefore she didn't think I should be on any medicine. She wanted to wait 3 months and then come back for another test.

My test in July came back at 5.05, so she put me on the lowest dose of Synthoid and requested another test in 3 months. In 3 months I didn't feel any different, my test came back as 4.98, therefore, my doctor wanted me to wait another 3 months before changing my dosage.

In October my test result was 4.97, I was still feeling very bad--I had literally every symptom, however, my doctor still thought my dosage should not be changed and wanted to wait another 3 months!

In April I went in for my next test, by this time I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day, every muscle in my body hurt terribly, my throat was constantly sore and hoarse, my hair was falling out, my skin was very white and flaky, my tongue would swell up so much I could hardly talk, I was cold to the bone and could not warm up, and I had gained over 20 pounds in the last 2 years! My test results came back as 5.02. My doctor FINALLY agreed to increase my dosage, and requested I come back in 3 months.

In July, my health-care provider/insurance changed. When I went in for my July blood test I was still complaining of all the symptoms mentioned above....My test results came back as 4.05. My new doctor said the normal range was 1.0 - 2.0 (@#$%^--isn't something how 2 clinics right next door to each other can be so different!--my previous doctor told me the range was 3.0 - 5.0). My new doctor increased my dosage and in October I finally started feeling like a REAL person again! Last week my test results came back as 1.84 and I feel fantastic!!!

I cannot stress enough the importance of finding a provider who is up-to-date with this condition and is willing to work with you to benchmark your progress. I truly believe there is such a thing as being too conservative, my first doctor and/or clinic didn't believe my symptoms and looked only at my lab results. Also, this clinic was not keeping up-to-date on the last research in regards to TSH levels. If you are not getting any relief -- it is well worth going to a different doctor to get a second opinion, this may also involve going to a completely different health-care provider.


Beatrice: A "Cockeyed Optimist on Armour"

Hello Mary,

I have been on Armour Thyroid for over twenty years. Several factors are involved in my well-being. I maintain a balanced diet. Try to get plenty of exercise and follow my doctor's orders. I am also a person who studies about any physical illness I have been confronted with. I believe it is a large factor in coping with any disease. Last, I am a cockeyed optimist. When I first was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in the 1960's I went directly to the library and studied the effect of thyroid disease on the mind and body.

I am the type of person who can cope with any situation when I understand what is really taking place. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and immediately asked my oncologist for all the material he could give me in regard to the disease. He also feels that understanding a disease does allay fears. I am now sixty-six years of age and feel well. I encourage all people to have a complete physical every year and to contact their physician if they have an unusual circumstance arise in regard to their health. Medicine is wonderful, but along with it must come common sense, which enables us to live longer, healthier lives.

Best Regards,


Carolyn: "I've Never Been Athletic, and Now I'm a Triathlete!!!"

So many thanks for an excellent site, that continues to be such a great resource.

I'm 28 and was diagnosed about two years ago with hypothyroidism. When I read up on it I realized I had probably had it for at least 10 years before it really took a dive and my TSH finally went up out of lab range (barely). At that point I was on Zoloft for depression, could barely concentrate, fell asleep constantly, had put on extra weight, my very curly hair was growing out almost straight, my skin was yellowish, my cholesterol 275 (after 229 earlier that ear), and when I tried to do the treadmill at the gym I would have to go home and lay down (I think it was that lack of oxygen to the muscles thing, and it's what convinced my doctor to test my TSH again).

On 50 micrograms of Synthroid a day, I have lost some weight but not all, I feel amazingly well, my skin and hair are better than ever, and best of all I completed a triathlon! (I've never been athletic, but I'm a TRI-athlete now). I did it! The whole thing! And it left me with a love of running that I had never discovered before...I'd never run more than a mile before, and the second mile is so much better.

Now I'm living and traveling in Europe for two years for work, and my habits of running and eating defensively are really holding me in good stead. I feel like I'm conquering the world!

Here are three tips from me:

Think positively. Don't say, "Today I won't have any chocolate." Instead, say "Today I will eat lots of veggies and fruits, and I'll even take a walk. Rah for me!" What you will do is so much better to focus on than what you shouldn't do, don't want to do, won't let yourself do, etc.

Taking up a real endeavor, such as a race, is fantastic - even for me, a large, hypothyroid asthmatic. There is a huge difference between 'exercising' and 'training.' It changed my whole point of view.

Keep on until you feel well. When I was on the road to recovery, one doctor told me that I shouldn't expect to feel well since I'm a thyroid patient. Boy, was SHE fired!


Donna: "I Live a Fulfilled Life, Despite Thyroid Cancer"

When I was 24 years old, I was a single parent of a very active 3-year-old boy. Things were tough, but we were scraping by. We were on ADC, and I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. One day I woke up with a sinus infection, all of my lymph nodes were swollen and I just didn't feel well. I went to my doctor and she gave me a prescription for some antibiotics. Well, I took them and after about a week all of my lymph nodes were back to normal except one. I went back to my doctor several times and she kept giving me more antibiotics. After about a month of this, she finally sent me to see an ENT.

The first ENT I went to told me that I had a Brachial Cleft Cyst. That this is a cyst that is always there and for some reason it pops out and stays out. No big deal. He wanted to do a needle biopsy, but as I looked around at my surroundings, I wasn't comfortable with that thought. The place was run down and dirty, and I don't like needles. So, I went for a second opinion.

The next ENT I went to said basically the same thing, only no biopsy. He would just do surgery and remove the cyst. By this time, I was starting to have episodes of dizziness. He told me that it wasn't related to this cyst. He sent me for a CT scan and we scheduled the surgery.

Everything went well, and I followed up with my ENT to have the sutures removed. He told me everything was fine. Until a month later.

The doctor called me into his office. I thought it was strange since I still had several weeks before my scheduled follow-up. So I went. And what he told me changed my life forever.

I had thyroid cancer. What he had removed was a lymph node, attached to my carotid artery (accounts for the dizziness), that had thyroid tissue in it. I needed to see a surgeon for a thyroidectomy. He wanted to send me to a general surgeon, but my sister stepped in and made arrangements for me to see the Chief of Endocrine surgery at a university hospital.

I had a total thyroidectomy, followed with RAI. I couldn't see my son for 2 weeks. A few months later, they removed another node near my collar bone with just a local anesthetic. A few months later, I had more lymph nodes removed. And again a year later. I've had a total of 5 surgeries, and I have 3 scars on my throat, but I have been cancer-free for more than 20 years.

At the time of my last surgery, I was in college. I am now a Registered Nurse doing a job that I love. My son is a typical teenager. And I married a wonderful man. Both my son and my husband give me all the support I need to live a healthy life. They put up with me when I have to go hypo for my scans, which can be a hard thing to do!

I thought that I knew a lot of things about thyroid cancer, but over the past few months I have learned so much more, thanks to websites like yours. I encourage anyone who has questions, don't be afraid to ask them. And if you're told you have thyroid cancer, it's not the end of the world. Cry if you need to, but keep going. I take my Synthroid every day. I have my total body scans when I'm told I need to. I see my endocrinologist every year. And I live a fulfilled life.


Franz: Lost 100 Pounds and His Diabetes, But NOT His Remarkable Sense of Humor!

The thought of a nice juicy sausage and potatoes with gravy had always appealed to me. I loved the sausages with the most "juice," actually fat, and when it squirted out as I slid my fork or knife into them, I was at the portal of Eden. What pleasure! In the course of time I had learned where all the best sausages of the world came from... and the worst. The best came from the German-speaking countries and the worst from what used to be called the British Isles.

I never tired of sampling the wurst from Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland and conversely learned to stay away from the British and Irish ones. In Scotland, I even found one brand that bragged on the wrapper that the contents are "guaranteed only 15% meat!" The rest, I found out, was mainly oatmeal. Shades of Haggis! How dare they desecrate wurst!

Then, of course, there was the good beer that naturally goes with any good sausage! I was (and still am) an expert on beers and people from all over treated me like the walking beer encyclopedia that I was.

Fat chance that I was going to stop enjoying myself.

As a consequence of all the sausage eating and beer drinking, I found myself (at 5'10") at 295 lb. (134 kg) at the age of sixty-one. One day my doctor told me I had Type II Diabetes. My feet hurt. I had high blood pressure and was taking pills to keep it within, if not normal, an acceptable range. I was breathing hard with every little exertion. People at work told me that they heard my breathing seconds before I arrived in or passed their offices.

During the night, my wife told me that sometimes I stopped breathing and she feared that some night I might not start back up again. I tossed and turned and I snored...well... a lot. I was hot and sweaty most of the time. My daughter said I was "sick" on weekends and used that excuse to sit in my recliner and watch TV. In fact, I did suffer from a lot of intestinal problems and frequently had diarrhea, what I called intestinal flu.

I was a perennial favorite Santa Claus at Xmas parties. I am a jolly fellow and people laughed or at least smiled when I walked into a room. When I was serious they thought I was kidding. I was taking blood pressure pills, gout pills, and diabetes pills. All this I took in stride and called it the result of my own pleasurable lifestyle. I told myself that I was willing to pay the price. I ate a "healthy" lunch while my good friend Matt was working out in the gym. I brushed off invitations to join him with a smile and a dismissal.

But the announcement of my diabetes shocked me more than I realized, and my doctor said I had to start taking my blood sugar levels at least every morning and every evening, and at least take the pills he prescribed. The effect was one of classic biofeedback, I tried doing stuff to get that sugar reading down. I started writing all my blood sugar levels down. I graphed them on my computer. I learned all kinds of formulas to see if I could predict what would happen if I did any certain thing, such as increase or decrease my pill dosage, or more importantly decrease my total food intake, or increase or decrease certain types of food like fiber, fat or sugar. Or exercise.

And so after much encouragement by Matt, I went to the gym under protest. I choose the stationary bike in the corner. I've always liked biking. That first day, I lasted 5 minutes at the most basic easy level. I was exhausted, as the Germans say, "on the floor destroyed," but I strangely enjoyed it. I weighed myself afterward and verified that, yes, I was "down" to 294 lb. already. Since it seemed to be fun, and with Matt constantly saying not to stop under any circumstances, I persevered and did it again the next day... and the next.

I read any and all books I could get my hands on just as I had done with my beer, this time about diabetics and the best diets and exercise and found out that they all seemed to agree about a few points. But I stayed my own coach. The first principal I learned was to lose weight, the second was to cut down eating fat, the third was to increase intake of fiber, and the fourth was to start and stay with a good exercise program.

I have never been a person who believed in half measures, so, "OK, let's do it," I told myself. Go big or stay home. That's how I ate and that is how I'll do this thing, I told myself. Much to the shock of my family, especially my wife, I started demanding more vegetables and no meat. The salad dressings had to be nonfat. Cooking had to be without oil, where before my daughter said I put oil on my mayonnaise, now lemon juice and salt was enough for my dressing. After a while, I cut out many of the starches, pasta, cheeses, and went for nonfat cheese and lots of kidney beans, and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, cooked without fat, but I never counted calories. On tasting my new-found diet my son announced that it tasted horrible.

"How can you eat that stuff, Papa. It's like dog food." .

"It's not easy, but you get used to it," I answered. In fact, I have noticed that I am eating less and less all the time, i.e., I am more easily filled up as time goes by and I stick to my new life.

My blood sugar was going down and I kept computerized statistics of the downward curve. That was reward in itself. Slowly my exercise time and effort level increased and I added other routines to my basic stationary bike rides such as power stretching and stomach crunches.

Weekends were harder, but I rode my real bike outdoors. First, I got out the old Huffy in the garage, dusted it off, got on and enjoyed it more and more every day. My rides got longer and longer until I had been around our neighborhood and then our islands. My goal was to ride out to Tybee Island and back, a twenty-mile trip, and one day I did it and that milestone was crossed. But the rides around the Islands still are my favorites, especially in the early morning or just after sundown. Another goal was to "do a century" as the cycling books call it. It means cycling 100 miles in a day, but in my case, I aimed for 100 in one week and then that was accomplished. In fact, I've done centuries every week since then.

Goals multiplied instead of getting scarcer. Twenty-five miles a day then thirty, then thirty-five. Now I found out I could dream of doing things I never thought were anywhere within my reach.

Because of what I read in the exercise cycling books, I was finally convinced, after much hesitation, to replace my department store Huffy with a "real" bike. I could not afford it, but a friend of mine who had four beautiful and expensive bikes said that if I got him back on his road bicycle he would "permanently lend" me one of his dream bikes. We pulled them out of his garage, fixed them up, got new tires and we were off. Even his wife started back and came with us for our ever-increasing rides. Now I average 120 miles a week, every week! 

Two dreams became clear; doing a real century, and completing BRAG, the Bike Ride Across Georgia, fifty- to seventy-mile-a-day trip through Georgia (routes vary from year to year) for a week in June every year.

Then one day I pulled out my Air Force discharge papers and discovered that on the day of my discharge, at 24 years old, I was 175 lb. and very successful with the girls (I guess you have to say woman nowadays), if I remember it correctly. Of course, that memory may contain some embellishment on the real circumstances, but that's what I remember. That was not my real goal, simply a good one to tell the people who always asked, "Why are you doing this?"  So one hundred and seventy-five pounds avoirdupois became my weight goal. They tell you never to weigh yourself every day, but I did anyway, always at the same time of day after my exercise and it was always a reward when it went down and stern reminder when it didn't. Although the blood sugar curved down steadily, my weight curve was step-like down. The flat parts of the curve were my horror, but I did not loose my motivation, on the contrary, it increased. My blood pressure started to come down. Then one day about three months into my new life I stopped taking my blood pressure pills. It kept coming down and I threw the pills away. It was getting to be a fun game. Part of the game was never to let a day pass without at least 25 minutes of getting exercise with my heart rate above 100 beats a minute, about 65% of maximum for me. That included travel days and conference days.

Of course, the day came when I could not fit it in no matter how hard I tried, but somehow it was the trying that counted, and I have only missed five days so far and I made up the next day for them.

Sometimes my efforts took hilarious forms such as the day and most of the night I spent flying and arrived at 5 AM in the Atlanta airport with three hours to kill before the next flight. The only really good hard exercise I could think of was to run up the long down escalator in the empty terminal. Try as I might I never reached the top during the half hour, but it was a workout and it absolved my exercise conscience for that day. Three months later, in the same situation, in Biloxi, MS, I did the same on the very long down escalator at one of the casinos there. This time, I made it to the top ..... twice.

The only really good hard exercise I could think of was to run up the long down escalator in the empty terminal. Try as I might I never reached the top during the half hour, but it was a workout...

One day about 6 months after I had started, my doctor did an extensive blood analysis. Ten days later he called to tell me that the results were amazing. I seemed to have lost my diabetes, something he had never experienced with any of his patients. "Although you will never lose the threat of getting diabetes, you don't have diabetes anymore. Don't let that stop your diet and exercise program, but I still feel it is amazing," he said with some wonder in his voice. When I visited his office he ceremoniously shook my hand in congratulations. I cut the diabetes pills down to half dosage and my blood sugar held steady. A month later I threw them and the gout pills away. No pills! Wow! All I take are my vitamins now. That's a form of pleasure!

My fellow employees and friends helped immensely. I was constantly encouraged by people stopping in the hallways and uttering various form of, "wow, you look good." Stories I read or heard about people I knew who had lost a lot of weight and kept it off, motivated me.

But the biggest change has been in the way people treat me. Instead of the 'jolly ol' fellow' treatment I have gotten for years, I now got a serious reaction. It was not that I had changed, it was that subconsciously they had changed with regard to me. People listened and believed me more and more. Some of them even admitted that their respect for me had increased because of the willpower I was apparently showing them I had. Of course, I didn't have any more or less than I had ever had, but it was visible now. I had made a statement about who I was and what I am made of (less fat, that is!).

The phrase I hear most now, in the form of a question or a statement, is, "You must feel better now." I am expected to say yes. Supposed to reaffirm what society-du-jour is telling everyone; that you will feel better if you lose weight. Well, I disagree. I don't feel better. In fact, I felt worse, at first. I ached all over, was always, always hungry, have an entire closet of clothes that don't fit, am constantly cold, something I never ever was before, my wedding ring didn't fit on the correct finger anymore, the doctor recently diagnosed that I had a hernia brought about through my weight loss and I had to get it fixed, and I never have any time anymore because my former free time is filled with workin' out. That doesn't sound like I am feeling good, does it? But if I have to I'll admit it; I do, but it's a bother.

So why am I doing all this work, this mighty bother? Because it's fun. I love riding on my bike and I miss it if I don't get out in the outdoors and do it even for one day. Because I can do stuff I haven't done in years, like fitting into an airline seat ... even with room to spare, like seeing my toes while standing at attention, like fitting past people in tight hallways, like buying clothes in a normal store and finding my new size everywhere rather than only in the "big and tall" section, like not having people stare, like not having to be embarrassed every time I see a doctor, people treat me better or at least with more respect. And, yes, I have to admit it; I enjoy seeing that young women giving me the eye and that old slow smile, even though that's as far as it goes these days! So OK, that's my story, and I'm sticking with it!

The fun aspect of losing weight is too little stressed. It's all about "feel good" and "healthy life" rather than about the pleasure of doing things little and big that you have not been able to do for such a long time. It's about changing course, diverging into a new life. So do I feel, but I do have more fun.

As of this writing, four years later, I weigh in at 195 pounds, down 100 pounds from my original 295 - AND STILL COUNTING!

My hernia operation is behind me and I feel that the rapid healing was because of the shape I'm in. In was back on my bike within four days of my day surgery and by the fifth day I was doing 12 miles again. Within five days I was back to my minimum of 15 miles a day. And I am still looking forward to BRAG! And every now and then I party and have a beer or two! It doesn't matter now.

See you on the road ...about 10 pounds down the road.... or at the gym!


Joe: "Sleep Apnea Led to Diagnosis"

I'm a 47-year-old male that has just recently been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and it's funny how this came about. A few months ago I had changed doctors because my old doctor was always too busy to see me, I always had to see his physician's assistant.

Anyway I went to the doctor on another problem, lack of sleep and he and I thought it was sleep apnea and that was the case.

I went to the local hospital for a sleep study stay and, sure enough, I suffer from sleep apnea and now sleep with the air mask to help me breathe. But, my doctor went one step further and decided to do blood tests because he suspected something else was bothering me.

Sure enough, I got a call and I was told I was suffering from hypothyroidism, so now I'm on medication and I can say for the first time in years I do feel better. I have more energy and my memory isn't so hazy anymore and I actually feel like getting off the couch and doing something. I've also lost about 20 pounds and hopefully will continue to lose more. I was very lucky that I have a doctor that looks at all sides of a problem. Just thought I would pass this along. I love your site and am a regular visitor. I find all the information to be so helpful and fascinating as well. Keep up the good work. 

Karen: From Canyon Ranch to Multiple Doctors' Offices, to a Surprising Diagnosis!

Dear Mary,

After reading your book and sympathizing with so many other people's experiences, I was inspired to write down my own story, and it has been such a therapeutic process for me to put my story down on paper! I wrote for almost 2 hours! I applaud you for the work you put into creating an educational web site and books - certainly you are doing your part to help change people's lives!

I always believe there is a reason for everything - and have often thought that my hypothyroid was God's was of slowing me down and making me smell the roses! I believe one of the most reassuring and helpful things we can do as thyroid patients is to share our experiences, and try to educate others. So, here's my story (sorry it's so long!)

I appear to be a fit and healthy 32-year-old, which is probably the main reason my thyroid disease went undiagnosed for so long (approximately 6-7 years). My symptoms became noticeable about 7 years ago - the year my husband and I moved to Massachusetts and I got a job as a fitness specialist at a resort spa (Canyon Ranch). I loved my job in fitness but became increasingly frustrated with my weak and achy muscles, my inability to lose weight although I was teaching 1-2 fitness classes every day and eating healthfully, and mostly my constant fatigue. I remember being so tired that I had to take breaks and rest my arms when washing my hair. Sometimes I felt my knees would buckle when descending stairs.

The fatigue upset me so much because I was surrounded by energetic, healthy people who were all doing wonderful, fun things, and I felt that I was too tired to achieve any of my goals (professionally and physically). But I continued to put on a happy face and kept believing I was fine (because that's what the doctors told me) and that if I continued to 'fake it' I would eventually 'make it'. At Canyon Ranch, I had access to all the wellness education and spa services I could want, so I attended lots of wellness and nutrition lectures, had acupuncture and regular massages, learned meditation and yoga, even saw a therapist.

But the more I tried to get better and stronger, the weaker and more depressed I became because nothing I was doing was helping. I felt like a complete failure and even developed a binge-eating disorder to help comfort my pain.

So the search began for a doctor who would listen and help, and this is when the frustration really began!

We lived in Massachusetts for 3 years and I had 4 different doctors during that time. Although my symptoms were pretty classic for both Lyme and hypothyroidism - fatigue, low blood pressure, dry, cracked skin, joint and muscles aches, acne, inability to lose weight, irregular periods, brain-fog, depression, slow reflexes, low body temp and Raynaud's syndrome, constipation - none of my doctors even mentioned the possibility of either disease. Since I wasn't technically overweight, the doctors just thought I was obsessed about my weight, was fatigued and didn't have regular periods because I exercised too much, and had low blood pressure because I 'was healthy'. Even in my 'altered state' I was in tune with my body and mind enough to know that there was something more going on - what I was feeling was not normal.

When my husband's job moved us to Virginia, I continued my search. I was on my third doctor when I finally found a unique doctor who finally listened to me and cared. He was actually my gynecologist (and was an alternative MD), and after testing my hormone levels to try to find out why I didn't have regular periods discovered I had a TSH of 19 and also had thyroid antibodies. I'll never forget when he called me at work to give me the news and I just cried - not sad tears - I was so happy to find out that there was actually something wrong and it wasn't just in my head.

Unfortunately, he put me on a brand of natural thyroid that is now discontinued which I truly believe he thought was the best route at the time. Initially, I started to feel somewhat better, but then I started to experience dizzy spells and big fluctuations in energy and brainpower. He reassured me to 'hand in there' and that it would take nearly 6 months before I felt better and was regulated. During that time, we relocated once again, this time to our current home of Baltimore, MD. I continued to feel very fatigued, forgetful and 'spacey' among other things. I was very distressed that I had to search for another doctor. It was a time in my life when I needed more energy and enthusiasm than ever - my husband and I were both starting great new jobs in a new city and were building a new house (and living in my sister's basement at the time). Here we go again.

I found a family doctor who claimed to specialize in chronic fatigue and endocrinology - perfect, so I thought. This man was without a doubt the most condescending, unhelpful doctor I had ever seen. He was appalled and disgusted that I was taking a natural thyroid - and made me feel like an idiot. He told me the only way to treat chronic fatigue was an experimental surgery to remove part of the skull! He also said that it's probably just PMS and I needed to be on Prozac! He told me I would probably feel depressed and fatigued all my life unless I go on Prozac. I know antidepressants help lots of people, but I didn't want to go that route - nor did I trust him. I wanted to find the solution, the root of the problem, not mask it. While I was leaving his office, I heard him on the phone with another patient, prescribing them Prozac too, like that's the cure all.

During my continued search for a primary care (I'm actually still searching for one that's in-network) I did find an endocrinologist who has been open-minded and caring enough to help me. The first time I saw her, she immediately took me off the Biotech (which she had never even heard of, which scared me!) and put me on Synthroid, which she thought would regulate me and prevent the big fluctuations in energy and the dizziness. She explained that the natural thyroid didn't have steady hormone levels which was causing the extreme fluctuations. She felt very confident that the Synthroid would make me feel so much better.

Within about 2 weeks after changing medications I was crying every day, was more foggy-brained, fatigued and depressed than ever. I would literally have to crawl up the stairs and I would spend hours on end working on things for my new job - I felt like I couldn't think or write (which is what I was hired to do!). My family just thought I was stressed due to all the change. But I had everything in the world to be happy about - the stress excuse didn't make sense to me. I was so afraid I would never feel good again.

I started researching on the web, and came across your site (thank you!) and found information on T3, among other things. I printed out what I had found and took it to my endo. She agreed (with a little convincing) to try a Cytomel/Synthroid combo. I actually think maybe that being on the natural thyroid made my system dependent on supplemental T3. Within a few months I was feeling better (but still not great). My TSH and T3 levels were testing normal (around a 1.5) - and my endo felt pretty certain that the continued fatigue, memory problems, achiness wasn't due to my thyroid. Other symptoms (dry skin, constipation, menstrual irregularities, reflexes) had improved significantly. She was supportive, but didn't know what else to do for me and suggested I see my primary care. I didn't yet have a PC I liked (I had tried 2 others since the first one) so I asked my endo for a referral.

This doctor still wasn't "the one." It's amazing how difficult it is to find a good doctor! She asked me questions about my exercise and nutrition but didn't listen to my answers. She turned what I said around too - she looked me over, said I was healthy and that I was fatigued because I was dieting, not nourishing my body and exercising too much. Meanwhile, I was following a registered dietitian's eating plan (with supplements), had given up teaching group fitness classes, and only walked about 30 minutes 3-4 x a week for exercise!

I finally resorted to going to a doctor who is an MD, but practices alternative medicine and is out of network. In fact, his office doesn't handle insurance paperwork at all. But I figured the minor inconvenience of paperwork and some additional money was worth it at this point! I made an appointment for an initial consult, and he, of course, spent a good hour with me, interviewing and talking with me mostly. His focus was on my joint pain and fatigue. We only talked a little about my thyroid.

By the end of my consult, he felt pretty sure he knew what the diagnosis would be - Lyme disease. I was in disbelief - there is no way I would have been to 10 doctors and never had been tested for something so simple! Sure enough - he was right. I had Lyme disease and a parasite infection called Babesia (which is also transmitted from a tick).

I was treated for 6 months with antibiotics, and literally 'felt' the infection dying off at times. The back pain was so unbearable for a few days that I had to take muscle relaxants to sleep. But I was happy to feel that pain because I knew the medication was working and the 'critters were dying'. My doctor said that it's possible that since the Lyme was left untreated for so many years that it caused an autoimmune response in my body resulting in the Hashimoto's. There is no way to know for certain, but it sounds like a logical explanation.

Incidentally, my brother has Type 1 diabetes, which I discovered along the way is also a genetic autoimmune endocrine disorder. It's ironic to me that every single doctor takes a medical and family history and supposedly knows that the prevalence of one autoimmune disorder increases the likelihood that other family members may too have an autoimmune disease. Yet I was never even tested. I think a family history of diabetes should be a red flag for doctors to check for thyroid disease when patients are complaining of the common ailments of depression or fatigue.

I'd love to end the story by saying I feel perfectly healthy, but the reality is that I have just learned to adapt my life around my "low energy reserves." The difference is my attitude. My lack of endurance used to frustrate, depress and embarrass me. Now that I know why I fight it less and feel more at peace with myself. I once read that hypothyroidism and chronic fatigue syndrome often afflicts Type A perfectionist, overachievers - and that disease of any type is your bodies way of screaming out when we don't treat it right or listen to it. If we accept our disease, learn from it, we can actually get to a place where we're thankful for the disease because it makes us who we are. If we continue fighting and feeling sorry for ourselves, then finding true happiness is nearly impossible.

Hypothyroidism is a much less dramatic disease than cancer or even diabetes, yet the lesson we learn from it can be just as meaningful. You don't have to be dying to hear the wake-up call...Slow down and appreciate the moment, listen to your body and trust your intuition, be true and good to yourself first and know that others will benefit from your doing so, and take faith in knowing that everything happens for a reason and that all that is meant to be will be.

Although my joint pain is totally gone and my energy, brainpower and general enthusiasm for life is significantly improved, I still have ongoing muscle fatigue, a case of never-ending thirst, brain fog and memory problems. But I am very happy to say that I am no longer depressed! Yes, I've learned to modify my life a bit and since I still work in the health and fitness industry, I'm still often envious of those around me with tons of energy. But I'm determined and have set a goal to run a few races this year - so far I can run 3 miles straight, so I'm on my way.


Fiona: Celebrating Better Health and Success with Low Carbs

I found your site a few months ago and your info has helped me more than the doctors I've been seeing for four years! I wanted to let you know that I have been experimenting recently with nutrition and T4/T3. Adding T3 twice a day to my Synthroid has helped, and I've just started taking plenty of EFAs (flaxseed oil, fish oils in capsules) as well as increasing antioxidants and protein. Having tried almost everything, I find the best combo for energy and feeling good with hypothyroidism is low carbs, substantial protein, loads of vegetables and some fruit, and....good fats (recently people are saying how healthy I am looking and I'm convinced it's the addition of good fats (olive oil, goat's milk yogurt) and drinking gallons of water!!)

My heart goes out to hypothyroid sufferers when I hear their frustration and confusion in their messages...having a resource like yours on, and doing lots of research in books/websites. I am thankful for Western medicine but would be miserable without the info I've gleaned from you, your site, your readers, and the books I've recently read. Just feeling "normal" is the beginning half of the battle, and when you start feeling really pretty good again, as I have this month, you feel like having a huge celebration and spreading the word! Our health is so precious and I am sure we can realistically "Live Well With Hypothyroidism." I wish you much happiness, health and success.


Raechel: Docs Said Chronic Fatigue, But It Was Actually Thyroid

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, but after months of testing (10 to be precise!) I was finally diagnosed as having hypothyroidism. My mother also has it, and my Gran is hyper. I was sent to a specialist who put me on treatment. After just 6 weeks I'd lost more than 8 pounds! It's now just over a year since I was diagnosed, and although I have bad days, for the most part, I feel FANTASTIC! My weight is still a problem - up and down - by my thyroid was also up and down for a few months. I've dedicated myself to knowing I'll have to exercise for life (but shouldn't we all?) and eat well. I'm 23 years old, and after that horrible ten months, I'm glad they finally found out what was wrong with me!


Beulah, Getting Her Vim, Vigor and Waistline Back in Time for Her Wedding

This success story is about insistence and self-education. I had returned to college for further studies to gain myself more marketable skills (and so get a year-round, decent-paying job) a few years ago. I became increasingly tired and fatigued, and chalked it up to stress and tried to deal with it. Nothing doing, though, and things got bad. Even though I was getting 10+ hours of sleep a night and felt fine as long as I was moving, I got drowsy and would fall asleep whenever I tried to sit still and concentrate.

I told my dad about my problems, and he told me I was suffering from the same stuff my entire immediate family eventually succumbed to. He told me to get to a doctor and get a full thyroid workup done, because I was probably hypothyroid. I went to the student health center and spoke to the closest thing they had to a thyroid specialist. She thought I was probably hypoglycemic, and ordered a glucose tolerance test (inconclusive), but also ordered a TSH test (bingo!), since I was so insistent and had a family history. Upon discovering that I was right, she put me on Synthroid. There was some immediate improvement, but the rest of the school year was pure hell, and I only managed to hang on and make a mediocre showing.

When summer came I moved to Houston, TX to join my boyfriend. He did not understand much about my health problems (neither did I), but he tried to be supportive. I thought I found a good doctor in TX, but that proved to be otherwise. After shopping around I landed with an endocrinologist, whom I had to pay for out of pocket since I was working temp jobs while job-hunting. Actually, my boyfriend paid my medical bills at that time and encouraged me to take any necessary tests.

Time went by, I got a permanent job, and most of my symptoms did not change. In fact, some got worse, including sexual dysfunction. I felt I had recovered part of my brain, so I started researching thyroid problems. In the meantime, I talked with my endo, who kept saying my levels were normal and it must be something else.

After becoming very frustrated with my endo I started doctor-shopping again, thinking I'd at least find someone to look at the sexual dysfunction, which was creating quite a strain on my relationship. Big mistake -- the new doctor tried to tell me it was psychological, and that I needed counseling. In a fury, I hit the Internet to research the sexual dysfunction and prove her wrong, and in following links on this problem, came full circle back to the thyroid.

I discovered news about T3, and researched further. I dug through medical journals, printed out postings, and searched bookstores and libraries. I tried to tell the new doctor about the information I was finding, and she dodged me and never spoke to me again. I went back to my endo and told him about the "new" information, but he was skeptical. We compromised and ran a few more tests, and I kept researching. Finally I went back in and said flat-out "I want to try T3." What do you know -- it worked! I had brought him copies of the most persuasive medical literature and postings, and described my conclusions and told him just why I thought a trial was in order. He WAS open to the idea, but had many concerns about the safety of such a trial and what I could realistically expect. We worked out a plan between us both, and agreed on dosages of Synthroid and Cytomel, times of day for split dosages of Cytomel, length of the trial, and followup visits at monthly intervals, to check progress and watch for any problems.

I've now been on T4/T3 combo for 1 month, and tomorrow is my first follow-up visit. There is noticeable improvement in some symptoms, although not as much as many posters were describing, and not necessarily the same symptom-set they had claimed was improved. The brain fog has lifted a little more, and there are some rather interesting changes in my memory loss. I'm not as tired, so on weekends when I sleep in I'm only sleeping 9 hours instead of 10 or more, and (both on weekends and during the week) I wake up more easily. There is some improvement in my libido, but not much yet, and there might be a slight lessening in my hair loss, but it's hard to say. What I didn't expect was the change in my appetite: I stopped craving carbohydrates and now meat and fresh veggies are what I want. My fatigue doesn't set in until later in the evenings, so I can get motivated to get out and get exercise again. I have hopes that by the time of my wedding 11 months from now I'll have my waist back, and some of my former vim and vigor.

I am realistic about this. I know that whatever I might wish, I will probably never get back to my size and energy of 3 years ago. But as long as I keep researching and actively working with my doctor, I stand the best chance of recovering all that I can. I just yesterday found mention of a time-release T3, which would be infinitely preferable than several split doses. I'm printing out anything I can find on this to show my endo tomorrow when I see him. In the meantime, it's heartening to know that I CAN do something about my health problems (research), and I WILL make a difference.


Nancy: With T3, "My Gloom Is Gone!"

I have to share this with all of you who are still struggling with low energy, depression, loss of libido and all the other "side effects" of hypothyroidism that can linger ever when Synthroid gets your TSH back to normal.

I had been taking Synthroid for about 8 months. My TSH was at .8, so I should have been feeling great, right? My energy and many other symptoms had improved, but I still felt gloomy a lot of the time, often cried for no reason and generally felt like I couldn't cope. I read the excerpt of the February 99 New England Journal of Medicine article mentioned on Mary's site. It explained about how effective T4/T3 drugs were proving for people with these symptoms. I called my doctor and told him what I had read. He was skeptical at first, but he said he would read the article and call me back. He called me 2 days later and suggested that we try a switch to Armour for a few months.

After a month, I noticed a big difference. My gloom was gone! I felt so much happier and cheerful. My husband noticed the difference, too. I am so lucky to have a doctor who listens to me and didn't blow me off because I don't have a medical degree. I have been on Armour for 3 months now and I am even starting to lose the last few stubborn pounds that would not come off even after my TSH was back to normal.

Thank you, Mary, for this website. Good luck to all of you out there who still don't feel well. Talk to your doctor, share the information you learn, and find someone who will listen.


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