October 6, 2012 by Sian Rowland
Funnily enough I had just mentioned health as one of the drawbacks of working for yourself- no one’s going to give you sick pay or make allowances if you can’t rise from your bed and meet those deadlines- when I realised I had some health problems myself. As many a ridiculously healthy person, I don’t do illness, I can push on through most things but thought I’d better book an appointment with the GP when I ended up in the Accident and Emergency department at my local hospital twice over the summer with the sort of facial swellings that made experienced nurses go, ‘urgh’ and consultants’ eyes widen and beckon to their students to come and look.
When I eventually got to see the GP (which is as difficult and requires more paperwork that asking for an audience with the queen), this happened.
Me: I think I have allergies.
GP: what do you think you’re allergic to?
Me: wine, rape seed oil, perfume, heat, jewellery, most fabrics including wool, stress, belts, pressure, shower gel, soap,
GP: Hmm. Any other symptoms?
Me (excited because there was a notice on the door saying ONE PROBLEM PER APPOINTMENT, IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE PROBLEM, BOOK ANOTHER APPOINTMENT and I wondered how many appointments I’d need to describe everything): well I’m starving all the time, hot all the time, can’t quench my thirst no matter how much water I drink, twitchy, itchy, lumpy, anxious, have dry skin, dry hair and my hands shake, can’t concentrate, can’t sit still, run on empty then crash and burn…
GP: sounds like and autoimmune disease, not allergies. I’d like you to stay for blood tests right now. Go and see the nurse and call back in a week for the results. Don’t worry we rarely call the patient unless it’s an absolute emergency.
About 20 hours later…
GP: I’ve rung you as an emergency to say that the blood results are back and they’re abnormal. You have hyperthryroidism. Can you come in IMMEDIATELY?
It turns out that I have it good and proper. Trust me to not do things by halves. The level of thyroxine produced by my thyroid (which maintains our metabolism) was three times the maximum level it should be.
This was three weeks ago and I’ve been taking drugs to stabilise things since then. I will be on the drugs for at least a year and possibly more. There could be radioactive iodine therapy (as nasty as it sounds) or surgery. I will have regular blood tests (I had more yesterday) and am booked to see the endocrinologist to find out exactly what sort of hyperthyroidism I have and what the outlook is for that. Some types gift the patient with eye and vision problems and some play around with your metabolism levels for fun. It’s not often life-threatening if treated but it is life-changing. I hid my symptoms well so not many people would have known anything was wrong anyway.
The drugs make me incredibly tired and my brain is sluggish but as there are no real visible symptoms and I look fine, if tired, it’s hard to be taken seriously. I have several projects on the go which is a freelancer’s dream but would rather curl up under my duvet most of the time. The good news is that I’ve unearthed jumpers, scarves and gloves I haven’t worn for ages because they were either too itchy or too hot so I have a whole new winter wardrobe. Hurrah. Oh and it don’t need to drink an elephant’s body weight in water every few hours. Double hoorah. At this point I’m just grateful for small mercies and the amazing NHS.
Are any other freelancers out there battling with a long term health condition and how dies it affect your work?
For more information on thyroid diseases go to Thyroid UK.