04 February 2011 ~ 10 Comments

The Wondrous World Wide Web and Using It to Help Your Health, by Shan Kelly

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but it’s also the most dreadful distraction ever. Access to it seriously limits my ability to do any work, but I also find I’m lost without it. Here in Ireland, we’re in the middle of a General Election, known on Twitter as # GE2011, which has me Tweeting  even more  obsessively  than usual.

My confession is that although my Twitter profile says I’m a writer, campaigner and activist, most days I write very little. In fact I’m only writing this today – in Word and offline – because my modem is not working.

My most important job of all now is being mum to Grace, my infuriating and very wonderful five- year-old daughter, so my day begins with getting her out of bed. This can be a major operation.

The first mobile phone alarm goes off at 7.10 am and, if I’m lucky, we’ll be up, washed and dressed by 8 am. After taking Grace to school, I go to the gym, where I usually do a class – pilates, step, weight toning or yoga – and have a swim.  Exercise is a really important part of my daily routine because I have a thyroid illness – Graves’ Disease – and exercise helps to keep my metabolism stable.

After being prescribed steroids to control Thyroid Eye Disease in late 2007, I became seriously overweight.  I had to leave my last full-time job as an editor to have radiotherapy (RT)and although the RT worked very well in reducing the swelling around my eyes, it didn’t cure me.

I didn’t want to have surgery – either on my eyes as recommended to me, or the total removal of my overactive thyroid gland, also recommended to me . So in 2008, I began using the Internet to find out more about my condition.  I found lots of thyroid guides, authors and communities on the Internet and I bought lots of books and stocked up on vitamins and health supplements.

Armed with this knowledge, I began to question my doctors and told them I wanted to reduce my anti-thyroid medication. My methods worked and my thyroid levels returned to normal in late 2009, so they’ve been in the normal range now for almost two years.

Since late 2010, I’ve been taking just  half of the smallest dose of Anti Thyroid Drugs normally prescribed here in Ireland. My tiny dose of ATDs is now  2.5 milligrams of Carbimazole daily.  When I was first diagnosed in 2007, I was taking 60mg a day, which made me become hypothyroid within months. I’m hoping that my swollen eyes won’t get worse if I try to stop ATDs completely.

One of the most frustrating things about thyroid illness is that it takes about eight weeks for any change in your medicine dose to impact fully on your endocrine system, and it’s often not very easy to tell if your symptoms are from being underactive or  because you are overactive.

Both being hypo and being hyper can make your eyes swell and ache.  This week, I’ve found it harder than usual to focus, and I feel as if something may have changed, so today I visited my doctor to ask for a blood test.

I found out there is a new system of appointments for blood tests at my local hospital, St Vincent’s in Mount Merrion, so I’m going there on Monday to donate a sample of red stuff to be checked for T3, T4 and TSH – the three hormones  I like to blame for my mood swings, bad temper and general crankiness.

After visiting the gym, the doctors and the hospital, I tried to get back to my computer by 11.30 am. This week I spent two days working on the Windy Arbour Playground Campaign site. I set up the Playground Campaign site one Sunday morning in August 2009 after my 12-year-old nieces told me how easy it was to use webs.com to build a website. I’d seen local children playing on a swing they’d built for themselves behind a Holy Grotto, and thought they should have a proper playground, like we did round here when I was growing up. My website caught the attention of other community groups who had been campaigning for the old playground to be reinstated, so we decided to join forces.

Next week I’m hoping to make time to update my other site, www.mythyroidireland.webs.com, which was set up last year to offer support to other Irish thyroid patients.

Through it, I’ve become friends with lots of other people – mostly women, mostly writers – who also have thyroid problems.  There’s author Mary Shomon and comedian Katie Schwartz who write for sites in the US, Caroline Cowen in Ireland and Thyroid UK in the UK and I also know thyroid sufferers in Australia and New Zealand .

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