Stress isn’t always the culprit!

Sometime in 2015 I noticed that my leg hairs had become rather scanty and was terribly impressed with my shorter showers – no more shaving. Having just turned 53 I figured it was a getting-older-thing.

Of course I was not so terribly impressed when a few months later my mother made a comment about how she thought my hair was looking rather “thin”. Wretched woman – was my first reaction. How dare she criticize my lustrous locks!

Except upon closer examination – they were not actually so lustrous anymore. Downright thin and stringy more like it. Amongst all the hustle and bustle of life I had not even noticed the change.

This getting older thing was becoming a bit of bitch!

It had been a long year. A long crappy year. Not one, but two friends, had passed away from the dreaded C and our beloved doglet, Fudge, had been critically ill for months and months. I was then in the final throes of organizing our yearly science centre conference at the University of the North West when “fees must fall” caused us to have to relocate the whole thing to a nearby hotel at the last moment. (Sadly, this very same science centre was burnt down just a few weeks later.)

In addition, I’d started a crowdfunding campaign for Sibo Looks Right – a story book on the topic of road safety – the thirteenth title in the Sibo Series. We’d been trying to find funding for this book for ages to no avail. This turned out to be a tad more work than I’d expected and I was burning the midnight oil trying to drum up backers. Thankfully, due to the incredible generosity of Nash Nissan in Alberton, we hit the tipping mark a few days after our campaign began which alleviated a lot of the stress attached to crowdfunding campaigns.

We’d also had a series of visitors, one after the other. To say I had been busy was not really too much of an overstatement.

My legs constantly ached and felt rag-dollish half the time. Could not sleep at night but fell asleep at my desk at ten o’clock in the morning. My mouth was dry and my tongue constantly stuck to my teeth. My lips and face tingled. My hand cramped around the mouse and it was just plain exhausting to type. I had headaches galore and was constantly freezing cold. My skin was scaly (but it’s dry in Pretoria I reasoned) and half the time I could not breathe properly (but then again, I’ve always been short of iron).

Could not remember anything without writing it down and had a hard time ploughing through the millions of things that needed to be done. Most vexing of all was that I seemed to be picking up weight, despite my daily hula hooping and not eating any differently than I had previously.

Totally stressed out was my verdict.

It would all go away once the conference was over. Or maybe menopause had hit with a vengeance…

To add to my woes, my ears started ringing. Constantly. Figured I had low-grade flu on top of it all. Clearly my resistance was low and I was attracting whatever wretched bugs were hovering around the place.

Mostly, the world seemed a distant, hazy place.

Life plodded on – I hauled out my big girl pantaloons and royally sucked it up.

Drove the four hours to Mafikeng in a fuggy haze and the conference passed in a blur.

Two weeks later I was still feeling beyond horrible and the constant ringing in my ears was driving me demented. Reckoned the conference stress should have abated somewhat and started googling to see which dreaded lurgy matched my symptoms.

Of course… if you aren’t dying before you begin to Google, you soon will be once you start!

Seeing a photo of a mug with the words “Don’t confuse your internet search with my medical degree.” on Face Book brought me up short.

It’s commonly known in my family that I simply don’t do doctors, so the news that I had booked my own self an appointment came as a bit of a shock.

She’s nice, my doctor. Well, technically I suppose she is Chris’s doctor because he goes to her a lot more. She paints beautifully and we started chatting. The highlight of the visit was when, upon hearing that I write kids’ books, she promptly ordered a whole set of Sibo for her waiting room. I’d never thought of doctor’s rooms as being a market for Sibo – but why not – there are titles on HIV AIDS, malaria, nanotechnology and chemistry in addition to all the global warming save the world stories.

She pricked and prodded and diplomatically suggested I was long overdue for all sorts of other tests. I was to return on the following Tuesday morning to receive blood test results and find out what the problem was.

We’d had a long-standing arrangement to go to Cape Town that weekend. My poor mother was further shocked at the appearance of her younger daughter. (Funny how when you see yourself in the mirror each day you don’t really notice how progressively crap you are starting to look until somebody gasps with horror and asks what’s wrong with you?)

I was too tired to walk the length of the Strand Beach – frustrating for both Chris and myself because, living in Gauteng, we miss the sea.

When I got to the doctor on the Tuesday morning she greeted me with… “Oh – we actually found out what was wrong with you on Friday already – but reckoned you would not die in another three days!

Turned out I had a raging case of hypothyroidism.

As in… it was not functioning at all. Burnt out. Kaput!

Who knew that, through the hormones it produces, the thyroid gland influences almost all of the metabolic processes in one’s body.

No wonder I had been feeling so disgusting!

As a result of this I also had a case of horrendously high cholesterol. (Which probably would have been even higher was it not for my love of red wine.)

We were all a tad relieved that it was only a misbehaving thyroid and nothing more serious. Pills were the order of the day. In fact, it would be more correct to say that pills would be keeping my life in order from now on. It took a month for me to just start feeling human again – and for my cholesterol to plummet back down to its normal count. Thankfully I could chuck those cholesterol pills because the side effects were just nasty.

I’m wildly grateful that the dose I’m on seems to work for me. Have since discovered there’s a whole world of (mostly) women out there who have this problem. Having always been inordinately healthy, sometimes it’s rather scary to realise that life as I know it depends on a box of little white pills that cost the princely sum of R48 a month.

It took a whole year for my hair to recover and a good couple of months to lose that awful turkey neck (where it looks like your chin goes straight to your breast bone). I now have the lovely curse of hairy legs again too!

For my sins – I have to go to the doctor every six months to get my prescription renewed. Without it, I probably would not last long.

I feel fabulous most of the time.

The point of this saga?

Do not always blame things on stress!

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