A High-Functioning Person’s Insight on Living With Thyroid Symptoms

Nadha Hassen
5 min readJun 2, 2018

As we close up International Thyroid Awareness week, it seems a good a time as any to consider just what living with a thyroid issue looks like, especially when you’re a high-functioning, overachieving dreamer and doer.

Learning to live without a thyroid was a little bit like learning how to walk all over again. Granted, at the age of 7 months, I thought crawling was a waste of time and decided to skip that step, so to speak. One day, I just got up off my derrière and used my chubby legs to wobble over to my mother.

It would seem I’ve always been eager.

As I grew up, my innate ambitiousness was amplified by external expectations to succeed at school, extracurricular activities and life. I went to a school that praised academic excellence above all else. I then went to a university that also held those values dear.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

When thyroid cancer struck, there was a moment of “this can’t be happening” followed by “how am I supposed to finish my Masters degree and continue working when I have to have surgery?” I was in my early twenties, and in my mind, this was the time to be doing as much as I could.

In hindsight, it’s ridiculous that I was so wound up and focused on work and school that one of my first thoughts was about how was I going to continue being a productive person. My identity and in some ways, self-worth, was tied to these outward roles and achievements.

Whether I was truly aware of it or not, there was pressure to do everything and be brilliant at it all. We’re also expected to exude effortless success, while shoving our increasing stress into the deep recesses of our mind because that’ll only slow us down and anyway, there’s no time to think about how we’re feeling. Today, I have a sneaky suspicion (more like conviction) that all that stress contributed to my thyroid cancer.

There’s no right or wrong way to go about dealing with a health issue. It’s a personal decision. Some people continue working and doing the same things straight through symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

With some thyroid issues, like Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease or regular old hypothyroidism, it’s harder to make the case to ourselves and society for taking…

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Nadha Hassen

Health researcher, PhD student and writer. Thriving with thyroid cancer. All about reflection, growth and living fully. nadhahassen.com