Thursday, July 9, 2009

My thermostat is broken

About two weeks ago (6/28 to be exact), I met up with a friend for walk with a meetup group we both belong to. After the walk, we decided to grab lunch. While we were eating, he was telling me about sharing an office at work with a menopausal woman. He asked if I had any idea how frustrating it was to have to spend several hours a day with someone who only has a couple of degrees differential in temperature before being too hot or too cold and who feels 79 is the perfect temperature. I could feel I was looking at him like he had two heads. I quietly told him that I did not, but James could have commiserated with him since he just described me-except for the menopause aspect of course.

I am always cold. I keep a sweater at my desk at all times. When my co-workers are walking around in their cute capris and sleeveless summer tops, I am still in jeans and shirts with sleeves. Most days, I have to put my sweater on because while everyone else is comfortable, I am freezing. I am cold at 76 and below, okay at 78, and too hot at 80 and above. James used to shake his head and tell me "Honeybunch, your thermostat is broken."

Shortly before James died, I started breaking out in hives. They weren't bad, and we figured it was from the stress of planning an out-of-state wedding. After he died, they got really bad. Several trips to the doctor yielded the same results: I had hives and was told to stop stressing out and they might or might not go away. (So glad I shelled out co-pays for that sage advice). I had no reason to be so stressed out. James was just my fiance-it's not like my husband died after all. During one of my appointments, I convinced my doctor to refer me to the allergist. I have had allergies all my life and at 34, I finally decided I wanted to know what exactly I am allergic to and if by some chance an allergic reaction was causing the hives. (Novel concept, I know).

On 5/21, I met with the allergist and learned that I am severely allergic to birch trees. I am also allergic to grass. And despite getting a scratchy throat and eyes, running nose and sneezing my head off when I am around them, I am not actually allergic to cats. There was nothing definitive to explain the hives so the allergist ordered a complete blood workup. After telling me that certain rare cancers can cause hives, he sent me on my merry way to wait the two weeks for the results. James had died almost 4 months prior and my first thought was "who is going to take care of me if I have cancer?" I was a sobbing mess when I got back to the office. And then I did the worst thing possible. I Googled cancers with hives as a symptom. Sometimes, knowledge can be a dangerous thing. I found several, but didn't really seem to have the symptoms of any except for the hives. (I should probably mention that James and I both come from small families. He was the 6th person to die in just over 4 years and his aunt was terminal with lung cancer. She died a month after he did. After the 3rd funeral in 3 years, I couldn't help but start to wonder who was next after each one).

When I finally went in for my follow-up appointment, my hives were not much better. The allergist asked how I was and I told him I was nervous about the possibility of having a rare cancer. He said he didn't really think that was the case, and it wasn't, and he was sorry he put the idea in my head. He then started to go over the results of the blood workup with me. I tried to pay attention but most of it was medicalese I didn't understand. I saw numbers; I saw they were normal. I didn't care about what they meant.

And then he turned to page 2. And I saw that there were two numbers that were off the charts. Both had a normal range of 0 - 60. My levels were 202 and 714. As he was explaining all the normal "stuff," I just stared at those numbers. I wanted to grab him by the neck and tell him to just get to those! When he finally did, he explained they were my thyroid proteins and that most people's are off but they don't know it because it is not something normally tested for and he only tested for them as they could be contributing to the hives. He then explained that the thyroid regulates body temperature and said a bunch of other medical stuff that my grief-induced fog-shrouded brain could not grasp. He concluded by saying my thyroid hormone was fine and that is the one that really matters. When he finished talking, I looked at him and said, "so, what you are telling me then, is that my thermostat is broken?" He responded that was pretty much the gist of it. I started to laugh and then I burst into tears. I told him I was laughing because my fiance had said that for years and crying because I couldn't call him and tell him he was right. The allergist didn't know for sure what was causing the hives, and eventually they just went away.

When I left the clinic that day, I wanted so much to be able to call James and tell him he was right all those years. But since he was only wrong like 5 times in his life (okay, Honey, 3), I am sure he knows.


Sari said...

I'm sure he knows too. He's probably getting a good laugh out of it.

I think my thermostat must be broken too, only I am too warm at 75 degrees or more. Living in Florida sucks LOL.

Stella said...

Hi Heather,

You may wish to follow up with an endocrinologist. I was another person with a "broken thermostat," and had the same symptoms you describe. After many years of those symptoms, I complained loud enough to my doctor. My thyroid levels were normal, but she sent me for a thyroid scan anyway. It turned out that I had a large nodule on my thyroid. I had half of my thyroid removed, and after decades of feeling cold all the time I am finally warm, plus my rashes went away.

Just wanted to let you know that even if thyroid levels are normal there still can be something amiss.


Rick said...

I would just follow up with that and make sure that everything is O.K. and documented.

I am always cold too but I thing my air conditioner gets stuck sometimes!! :-)