Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lions, and tigers, and parathyroid glands!

OK, the title amuses me because I’m a Lion (zodiac), a Tiger (Chinese zodiac), and it seems that at least one of my parathyroid glands is enlarged and has taken control of the ship. You may be as amused or unamused as you wish.

I realize I haven’t posted in ages, but there has been a lot going on. Namely school, a brand new job, and a slew of health stuff. (I also just haven’t felt like I had a lot to say.)

I mentioned before that when I had my routine physical in January, my calcium levels came back abnormally high. The level was so little above normal that my doctor had me come back to retest it several times, thinking that it must be a dietary issue. The third (or fourth, maybe—I forget now) time I went in, I asked about thyroid/parathyroid issues, having Googled the hell out of “high calcium.” She assured me that my thyroid levels were normal. Thankfully I had researched well enough that I knew that thyroid levels being normal had nothing to do with whether or not the parathyroid hormone would be normal and asked again. Again she told me that because my calcium was so little above normal, it was unlikely that my parathyroid was involved, but she said she would check those levels anyway.

A week later I received a call that she was referring me to an endocrinologist because my parathyroid hormone levels were also elevated. Huzzah for being insistent, right?

This all happened at the beginning of March. I finally saw the endocrinologist last week. According to her, and to my records, I’ve apparently had high calcium levels since 2006. (Thank you, PCP, for neglecting to mention this for six years.) I also have significantly low vitamin D levels. Apparently, when one’s vitamin D is low, this effects the absorption of calcium, and calcium levels should also be low. The fact that mine was high (even just a little high), meant that my parathyroid gland(s) were overacting, and that should have been noticed.

The list of symptoms involved with this that I have and that people have been telling me are “just stress”: fatigue, trouble concentrating, memory troubles, aches and pains, frequent headaches, trouble falling asleep at night, lack of interest in going out, thinning hair. Um, hello! Apparently a lot of people with hyperparathyroidism also suffer changes in personality, notably becoming crankier, and a change in mood is noticed—more so by friends and family than the patient—after the gland is removed. Maybe I’ll turn into Mary-frickin’-Poppins!

There is one more test being done to rule out a rare kidney disease, but in all likelihood that will come back negative and I’ll be having surgery in August to remove the offending parathyroid gland(s). I’m not sure what this means, as I have yet to find out if I’ll be having traditional surgery or a newer, minimally invasive surgery. But for now I’ve decided that, as either way I’ll be on a diet of semi-solid foods during my recovery, post-surgery will involve daily ice cream parties. (I’m also trying not to think of the scar I’ll have on my neck as a scar, but as a battle wound.)

The great news is that for hyperparathyroidism, unlike hyperthyroidism, surgery is a likely cure (high success rate), not a treatment. Once it’s over, it should stay over. No complications or life-long medications. And I should go back to a fully-functioning 25-year-old. Well, since my birthday will have come and gone, a fully-functioning 26-year-old.

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