Kayleigh

January is thyroid awareness month, so get ready to be made aware.

The thyroid is a teeny-tiny gland in the base of your neck that is responsible for regulating some of the most important parts of the body, including: the heart, the brain, the liver, kidneys and skin.

The teeny-tiny, butterfly-shaped, thyroid gland is vitally important to your overall well-being. If your thyroid has a problem, you have a problem.

The reader’s digest version is that the gland produces a hormone that tells all the cells in your body how fast they should do their job. Similar to how a car engine regulates the speed of your car, the thyroid regulates the speed of your organs.

If you want a sciency explanation of the details I suggest thyroidawareness.com.

There are two main conditions that arise when your thyroid isn’t functioning properly. Hyperthyroidism means your thyroid is producing hormones too fast. Hypothyroidism means your thyroid is producing hormones too slowly.

I was 13 years old when I was taken to the doctor for frequently passing out. The breaking point was when I passed out in the middle of a track meet while running the mile.

They did a whole slew of tests, including a 24-hour heart monitor.

But since my mother and my paternal grandmother both have hypothyroidism, it was basically inevitable that test results came back positive.

That and it’s an incredibly common disease. Nearly 5 out of every 100 people in the U.S. over 12 have it.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism include: near constant fatigue, uncontrollable weight gain, a puffy face, sensitivity to and trouble tolerating cold, joint and muscle pain, constipation, dry skin, dry, thinning hair, decreased sweating, heavy or irregular menstrual periods, fertility problems, depression, slowed heart rate and goiter.

My personal experience before daily medication was 12 for 15.

Luckily, treatment exists.

Thanks to good health insurance and the existence of generics, my daily medicine costs less than $10 a month. That is far and away more affordable than other chronic illnesses.

Yet, as anyone with a chronic disease knows, I am tied to medication like a ball and chain.

If I forget to take my medicine before I leave for work, I can feel the day slipping out of my control by noon, and by 2 p.m. I am struggling to keep my eyes open long enough to finish writing the day's news.

Two years ago, when I was a full-time college junior at TU with two part-time jobs, I was too busy to make a doctors appointment and my prescription lapsed for one week.

That week I slept through all but two of my classes and gained 10 pounds despite eating less.

It took four months of strict diet and exercise to work it back off.

Even with daily medication, I score a 7 of 15 on the symptoms list.

I have to regulate my intake to 1,400 Calories a day just to maintain my weight.

And while this may also be due to my caffeine addiction, I don’t drink coffee to feel energized. I drink coffee to feel human.

The purpose of me saying all of this isn’t to complain about my problems.

I have been coping for almost 10 years, and will continue to cope just fine.

My goal is to convince you to go get tested.

If left untreated, thyroid disease can lead to elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease, infertility and osteoporosis.

If the symptoms listed above sound familiar, go get tested.

Especially women over 50, who make up the largest demographic of people susceptible to the disease.

Health and well-being is not something to ignore.

Kayleigh Thesenvitz is a reporter at the Claremore  Progress.