Thankful for the GP who looked beyond normal

It’s Thanksgiving and I want to deviate a little from my normal topics to give thanks to someone who has recently made a real impact on my life.

In 1994, I dropped about 30lbs in weight very quickly and unexpectedly.   This combined with some very shaky hands and a rapid heart beat made it pretty obvious to get some medical attention.  I went to my primary GP who spent several weeks performing a variety of tests.  When the results were in, I was invited back to discuss them with him.

“You have diabetes”, he told me.

“Are you sure”?  I asked.

“Absolutely, no doubt.  You’ll need to adjust your diet and I’ll refer you to an endocrinologist who will advise you on your treatment moving forward”  he said.

I had to wait six weeks to see the endocrinologist.  During that time, I educated myself on diabetes.  Changed my diet.  Prepared for my new life as a diabetic.

When I met with the endocrinologist, he told me that I didn’t have diabetes.  I never had diabetes and should never have been diagnosed as such.  He was dumbfounded by the diagnosis based on the symptoms that I was presenting.  He told me that my condition was actually hyperthyroidism – an over-active thyroid.

During the following months, we tried various treatments to see if my thyroid gland would perhaps “reset” and return to normal.  It didn’t and in 1996 I had radio-iodine treatment which effectively destroyed a large part of my thyroid gland and I have been taking thyroxine tablets daily ever since.

The level of thyroxine is monitored every 6 months or so with a blood test.  After an initial levelling – I have been on the same amount – 100mcg – for 14 years or so.  So advised by a number of doctor’s who work in my local health centre and analyse my blood tests.

In recent years, I had complained to my wife that I didn’t feel as “sharp” as I once was.  I have a pretty active brain  – as I am sure most of you do – but it didn’t feel as active as it once was.  The ideas for new businesses, changing the world, whatever – weren’t flowing at the velocity and volume that they did before.  I complained that I lost my “mojo”.  Lethargic.  Mentally dull.  I wrote it off as simply getting old.

At the beginning of this year, after taking one of my regular blood tests, I had an unexpected call from one of the GP’s at my practice.  He was concerned about my levels of thyroxine and asked how long I had been taking my current dose.   He said that although my levels were considered within the “normal” range, they were at the very low end of that range and it was a widely held view that it was healthier for patients to be at the top end of the range and not the bottom (where I was).  He asked me how I felt and I told him. He wanted to increase my dosage gradually to see how I respond.

In April I went from 100mcg to 125mcg.  Took a blood test June and waited to hear the results.  Nothing.  So after a couple of weeks, I called the health centre to ask about it and the nurse reviewed my records and said that the doctor (a different one) determined that my test was “normal”.

I asked for the doctor who was conducting my tests to call me and he did.  He told me once again that my level of thyroxine was too low and would like to increase this again.

I recently took another test and made sure that I spoke to the correct doctor when the blood tests were in.  We are increasing it again but he said we are close to where he would like to see me.

Here’s the thing.  I feel like myself again.  I have so many stupid ideas again its not funny. Most of them are terrible, but they flowing again.  I have new levels of energy.  I am “mentally sharper” whatever that means.  I am happier.  I am more motivated. But – as far as my thyroxine levels are concerned –  I am still “normal”.

I wonder how many other people are getting incorrect levels of treatment because of some sort of “normal” range of acceptable performance.  14 years of being told that I was within a normal range, while I was slowly losing a little piece of myself.

Today, I am thankful for a doctor who decided to look beyond the “normal” range and talk to me and ask how I felt.  He has changed my life, I am sure of it.  Thank you Doctor.




  1. Matt, thanks for this courageous and informative post, my wife has been going through this cycle of testing and adjusting too for a number of years now, and has suffered from the lethargy and mental dullness you mention in your post. It is as you say, critical to be maintaining the appropriate levels of thyroid medication as ‘normal’ as in so many other areas of life is relative to the individual. I am glad to hear you are feeling more ‘normal’!

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