Last April, after four months of hard exercise and healthy eating with only four pounds of weight lost, my mom suggested I get tested for hypothyroidism. She had recently lost about 40-50 pounds after getting her hypothyroidism under control, and it had also been diagnosed in my grandfather, aunt, and cousin. Considering it’s hereditary, I figured I might as well and set an appointment with a doctor at Austin Regional Clinic to get tested. I’d heard a lot of negative feedback about ARC, mostly that they treat illnesses, but don’t deal with/care for preventative treatments. They were the only people I could afford that took the shitty insurance I had though, so I really didn’t have much of a choice.
When the doctor came in to see me, she didn’t even look me in the eyes before she flipped a page on her chart and said, “You know you’re obese, right?” She didn’t even make fucking EYE CONTACT with me before she just came out with her bullshit BMI calculations to tell me that I needed to lose weight. I said, “Well yeah, that’s why I’m here. I work out hard and nothing happens, so we thought it might be a thyroid problem.” She lectured me for a bit about needing to eat better and work out longer, but didn’t let me explain that I do eat well and I do work out.
The most commonly accepted threshold for TSH levels is 5.0, but I had read some studies saying that the reason those TSH levels were so high was that there were a lot of people with untreated hypothyroidism included in the studies to determine the average. My mom’s doctor, who spotted and subsequently treated my mom’s hypo, follows a couple of studies that came out a few years ago saying that the recommended TSH levels are actually 3.0, with another expected drop to 2.5 in the next few years. To accurately diagnose hypothyroidism though, you need to compare those TSH levels to triglycerides, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc, and you can’t base a positive or negative diagnosis just on TSH levels. It also helps to have a family history when diagnosing, so you can determine when the spike in TSH levels generally occurs in your family, but when I tried to tell her about the other members of my close/immediate family that experienced this, she shushed me.
After the embarrassing lecture from the completely inept doctor, I tried to bring up the new studies with the lower TSH levels, but I was so frazzled and she was so uninterested that she wrote me off with what amounted to “I’m a doctor and you’re not so shut up.” She shuffled me off to the lab so I could get my blood tested, without telling me what she was actually going to test. I guess I figured “she’s a doctor so she knows what she’s doing” and didn’t question the lab tech about what was on my chart. I got an automated call two days later with my results, a TSH of 2.56, but no explanation or diagnosis of those results.
I called and left three messages for the doctor before getting a returned call from her one week later. She succinctly said, “You don’t have hypothyroidism,” and when I asked her about the other aspects she was supposed to test, she said, “I decided not to test those.” When I told her about the specific scientific journals where I read about the new TSH levels, she basically said she hadn’t read/heard about that and didn’t really care.
I was talking to my mom over Christmas about something I thought was entirely unrelated (okay it was constipation you guys, are you happy?) and she said that was something she experienced a lot of before she started getting her thyroid under control. I went home and looked at related symptoms for hypothyroidism, besides unmanageable weight, and it was basically like a checklist of shit I deal with that I thought was just my own bad luck – unnaturally heavy and unreliable periods, very dry skin, sensitivity to cold, brittle nails, and achy muscles.
So now here I am, almost a year later, and still basically the same exact weight. I work out HARD for about 1.5 hours a day, I eat remarkably well, and have even started eating motherfucking vegetables. I do everything a person is supposed to do to lose weight, and I’ve made practically no progress. My mom and I have decided that I really need to be tested again, and this time by a doctor who actually knows her shit and not some worthless shithead at ARC.
Which leaves me in a jam. I am broke. I make like negative dollars in my paycheck, and I have a lot of bills to pay every month. I don’t have $100 to spare on a monthly basis, but I need insurance if I want to get this treated. My only other option is to pay $353 for the initial tests and hope the doctor can figure everything out on the first try because I can’t imagine being able to scrape that together more than once.
What would you do? Would you stay chubby and hate yourself a little more every day, while losing the will to continue working so hard to lose weight and because you see absolutely no results? Or would you go into debt in the hopes that you do have hypothyroidism and all of this could change, while risking the chance that it isn’t and you’re back to square one?