Summer of Sportsmania

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Is it too early to say I already have gold medal fever? I’ve watched portions of Olympic trials all week and I can’t wait for the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 27. I’ve also been recording a ton of the UEFA Euro Cup and I’m totally psyched to see Olympic soccer competition next month. It’s going to be a blast rooting for the individual athletes and random international teams I’ve become virtually acquainted with. While I would really love to set a productive goal this season I know my life is going to be dominated by waking up early to watch Olympic events before work and then staying up a bit too late to watch nightly broadcasts. This is simply how it goes during every Olympics!

I already have my eye on the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. If circumstances allow for it I really want to travel to Brazil for those games. I was able to visit my sister in Utah during the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. Despite the fact that I was completely unprepared for the cold weather (I wore thin khaki pants my first day in downtown SLC), I was completely enthralled by the buzz of the crowd, giant banners hanging on skyscrapers, echoes of live concerts and the sheer number of law enforcement and national security officials. (I specifically remember having to flip over my belt buckle for a soldier running a metal detector near one of the venues.) I was especially thrilled when we spotted the US men's bobsled team at the mall. I still remember their crazy quad muscles! My sister, brother-in-law and I were able to watch a women’s hockey game between Germany and Kazakhstan. Even though Kazakhstan got killed we still waved our bright blue flags which we had bought outside of the arena. I spent one full day wandering the streets of downtown SLC buying commemorative Olympic pins. Those memories cemented my undying love for the Olympics. If I can attend the games in Rio I will be ecstatic.

I guess I do have one tiny productive goal this summer. I’m going to finish training for a half marathon which will be on Saturday, September 8. I think it will be nice to run in warmer weather but it’s going to be killer getting up even earlier than last year’s half marathon. My friends will be with me so I’m sure I’ll make it through.

Gosh, I can’t even focus on September for more than four sentences. I’m just so excited for July and August! July will be my last full month in P-town and then I’ll be watching the Olympics from my new apartment. I just have to be disciplined and remember to leave the house every once in a while to be social. I think I can do it. I just might run out the door screaming “U-S-A! U-S-A!”


Your Thyroid Advocate

The company I work for has great incentives for employees who want to stay healthy. This winter we were offered $300 gift cards if we’d see our doctors for an annual physical. I was able to squeeze my doctor’s appointment in five days before the deadline. My appointment was on the last Monday in March. I checked and double checked that a blood test would be absolutely necessary. I was told that a blood test was indeed required to complete the annual physical and qualify for the gift card. As I sat in the laboratory waiting for my name to be called I kept thinking, “This will probably be worth $300. The best thing is I won’t have to worry about getting another blood test for an entire year.”

The only blood test I remember getting was eight years ago when I was filling out my mission papers. Back then the excitement of being called on a mission was enough to get me through the ordeal. Nowadays I need cash waved in front of my face in order to take a needle willingly. It’s sad but true.

When my name was finally called and I entered the draw center I had no choice but to put my trust in my randomly selected phlebotomist. Actually, maybe the selection wasn’t so random. She was very nice and I didn’t feel embarrassed to ask her for the smallest needle she had. She didn’t fight me on it at all. The best part of all was she was able to find my vein on her first attempt. The worst part was it seemed like the needle was in there forever. My nurse practitioner had ordered a ton of blood work. I dared not look down at my arm to make sure my circulatory system was surrendering all of the required blood. The phlebotomist asked me how I was feeling and I said, “It kind of hurts.” I asked her if everything was working and she said it was. After a few more seconds she started removing all of the equipment. She mentioned that my veins were so small I probably wouldn’t be able to donate blood. That sounded completely fine to me.

I left the lab that day knowing I had done a good thing. After passing through that major hurdle I bought myself some special French toast at a local drive-thru and headed to work. During the next three days I waited for a follow-up call from the doctor’s office but it never came. I called them on Thursday and after a little shuffling I was transferred to someone who had my results. She ran through the tests they had done. I had expected everything to come up normal but that wasn’t the case. She told me my thyroid number was off. After a little explaining I understood that my thyroid was slightly underactive and they wanted to start me on a small dose Levothyroxine immediately. I would need to take it for two months and then return for another blood test. “Which pharmacy would you like us to send your prescription to?”

Wait, hold up.

The day before I had this conversation I had read an article titled, “Student survives cancer thanks to BYU class.” The student’s classmate and teacher noticed a suspicious lump on her throat while they were learning how to do physical examinations in class. The lump turned out to be thyroid cancer. Here’s the news story:

I wasn’t concerned I had cancer but I thought it was a weird coincidence. More than anything I was troubled I had a problem that would never go away. (I didn’t really understand that I’d likely be on medication for the rest of my life until I talked to my mom.) The biggest bummer is that the medication has to be adjusted throughout the years so that means lots of blood tests.

When I picked up my prescription at Costco I was pretty upset. I was in line with people who had embarrassing problems and I didn’t want to be one of them. I didn’t want them to look at me and wonder what I had. At least the prescription was inexpensive.

I went about my business and diligently took my pills for the next few days. Then on Sunday night I got another thyroid bombshell. I was watching the new episode of the hotly-anticipated fifth season of Mad Men. One of the main characters made her first appearance of the season and boy did she look different. Betty Francis (formerly Betty Draper) had gained a little weight. She went to see her doctor who at first brushed off the weight gain as “typical for middle-aged women.” (Yikes! She’s supposed to be in her early 30’s!) He quickly changed his tune when he felt a suspicious lump on the front of her throat. That's right - the lump was on her thyroid. I wanted to yell, “Again?!”

 Betty had a biopsy and by the end of the episode she knew her tumor was benign. She is one of the most polarizing characters on the show but for that hour I imagined her slow demise and I felt very sorry for her. It wasn’t a pretty picture. The things I imagined reminded me of my grandma’s struggle with throat cancer. I was glad that Betty would be okay but I did become a little paranoid that my next blood test could reveal more serious problems with my thyroid.

A week and a half ago I went in for my second blood test. My phlebotomist had a slightly different but extremely efficient approach to finding my vein. Since she got it the first try (using a baby needle) I didn’t mind one bit. She only needed a fraction of the blood they took the first time and I was out of there in no time. She told me, “You did great,” and I really appreciated that.

Fast forward three days. I sat in an examination room with my nurse practitioner as she searched for my results on her computer. She asked me if I had been feeling better and I told her that in the first month of taking medication I definitely noticed a difference. By the time the second month rolled around it was harder to tell the difference because it just became part of me. The tricky thing about my situation was I never knew I had a problem in the first place.

The good news was that my thyroid had normalized. There was still room for improvement. We decided to keep me on the same dosage and check again in three months. Irgh! Three months!! After that it will probably be every six months. That means if I live for 50 more years I will have 100 more blood tests. Holy crap.

What does it all mean? I think it means a few things.

1) Having a thyroid problem is no big deal. I have told a lot of people about it and everyone seems to have a thyroid problem or know someone who does. It looks like we’re all in the same big fat boat.

2) I have to face a few inconveniences on a daily, monthly, and semi-annual basis. (That is 365 + 12 + 6 = 383 inconveniences a year, to be exact.) I have to remember to take a pill every day, get a prescription refill every month, and surrender myself for a blood test twice a year. I’ve already been at this for two+ months and I know it’s for my own good. I’m going to keep at it.

3) Blood tests are no longer allowed to be a big deal. They are just going to be a part of life. However, I’m still entitled to a sweet treat after every blood test.

 4) You may not know you have a problem, and you probably won’t have a $300 incentive to get checked out “just for the heck of it” but I strongly recommend you get an annual physical exam. Don’t forget to get a blood test as part of the grand finale.

As your thyroid advocate I hope this information has been somewhat helpful. I still have moments when I get mad I’ll be on medication for-ev-er but I know that this is a simple problem with a simple solution. I’m still eternally grateful for modern medicine and I can’t imagine life without it – even if I have to haul a tiny orange pill container everywhere I go.