Getting ‘out of office’ – Some unexpected logistics

Monday February 4, 2013

Saturday morning, I am standing in front of the fridge. I can feel tears welling in my eyes. I’m not sure if they are tears of anger or tears of grief, because I think I feel a whole lot of both right now. I also feel slightly like I want to puke – but I know that is just my disgust with it all.

Three days ago I went to the doctor to get a tetanus booster shot and recommendations for how to keep my iron levels up when physically active. I also wanted to get a blood test for fasting glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides, so I would have a baseline for these into the future. No big deal.

Now, here I am, two blood tests, two visits to the doctor, two visits to the pharmacy and one ECG later wondering what the fuck happened. My blood pressure is back to being good (after being not-so-good from the stress during the PhD and post-doc), and all the test results came back good/normal. EXCEPT for the TSH. Apparently, my thyroid has gone kablooey, and not in a ‘borderline’ way. I don’t really have any symptoms I can solely pin to an underactive thyroid. The weight gain and extreme tiredness I can easily explain away with stress, long work hours and low iron over the past six years.

However, the doctor insists I need to start on medication immediately, particularly because left untreated hypothyroidism can eventually cause heart problems – not something you want when pedalling a fully-loaded bike long distances each day. She sends me off for an ECG to ensure my heart is functioning normally now, as thyroid medication can exacerbate existing heart conditions. The ECG comes back fine and I’m sent off with a script for thyroxine.

I was a bit shocked at first by all of this. But I was okay with taking a pill daily for the rest of my life – I’ve taken a birth control pill daily for 18 years, so no biggie, right? WRONG.

When I get the script filled, there is a sticker on the box that causes my heart to fall straight down to the depths of my gut. I cannot keep from staring at the sticker the whole time as I walk home. It says: REFRIGERATE. Do not freeze.

And so I find myself standing in front of my fridge at home, wanting to puke and cry. How am I ever going to do long bike tours, or have any sort of life, if I’m tied to refrigeration!!!!???? This is a common disease – up to 15% of the population suffers from it. Do they all stay close to electricity all the time?

Oh no! That sticker is not what a solo, self-supported touring cyclist ever wants to see.

I ring up Nigel.

“Let’s go camping. I need to get away tonight or I’m going to keep staring at the fridge. Bring beer.”


“I’ll explain later. I’ve got food. Just pick up some beer.”

And so we go camping for the night at our favourite spot up the river an hour from town. I wander around in the forest, sit on my favourite lichen-encrusted rock underneath a big, beautiful kurrajong tree and figure out how I’m going to make my upcoming bike tours work.

It slowly dawns on me that I don’t recall my mother, who takes thyroid medication over in America, keeping her medication in the fridge. Maybe American brands don’t have this requirement. Oh please, let that be the case – because there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep unused blister strips between 2 and 8C, and in-use blister strips below 25C, on a 4-month bicycle tour, particularly in Wyoming in July. And biking from fridge to fridge just sounds like hell AND very expensive.

Sunday morning, I confirm with my mom that she has been taking thyroxine for many years and never needed to keep the pills refrigerated. SCORE!! So I will just need to get a letter from my doctor here with test results and prescription to take to a doctor in America who can then prescribe me non-fridged thyroxine. The 4-month American tour has been saved. I will still have to take pathology requests with me and get blood tests done on the road, as they need to monitor TSH levels and alter medication amounts every couple of months in the first year. A bit of a hassle, but totally do-able if it has to be done.

The warm-up Oz ride in a couple weeks is a bit more complex. I’d been hoping to keep the planning loose, and just free-camp each night in state forest and in small town parks/showgrounds along the way. But it’s not the time of year when it’s easy to keep things below 26C, let alone between 2 and 8C. So, depending on temps, I may need to spend some nights where I can freeze a water bottle overnight to keep the medicine cool in a little esky/cooler bag through the day.

I do think keeping a sense of humour about all of it is going to be helpful. To that end, Verne is now teasing me that his metabolism is faster than mine – great, even the overweight stuffed turtle is getting in on it! But he, the Commander, insists that the rides must go on – we’re committed. And I am so ready to hit the road, too!

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