Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Thyroid, Thy have the Soul of a Demon

Back in those long-ago days, our development had its own community pool. It was a very nice one, L-shaped, Olympian-Sized. I had taken a family membership and my kids learned to dive there. It had a separate wading pool for little waddling, toddler kids, a snack bar, changing rooms and a shower.  (Left, Noelle venturing into the community pool.)
When I first joined cost was reasonable, but each year they raised the membership fee until it got too high and I dropped out. It must have been too
high for a lot of people and less went there until after a couple years more they closed it. A few more years passed and then the beautiful pool disappeared. It was totally broken up and hauled away, the hole filled, covered with dirt and turf and some playground equipment. Today it is only a small park and playground (right) and by this year 2017 probably a lot of residents don’t know a swimming pool had ever existed here. There are some people of Indian descent who go to the park in the summer and play cricket where once was sparkling blue water. 
Anyway, in 1989 I had a family membership to the pool and would take the kids down for swimming several times in the summer. (Left, Laurel jumping into the pool.) Lois only went one or two times. Like most situations where other people might be found in clusters, she avoided this one, too. During this summer 1989 I began experiencing a lot of muscle cramps, not just in my legs, but all over my body. There were some real terrible ones that clamped across my chest. Sometimes my face even cramped up. Was it caused by the cold water? I didn’t know, but I didn’t like it.
Beside these cramps, which continued to attack me even after swimming season ended, I experienced double vision that autumn. I would be watching television and there would be two screens, one just above the other. Not only that, but I could hardly stand to keep my eyes open outdoors. The sunlight caused me to suffer pain in my eyes. Even more annoying, it felt like I had sand under my lids.  I went to my ophthalmologist for an exam. He told me there was nothing wrong with my eyes, but double vision could indicate something else was going on in my body. He suggested I see my family physician. The fsmily physician, naturally, sent me to a specialist, this time an endocrinologist, a gland doctor.
Once more I was getting blood tests and also sent off to the hospital for several untrasounds. The results came back and he told me I had hyperthyroidism.

“But I have hypothyroidism,” I told him.
“You had,” he corrected. “You now have hyperthyroidism. It is rare, but sometimes hypo does jump to hyper. I see about 1 case a year.” He also explained to me that the disease usually strikes after the age of 50. I wasn’t there yet. He went on telling me it was way more common in women than men, 5 to 8 times as common. Oh, joy, why do I always beat the odds and get these things. It never seems to work that way on the lottery!
Besides the hyperthyroidism, I had Graves’ Disease. This was why I felt like there was sand in
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my eyes, as well as my sensitivity to light. Graves’ Disease causes an inflammatory reaction in the eye muscles and they swell. This swelling having nowhere to go due to the bone structure around them will begin pushing the eyes from the sockets giving one a protruding eye appearance. My eyes were pushed out enough that my eyelids could not completely close when I was asleep. Your eyelids lubricate the eyes, but with mine being partially open all night, my eyes dried out, thus the feeling of sand. (Left, with Noelle.)
The light sensitivity was gradually growing worse. It got so bad I was driving to work with one eye closed and a hand over my open eye and I was just peeking through the slit between my fingers. Not just the bright sunlight was a problem. Overhead lights, such as we had at work, were a problem. I had to take to wearing a baseball cap indoors and out.
Nothing else helped. Sunglasses did me no good, the light just went over the top. I did have to have that visor of a baseball cap to shade my eyes. Still, my eyes were so sensitive I was in constant pain and having difficulty seeing. I was sent to another lab where I underwent a CTScan of my head. I was pushed into a bulbous contraption that twisted and turned and made a lot of noise. I pretended it was an amusement park ride. It took all these images inside my skull. I told them they wouldn’t find anything in there.
I was going to the Lab for blood work twice a week as the doctor sought what medication
might help me. As to my eyes, he put me on a steroid called prednisone. Now this steroid made the lower half of my face and my neck sell up. My neck was getting larger and my eyes were popping out. I was turning into a frog.
Prednisone was not a very great
thing to be on and I could only take it for six weeks. It changed my personality, as well as turning me into a monster physically. It made me feel angry most of the time. I easily snapped, threw things, even cursed for the first time in my life. I went to the Concord Mall one day and while walking across the parking lot I believed a driver came too close to me. I began running after his car, yelling and screaming. That was certainly not like me.
I couldn’t continue to chase cars because my muscles were getting so week from the Hyperthyroidism it was becoming difficult to stand up let alone run. The doctor decided to take me off the prednisone. The steroid was not having any positive effect on my eyes bulging out anyway. He sent me to another specialist, a radiologist at Christiana Care Hospital.
This doctor had a strong German accent. He told me he was going to have to give me radiation treatment.
“Do not let it vorry you, Mister Meredith. It may cause cataracts…but ve can remove cataracts. It could give you skin cancer…but ve can cure skin cancer. So, Mister Meredith, you have nothing to vorry about. It is perfectly safe.”
I was scheduled for treatment in early February 1990. First I had to go a week ahead for the technicians to do measurements on my face. They laid me on this table under this giant machine and began to map out where I would be zapped. They target dots and drew a grid on my face with orange marker connecting the dots. I was told I couldn’t wash or shower my face until after the procedure, so for the next couple of weeks I had to walk around with this odd mask of lines on my countenance. Maybe today with so many people getting their face tattooed with odd designs it would be shrugged off, but this was 1990, nearly 30 years ago and tattoos had not made a social splash yet. I just looked like some kind of weirdo. Or maybe a Super Hero, Orange-Faced Man!
To compound matters, I was one of the Bank’s representatives to ACES. I believe the acronym stood for “American Commercial Enterprise System”. It was a program for teachers where they could pick up continuing educational credits. The teachers would visit a number of local businesses over several weeks, a different one each week. They would be shown around and the operations would be explained. Wilmington Trust had about five managers from different departments of the company who would lecture about their area. I represented deposit operations.
The teachers loved coming to the Bank more than any other business they visited. Why? It was because Wilmington Trust had this place called the Rodney Square Club. It was very exclusive. People paid an annual membership to belong to what was essentially a restaurant located on the top floor of our headquarters. Actually, the kitchen doubled for the Executive Dining Room, located on the same floor behind a separating wall.  When the teachers came, after the lectures, we took them up to the club for a free meal. That was nice because it meant a free meal for we speakers as well.
I did feel a bit awkward because the week I got the orange grid work across my face was the week we met with a new batch of teachers.
In the beginning of February, I was down to Christiana Care Radiation Department for
treatment every day. I was ushered into a large, sterile room that looked like the scene from some science fiction movie. A table/bed was the only furniture I remember. It was in the center of the space. Above was this large piece of equipment. The technicians got me centered on the table and spent a few minutes lining up the end of the thing with the grid drawn upon me. Finally, I was told everything was perfectly safe, just not to move. Then they all ran out of the room and hid behind a barricade. Boy, didn’t that build confidence.
Have you ever noticed when warned you must not move how quickly you develop the need to scratch your nose or something?
The contraption did the trick as far as the swelling was concerned. The muscles grew smaller and my eyes receded back into the sockets; although, my right eye has always remained protruding a bit further than it should.
Even though I was looking a little more normal I still had the light sensitivity and the pain from that. It was so great that I was in constant misery. I couldn’t even sleep at night. I had to take a medical leave from work. I could not stand any light at all. I couldn’t even look at TV. Finally, all I could do was sit on the living room sofa with a blanket over my head to keep out any light. It hardly mattered. The hyperthyroidism had weakened my muscles to the point it was an effort to stand up or walk.

My parents were down for Laurel’s 12th birthday (Left). I’m sure I was a lot of fun, hiding as I was beneath a blanket.
  I could hardly stand sitting about the house any more. I decided to take a chance on escaping back into the world. Even though I was very weak and wobbly I saw no harm in taking a little ride. Lois had the one car and was at work. I had this old Chevy Corvette I used. I took it and drove down what was called the Washington Street Extension. I turned around in the entrance to Rockwood Museum Park and headed home, except I hadn’t gone far when the car ran out of gas.
What do I do now? In 1990, the cell phone was still not very available on a wide basis. I certainly didn’t have CB radio in the car. I decided my best bet was to walk somewhere and get some gas, if I could manage to walk at all.

Well, I did. I walked out to Philadelphia Pike where there were some gas stations and other stores. I needed something to carry the gas in so I walked until I found an auto parts store and bought a 5-galleon gas can. I then walked back the way I had come to a gas station. It was self-serve at some pumbs, but you had to pay inside. I went in to the office to a counter. There were two women operating the station. I purchased a couple galleons and went out to pump it into the can.
I got the nozzle over the opening in the can, but I had to kind of squat down to do it, since I had to set the can on the ground. My legs had it by this time.  I began to do a knee bend and plop! I fell back onto my rump. I looked around. I figured those women were probably dialing the police about then. “Officer, we got some guy out here we think he’s drunk. He sprawled on the ground and he’s tryin’ to fill a gas can. Looks dangerous to us.”
No cops showed up. I managed to get to my feet with my can and somehow made it back to my car and poured it in the tank. I made it home, but knew I wouldn’t be making any more spur-of-the-moment jaunts for a while.
I felt miserable the entire month of March. On March 30 I was still home from work and suffering.
My parents came down on Easter. We went out to dinner at Schmacker’s Restaurant. My mom said I looked terrible. I certainly felt terrible.
My doctor decided my thyroid was not going to improve. The only alternate was to do it in. I came into his office and his nurse gave me a cup of poison to drink. I gulped it down. This was a radioactive iodine cocktail. Its purpose was to kill that nasty old thyroid that had revolted against me.  It worked and I suffered no side effects from it.
By May 6, I was feeling better and I continued to return to my old self after that. The every few days to the lab to get blood tests gradually phased out as my T levels became balanced. Since I no longer owned a thyroid, those T levels would forever have to be monitored and I was back on that one little pill a day for the rest of my life.
It took time for my face to return from frog to human, almost a couple of years. Due to that
evil thyroid my hair had turned complexly gray and my muscles were left in sad shape. I went back to weight lifting to build myself up again and walking more to lose any excess pounds. In case you are wondering, I am doing arm curls with a 35 pound dumbbell in each hand. (You can certainly see the splotches of my psoriasis in this photo.)
It wasn’t a big deal. I had always walked and also had started weight lifting while in high school as that skinny guy always getting sand kicked in his face at the beach. I was never consistent with it, doing it some years and not on others, but it helped keep me toned. I never looked like the guys on the cover of “Strength & Health”, but that’s okay; those guys were usually short, I was tall. I never reaching my goal of having a six-pack either.
My eyes more or less stayed in their socket where they belong, except my right eye continued to bulge out a bit. My eyesight was never good and it stayed funky after the Graves’ Disease. I
thought the Hyperthyroidism caused the Graves’, but eventually found out it was the opposite. I got hyperthyroidism because I got Graves’ Disease. Graves’, psoriasis and what comes later show my immune system was definitely out of-whack; a rebel against my own body.
The sensitivity to light never completely went away. I had to wear the baseball cap in order to
see whenever I was outside and often inside if there were overhead lights. If I am outdoors without the hat, especially on sunny days, I am basically blind. Without the hat I don’t know where I’m going.

Some may claim I never knew where I was going anyway.


Practical Parsimony said...

Well, that was interesting. I learned a few things.

WARPed said...

I think the current formulations of Prednisone are superior to the old ones, with less side effects.

I recently took two courses of it for a herniated cervical disc, and it worked very well.

Also took it many years ago for a severe case of poison ivy, and I gained 10 lbs.