My Hypothyroidism Diagnosis Made Me Finally Feel Like I Belong
On August 17th, I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease, and it has left me feeling as normal as I have ever felt.
Four months ago, after getting my unexpected third period and a wonky blood test, I was scheduled for a thyroid and antibodies blood test. My doctor thought I had hypothyroidism, and I thought that was ridiculous. I have no less than five chronic illnesses, and I did not gain a single one from my genetics. My mother had both hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease, my father and brother struggle with unruly immune systems as well. There was no way I had a thyroid problem or autoimmune disease. This would just become yet another mystery diagnosis I would have to painstakingly explain over and over again.
On the way too early morning in August, I woke up, hit the button on my Nespresso, and waited for my doctor’s front desk woman to figure out how to send a Zoom invite to the appointment that would tell me what I already knew: everything looked normal. They had no idea what was wrong with me, again. I spent an hour looking at a blank Zoom screen while my coffee went cold, contemplating what kind of workday I would be having. Finally, I was staring at Dr. Dewan’s grown-out beard and wayward bangs. He was staring down at some papers. “How long have you had an autoimmune disease, Jennifer?” He asked.
My heart stopped, my lips curled upward, “Never!”
“Well, you do now, and it looks like a moderate case of hypothyroidism.”
“That’s what my mother has!” Genetic black sheep no longer. Finally, I had an actual concrete diagnosis, one that you could see in numbers on a lab sheet, not just a doctor’s confused shrug.
“OK, then I will send a prescription to the pharmacy. It’s probably exactly what your mother takes. You should feel better in about three months.”
An answer. Is this how medicine was supposed to work: problem, test, answers, solution? I had never lived this way. It’s always been, “I don’t have a diagnosis. No, there’s no name for what I have.”
One diagnosis doesn’t take back or change my other medical history. The kidney disease, cystic organs and backward bowels are still a medical mystery, something my high school best friend called “Jenny syndrome.” A mix of things that should have and did try to kill me repeatedly, but have made me the actual definition of unique. It’s been hypothesized that no one in the world has my anatomy or my cocktail of medical conditions.
But here I was normal, regular, moderate, boring, hypothyroidism. A disease that more than 10 million people in the U.S. have.
Later that day, when my mother came home, I asked what medication she was on; she takes double my dose. Finally, not alone, not the odd one out, just like her, just like the rest of my family, alike, familiar, familial. It feels a bit like finding kin you didn’t know you had. I’m finally like someone else, no longer the other. I’m just alike.
Getty image by Monako Art Studio