I remember the day I stopped laughing at Grandpa’s jokes. Grandpa was a real trickster with a deep love of puns and wordplay. He could always get a laugh out of me, even when telling the same joke for the billionth time. But during my early 20’s, something changed.
His gentle jokes began to fall on deaf ears. My laughter dried up, then turned fake. I had to force myself not to roll my eyes in front of him. At the time, I figured it was just a sign of growing up. Now, I know differently.
It wasn’t just my sense of humor that changed, by the way. Around that same time, I developed brain fog, which manifested itself as a weird, floaty feeling in my head. I found it slightly harder to think, to concentrate. Doctors were stumped. X-rays and MRIs found nothing unusual. I tried balance training and other things, but nothing corrected the problem.
Slowly but surely, my emotions began to dull. I stopped crying. My smiles thinned, then turned fake. Little annoyances became big ones. I turned into a crank, an introvert, and a homebody. Not because I liked staying at home all that much, but because of inertia. I felt fatigued and old. My “get up and go” faded away and I started having trouble getting out of bed each morning.
Happy moments were few and far between. Soon, I lost interest in entertainment. I stopped reading. I only half-watched TV shows and movies. I became listless and mechanical in everything I did. My constant negativity and general emptiness made me wonder if I suffered from depression. Later, I concluded that I probably was depressed, albeit at what I considered to be a sustainable level.
And yet, life went on. I got an MBA and a CFA charter. Moving to New York, I worked as an Equity Research Analyst. It left me miserable and unfulfilled. So, I took a risk. Quitting my job, I tried my hand as a storyteller. Years ago, it would’ve been my dream job. But to my surprise, I found it a real struggle. Negativity and crippling self-doubt plagued me at every turn. Still, every storyteller faces those things so I thought little of it.
But writing became increasingly difficult with time. Worse, my well of creativity, which had been shallow for years, all but dried up. I experienced no real joy in telling stories and had to depend on a strict schedule to get anything accomplished.
Physically, it became increasingly difficult to move. My head ached constantly. I developed bone pain and began to experience lingering injuries. Knee problems cut into my running time. Shoulder and wrist injuries made it nearly impossible to lift my son.
Now, this didn’t happen all at once. Rather, my decline took place rather slowly over the course of some 15 years. Even so, I still noticed it. More than once, I wondered if I was going crazy. Now, I know the answer to that question.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with a disease known as Hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroid glands regulate the calcium in your body. When one turns tumorous, it begins making excess PTH hormones. Those hormones circulate in the body, leaching calcium from your bones and into your bloodstream. Given enough time, this can cause a gigantic and weird list of symptoms known as, “moans, groans, stones, and bones with psychic overtones.”
Since I was young, male, and appeared asymptomatic on the surface, my surgeon suggested I wait to have the tumor removed. This is rather common, and unfortunately outdated, advice. In any event, I put off the surgery for five years. In mid-2017, my surgeon suggested I wait another five years. I was all ready to do that. But soon after, the true cost of the disease became impossible to ignore.
Three weeks ago, I underwent a surgical operation at the Norman Parathyroid Center in Tampa, Florida to remove the tumorous gland. The operation was a bit more complex than normal, given that my tumor was hiding in my thyroid. Still, the procedure was surprisingly quick and simple.
Now, the tumor is gone. And you know what?
I feel amazing!
Within hours, my negativity vanished. I experienced my first real smile in years the very next day. I say “years” because I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to fake it. My bones feel better. My headaches are gone. I’ve got tons of energy. I’m not kidding when I say it’s like I’m back in my 20’s again.
I’d all but given up on emotions. Now, I’m feeling stuff again. The brain fog is at least diminished, if not gone for good. For the first time in forever, I want to be around people. I want to do things, to live life. To show the world what I’ve got and in turn, to let it show me what it’s got.
Which leads me to today. This morning, I found myself thinking of Grandpa, of his jokes. I laughed for awhile, then cried my eyes out. My heart is full of grief. For him, of course. But really, for the lost time with him and with many others. I’ll never get those years back. I’ll never laugh with him again and that just makes me want to cry all over again. And that’s okay, I think. Until the surgery, I’d become pretty much incapable of real grief. So, this is a blessing.
Hyperparathyroidism stole countless laughs and tears from me. Well, no more. I’ve got a second shot at life now.
And I plan on making the most of it.