Sunday, 2 April 2017

What NOT to say to a thyroid sufferer

If you are dealing with any kind of thyroid condition, I am almost certain you've heard at least one of the things I'm about to list... On top of the symptoms we largely suffer from in silence, one of the most difficult elements to face is a lack of understanding or empathy for our plight. So, without further ado, here's what NOT to say to a thyroid sufferer...

"But you look fine."
Now let me tell you. Just because we look fine on the outside, doesn't mean we aren't struggling on the inside. Some people actually refuse to believe that anything is wrong with us simply because we aren't displaying physical signs of sickness. Be sensitive to this fact and don't question us when we say we are not feeling well!

"Get some more sleep then."
Ah, this gem. One of the prime symptoms of thyroid conditions is severe fatigue and exhaustion, however, we also tend to struggle with falling asleep at night. Getting more sleep is not always an option (if it was, believe me we don't need to tell us). Anyway, thyroid fatigue can't always be combatted by a lot of sleep either - even if we get plenty of regular sleep and rest, we will probably still feel drained. It's just a fact of that thyroid life unfortunately.

"Your TSH is within normal range."
A special one for the doctors. If we are coming to your office and complaining of worsening symptoms or difficulty functioning, please please please don't just throw our 'normal' TSH level in our faces and say there's nothing wrong. We are suffering and asking for relief. Test us for other relevant factors - Vitamin D, Ferritin, check our thyroid antibodies... TSH may be within 'normal' range but is it 'optimal'? There is so much more to a healthy thyroid function than just TSH being within range.

"Thyroid cancer is a good cancer to get!"
Wait what...? You may be shocked and in disbelief that anyone would actually say or think this, but trust me it's a regular comment we receive. Let's just get this straight: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A 'GOOD' CANCER! Yes, it's true that thyroid cancer has one of the best prognoses, but it's still cancer. Everybody hates cancer. And nobody wants to be told they have cancer.

"Just eat less and work out more." 
I'm lucky not to have suffered with this because weight gain has not been a side effect of my condition for me, but for many of us it is. The thyroid controls our metabolism, and in many hypothyroid patients, their metabolic rate slows considerably due to poor thyroid function, thus making it almost impossible to lose weight regardless of how well they eat or how much exercise they do. Oh, and don't forget we are almost always tired. So working out is more of a challenge than it normally would be.

"But they removed it, so you're better now." 
I got this a lot after my surgery. Ok, so the nodule/tumour/cancerous cells are gone - BUT SO IS THE THYROID GLAND! In case you hadn't noticed, we actually need it to function properly... and no medication can completely replace the abilities of an essential gland, which is formed in every human by the time they reach their second trimester in the womb. Getting rid of the danger zone via surgery is vitally important, yes, but it is also just the beginning of coping with a lifelong condition.

"Let's meet for breakfast at 9am on Saturday."
A light-hearted one to finish on, but this is just all kinds of wrong... Number one, weekends are our chance to get a much-needed lie-in. Number two,  we can't eat anything or drink coffee for at least an hour after taking our thyroid medication. So if we're meeting you for breakfast at 9am, that means we need to at least take our tablet by a weekend. That's cruel. Let's just settle for brunch please!!

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