Saturday, September 17, 2022

The importance of reading the small print

Twenty-six years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism; underactive thyroid. This, apparently is common in menopause and while it is relatively easy to treat, with synthetic thyroid hormone; the difficult part is to get the correct dosage and monitor the levels and adjust accordingly.

The Mayo Clinic lists a bunch of possible symptoms of under active thyroid. Of those listed I experienced the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Weight gain
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Thinning hair
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

I finally learned that if any of these symptoms change, it is time to talk to my doctor to make sure that the thyroid levels remain within the appropriate range. it is also important to closely follow the instructions for how and when to take the medication. First thing in the morning, on an empty stomach. I didn't learn that for a number of years after I started taking it. In fact, my mother-in-law was taking the same medication and she only discovered it should be taken on an empty stomach when she was in hospital—just a few years before she died.

Do not eat anything for at least one hour after taking, and there are a large number of medications to avoid taking within four hours of taking Synthroid. Among them are antacid, calcium and iron; not medications you would expect to be a problem but all of which impact how efficiently the Synthroid works. The sad thing is that I only became aware of some of these rules quite recently.

One of the biggest problems I encountered was a continuous fluctuation in my symptoms. Insurance Companies, for purely financial reasons, will not cover non-generic medications without a determined effort on the part of the doctor. I eventually had to find an endocrinologist who explained to me that generic medications do not always have similar potency and pharmacies constantly change their generic suppliers, again for financial reasons; they buy from the cheapest understandably. She gave me a prescription specifying NOT generic. After that my thyroid settled down and all was well up to this year. Though, unfortunately when I retired and switched to Medicare I discovered that they don't care how much you, or your doctor, stress the importance of using non-generic, they refuse to cover it. (I whined about Medicare here previously.) Only one of the many indications I have had that this country doesn't care about the elderly. Odd when you look at the average age of those people in the Congress and Senate who have the power to improve this. Of course, they also have enough money that they don't suffer, and to be fair they are also still working despite their age, with good health insurance cover.

I was very surprised at the beginning of this year, when my annual physical blood work indicated that my thyroid levels had suddenly jumped. Why, after being on the dole for twenty-six years, did my thyroid suddenly decide to work again? I do admit that I had started to enjoy no longer feeling cold all the time but didn't associate that with a change in thyroid levels.

It took six months of trying a reduced dose for 6 weeks and then having more lab work done, and repeat, to finally find the correct dose. I went from 88 MCG to 50 MCG, slowly in stages, to finally level out. During this time, apart from no longer being cold all the time, I noticed that my hair was getting much thicker and the aches and pains I accepted as normal, had reduced. Unfortunately I was still struggling with my weight. 

Interestingly enough, while my thyroid levels are now holding at an acceptable level, I am still enjoying being comfortably warm, my hair is not falling out and aches and pains are holding at what I consider to be normal for my age and stage in life. Fatigue is one of those things that is kicked, pushed and pulled depending on so many other variables, but I don't feel it is out of control either.

I have made a mental note to ask my doctor next time I see him, why would my thyroid suddenly start working again? My guess is that he doesn't know either. All Google does when I ask him, is list all the possible diseases that might prompt this to happen. 

One theory I have is that I did become much more consistent about how I took my medication. Working from home, and then being retired, my daily schedule was...well, I developed a schedule. For over a year I took my one little pill at the same time every day, before I hit the treadmill, and because I spend an hour on the treadmill, the only thing I imbibe during that hour after taking the pill is water, which is allowed. Perhaps the medical profession should make it a lot clearer the importance of this. And yes, the blurb that the pharmacy gives you with your medication does list most of the rules of engagement, but with no sense of urgency, nor with any dire warnings related to not taking these rules seriously. Plus, who reads all the small print? I agree we should but I know that I didn't. 

Finally, here is an interesting article about just that, the Patient Information Leaflet.

RTFM and one of our favorite shows, The IT Crowd

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Birthdays and other days

I have often thought that birthdays should be something a mother celebrates, the day she welcomed a child into her life and ended the nine months of discomfort carrying that child. Not to mention the actual delivery. I know that is what I think of while still celebrating with my children on each of their birthdays.

For many years, I got more and more excited as my birthday approached. It took me a very long time to accept that it really was just another day—to everyone except me and perhaps my mother. Though after six children I am guessing my mother had quite enough of birthdays. But, every birthday I was bitterly disappointed because it was never the earth shattering day I expected. 

My fourteenth birthday was the one I remember as being the very worst. I blamed that on the fact that it was a Sunday and everyone in our house had something else to do on Sunday, other than stick around and make me feel special. I spent the morning alone wondering if perhaps everyone would suddenly appear to surprise me. They didn't. I lay on my bed and cried for what felt like a very long time, of course I was fourteen years old and female, so hormones probably came into play as I wallowed in self pity. Then I decided if the day was going to be special I would have to make that happen on my own.

I took a bus into the city center and spent an hour in one of the amusement arcades on O'Connell Street. I don't know if it was legal even back then, 1960, but we kids often played the slot machines without any problems. And they were cash machines. I actually did win more than I lost.

After that I went to a movie and lost myself in The Crowded Sky. I often went to the cinema on my own, and the year following my fourteenth birthday I saw seventy-five movies—I saved the ticket stubs for years, so I know the number. All of them when I should have been at school. I hated school and by the time I was fourteen I had figured out how to just not go and, more importantly, not get caught.

I think, that birthday was when I started to understand that I was in charge of my own life and my own happiness. It was many years later that I finally, fully comprehended that lesson. Seven years ago I published a post (here) listing some of the lessons I did learn and wished I could have told my younger self. But, I guess you have to learn the lesson for yourself.

That year, I decided my birthday was miserable and lonely because it was a Sunday. It was some time before I finally accepted that my birthday was really only of importance to me and I should not expect anyone else to care about it.

This year my birthday fell on a Sunday again. My husband bought me flowers earlier in the week, and it seemed there was a trail of flower deliveries to my door on the Friday. On Sunday, Social Media came alive with birthday messages and friends from all over the world send me messages, both publicly and privately. 

My flowers:

Perhaps if there had been an Internet and Social Media back in 1960, my fourteenth birthday would have been better—ah but then I would not have learned that very important lesson: Design your own dream. 

Here is a collage I put together on this theme, while teaching Arts & Crafts in Summer Camp back in 1994, (See this post).

And, continuing the theme of celebrating motherhood with a birthday, I made my mother's sherry trifle instead of a birthday cake. I will get back on my diet tomorrow!

Friday, September 2, 2022

Amazon Saga - The End...I hope

Just in case all of you out there are waiting on tenterhooks, to see 'does our heroine get her account back?' I am here to tell you I did. Also, to be fair to Amazon. I feel I need to confirm I did finally get some Customer Support. Still pretty disgusted at how bad it was overall.

It only took a full month and seven calls to Customer Support—one of those representatives hung up on me, the rest promised I would hear within 24 hours. On one occasion I received an email advising me I would hear within 24 to 48 hours—I did not. As you know from my previous post here, after each call I waited the full 48 hours and called again. Still nothing.

That seventh call was the charm. within the 24 hours I received this email:

Note the last sentence? I did have a Prime account and fortunately, when I logged in—yes, I was finally able to do that—I was still a Prime member. So that warning was unnecessary, fortunately. It was enough trouble to reregister and rename my Echo devices. 

The second last sentence was also misplaced. I had not been patient nor do I believe I should have been—oh, I was polite to the CS reps, I know it is not their fault but it was clearly a breakdown in communication between the front and back end. I still believe this was extremely bad customer service, in fact just bad service period.

So. The end result is that I have removed Amazon ads from my websites—part of being an Affiliate member; I still have Prime and my Echo devices are re-registered, plus my Kindles are also up and running. I didn't spend any money on Amazon for an entire month. That has to be a record, for me it is. All this just in time for my next subscribe and save shipment. 

But, to the Kindle bug. Well one of them. I mentioned I came across a few. I didn't exploit them though I probably could have. When my account was placed on hold or frozen or whatever the terminology was, my Kindles were disconnected and reset. The next time I fired up my Kindle it suggested I connect back to my account to access my content, At this point I couldn't even play any of the mindless video games I had downloaded because they connect back to my account at the Amazon App Store—this I discovered when I was persona non grata. As the device clearly wanted to connect to my account I agreed, assuming that it would fail due to being locked out. It didn't fail. Not only did it connect but it allowed me to download one of the books I had previously purchased. I didn't try to buy anymore believing that the less I rocked the boat the better at that point. But, I probably could have.

What I have learned is that I should never leave any payment method set up in my account. That way no unauthorized purchases can be made, at least not using my cash. It will be time consuming to keep adding the payment method for a purchase and then immediately removing it. But I think that will also slow down my spending which can't be bad.