After having my whole thyroid surgically removed due to Graves’ disease (an autoimmune disorder that contributes to hyperthyroidism) a couple years ago, which was around April of 2018, people were asking me, “Can you live without a thyroid?” and the answer to this question is yes. However, while people can manage their own lives without a thyroid, they often have to make constant adjustments, and that includes myself personally.
People might be wondering, “Why do people have their thyroid surgically removed?” The thyroid is often surgically removed to, “treat diseases of the thyroid gland including: Thyroid cancer, Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), Large goiters or thyroid nodules causing symptomatic obstruction such as swallowing or breathing difficulties, Multi-nodular Goiter” (“Thyroidectomy”, n.d.). One of the immediate consequences of having your thyroid surgically removed is that your body can no longer produce thyroid hormone ourselves, so we automatically become hypothyroid. As a result, people without a thyroid, including myself, must take thyroid hormone replacement medication for life. Without thyroid hormone replacement, we would develop hypothyroid symptoms (i.e. fatigue, constipation, weight gain, cold intolerance, etc.), and not having thyroid hormone replacement in the long term can result in problems with the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems which could lead to complications such as myxedema coma and death.
I do remember when I was recovering from my thyroidectomy, I was experiencing temporary hypocalcemia (lack of calcium) and panic attacks which I had nights where I struggled to sleep. I was taking a generic thyroid medication called Levothyroxine which was my original thyroid hormone replacement drug for about two years to help support proper thyroid function. Unfortunately, like others, I have found it difficult to find an effective dose as frequent lab tests would show I am getting too much thyroid hormone which has resulted in mood changes, anxiety, fatigue, and changes in weight. Other times I would be getting too little thyroid hormone which again results in mood changes, and depression, and difficulty with concentration and attention. I have had days where I would be really fatigued, tired, and experience weight gain. I would also experience changes in heart rate and cholesterol levels would vary. I have to be honest, while I did make the best decision of my life having my thyroid surgically removed due to Graves’ which I was getting very ill with the exacerbation of hyperthyroid symptoms despite trying other treatments such as anti-thyroid medication and radioactive iodine therapy, even trying to manage my thyroid functioning with thyroid hormone replacement is sometimes difficult and frustrating. My endocrinologist recently has put me on a new thyroid replacement medication called Synthroid which is another brand of thyroid medication to help support the regulation of proper thyroid functioning. Unfortunately, I am still experiencing hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and depression, but I am learning that different thyroid medications work for different people with different thyroid conditions.
Yes, I do have hypothyroidism which is not curable, but if I didn’t have the thyroidectomy, I feel as though the Graves’ disease would have made my life much harder to live, and quality of life would have been significantly impacted, or worse. Being hypothyroid and trying to find the effective dose of thyroid replacement medication has been rather difficult and frustrating for me, but despite the symptoms I may encounter at times, I am still persevering through and enjoying life the best I can, and I am grateful to still be alive. Life without a thyroid is an endless battle. However, as the saying goes, you might have lost the battle, but you have not lost the war. Thyroid problems have had an impact on my education and employment, but I am one to continue on life’s journey no matter the odds.
Thyroidectomy. (2020, n.d.). Endocrine Surgery. University of California San