Testing, testing… testosterone

I posted a fairly vague update the other day on Facebook/Twitter about some bad tests. It’s not like me to be vague; I prefer to be an open book with nothing to hide. But some things I hold back on because I don’t want OTHER people to feel like they know too much. (TMI = gross, get away from me) So I guess consider this a TMI warning for what lies ahead. But I’m sharing it because I’m excited and scared. And I don’t really want to go through it alone.

I have long suspected (approx. 6 or 7 years) there was something going on inside me that wasn’t right. Primarily it was the rapid weight gain that I was powerless to stop which tipped me off. It made sense that I had some sort of thyroid issue. But on a couple of occasions, while in the ER getting blood work done, they said my levels looked OK. Then at some point, as my health declined further and more things were going wrong, I started thinking deeper.  Then it hit me: Testosterone.  I looked at the many symptoms of low testosterone and it all made sense.

The next time I saw my doctor, I inquired about getting my T levels checked.  He wrote me out a script and I later called the hospital to find out how much it would cost.  I was uninsured at the time and it would be $200.  I was broke, too (as I still am), so I opted to not have the test done.

Meanwhile, my physical and mental health continued to decline.  I’ve changed a few medications but I still am often too tired to make it into work.  And frankly, my depression has left me in a place where I simply do not have the will power to work on helping myself by eating better or quitting smoking or much of anything, really.  I’m aware enough to know I need to change things, but dissociated enough to not do anything about it.

Fast forward to about a month ago (I’ve been insured for about 2 years now) when I started taking some new medications. The doc ordered some blood tests per standard procedure, to make sure the new stuff wasn’t killing me or anything.  And I remembered that testosterone test I never got done so I asked him to order that one, too.  And I finally had it done this week.

Sure enough… I’m low on testosterone. Very low.  163 ng/dL to be exact.    Now, it’s difficult to say what “normal” levels are, because it depends on many biological factors, not the least of which is age.  And depending on what lab you ask, they range from 270-1070.  But from my minimal research, it appears the average is 600-700.  Anything below 250 is “super low.”  One source I found said that infant males at 5 months old could potentially have a higher level than me.  And almost all sources show men above 90 score at least 300-400.

Taking the good with the bad…

When my doctor informed me of this low level, he suggested I consult with my cardiologist to make sure it would be safe to go on testosterone therapy.  I had to Google why.  Turns out, last year some studies came out which pointed to a correlation in T-therapy & increased risk of heart attack.  Add in the variable of someone with pre-existing heart disease and the risk increases more.  And men under the age of 65… the risk becomes even greater.  Ugh?!  The FDA put out a statement saying they have found no convincing evidence of this in their studies, however.  And I can’t even find a source that tells WHY there’s a correlation. Meaning: what is the reason testosterone therapy increased the risk for heart attack.  Nowhere I could find laid that out.  So, I am left to wonder if there’s any particular signs I should look for, or anything I should do in order to minimize this risk… if there even is something I could do.

A New Hope

Tonight, I got my little bottle of gel and begin therapy.  I’m trying to simultaneously not be scared about these so-called elevated risks of heart attack AND not be too optimistic about seeing tons of benefits from this.  But I am expecting benefits.  Like I said, it all made sense.  I knew in my gut there was something wrong.  This fit.  I’ve been vindicated.  This is the answer I’ve been looking for.  This will help me finally get ME back.  I’m expecting to lose weight from a boost in metabolism. I’m expecting muscle-mass to increase, allowing me to walk more than a half-block at a time.  I’m expecting the foggy-headedness to burn away, for the depression to lift some, for my confidence to rise some.  I’m expecting the hair on my legs and arms to come back.  And yes, I’m expecting my libido to come back, too.  All these things left me years ago and I’ve just been sitting in a dark room ever since, wondering where they went.  Now, I am hopeful. Hesitant but hopeful.

And if I do have a heart attack, then I wanted to get this out there so everyone knows.  It was worth the risk.

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