My childhood wish to have an overactive thyroid finally came true.  Fifty-two years late, I do remember wishing for it.  How would I not?


In my mind I looked like Ginger Rogers

Sometime in first grade I changed from a cute little girl to look like a pie eating contestant.  I’ve yet to compete in such a contest.  I wouldn’t have any trouble finishing; my challenge is to stop at one piece.  Or one pie.
I had fractured my skull that summer, the result of colliding with a car and flying over it like a field goal on the football field.  I landed on my head.  After leaving the hospital from a prolonged stay, I had to restrain myself from most activities.  Bicycling, dancing, running, skating, acrobatics, rough-housing and duck-duck-goose were off the itinerary for close to a year.  I could walk, sit and lay down.  I spent a good deal of time sitting at the table exercising the acts of chewing and swallowing.  Not long after I was released from the hospital, my uncle on my mom’s side died of lung cancer, no doubt the result of chain-smoking.  My mom dumped her Pall Mall cigarettes into the trash and to my knowledge never picked up another.  She was depressed and more than a little bit cranky. To add insult to injury, my grandmother on my dad’s side died about six months later.  A heavy sadness hung over our household.  We ate to cover up the pain of our losses.  With all the eating and no activity I was starting to get hassled about my weight.

Everywhere I went I was made fun of.  I’d walk to school wishing I were invisible.  Each day at grade school was a nightmare.  My bully always sat close to me, seated by the teachers with blinders on.   They tormented me daily. I was a pretty blue kid back then. Offered as a pain killer for humiliation was cake (Eat this! It’ll make you feel better!).

My mother made it her mission to trim me down.  She enrolled me in swimming lessons and I got to get out of school early twice a week (even though I was swimming in Lake Erie by age 3).   Yes, we had Phys-Ed, most of which I stood on the sidelines unpicked to be on a team.  “If only you were thin,” Mom would sigh from the sewing machine. She made my clothing or let out the hand-me-downs from older sisters.  As I approached the seventh grade she drove me clear across the Metropolitan Detroit area to see a diet doctor specializing in hypnotherapy to get me to lose weight.   He never did hypnotize me.  I saw the cash Mom handed over for each session and pretended the black and white swirling disk the doctor put before me had put me out.  I memorized the mantras he repeated, always relieved I didn’t have to fake strutting around his office like a chicken.  I lost weight for a while and I did it for mom.
Pretending to be asleep eventually became boring. My mind wandered, drifting ever further from the chants for the chubby. Mom grew weary of the long drive in freeway traffic to hand over cash to a fat diet doctor. The pounds came back fully packed, just like old times.  Nearly all the girls I knew were normal weight or skinny.  A girl who didn’t have to shop at Lane Bryant’s was lucky.  They may have been anorexic, but they had that in their good fortune; no one ever called a starving child fatty.

Mom was convinced there had to be a magic bullet to cure me of my excess pounds.  After all the diets and pills forced on me, my thyroid became the focus.  It had to be under active.  The thyroid tests always came back on the low side of normal and she was ecstatic.  All I knew was that the thyroid was solely responsible for burning up the food I ate.   If it could be kicked up a few notches I would miraculously be home free, out of the half sizes.  Everyone would see me as witty and fun.  I would be popular beyond imagination.  I’d get invited to more birthday parties than just my own.  I had an equation: Parties = friends + cake.  Another one: Overactive thyroid + overactive appetite = no worries, just eat.  So I wished for an overactive thyroid.  Math is not my forte.

Yup, I got my wish recently.  Along with my dream come true came anxiety, depression, over dry skin, brittle nails, and menopausal symptoms.  I lived through hot flashes and night sweats for fifteen years,  now those are back, every girl’s dream.   The only part of me which is  thinning out is my hair. I’ve gained eight pounds in 3 months.My blue jeans are tight.  My overactive thyroid encouraged an overactive appetite.  I feel like 20 pounds of extra Janet in a 5 pound can. Never mind being cranky.

My overactive thyroid has worked out a deal with my pituitary gland.  They think they are working in my best interest.  My thyroid kicks out an excess of  T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones help to control several bodily functions including temperature,  heart rate and of course metabolism.  To smooth things out, my pituitary gland spits out extra TSH, slowing down the process in a balancing act, as I understand it.  I’m not a health professional, so please excuse my encapsulated explanation.  Fantastic news.

The thyroid can really mess a person up, as can desperate wishes.  If I could offer anyone a tidbit of advice:  Do research before you make a wish. Avoid the cake, no matter how high your T3 & T4 levels.  And please don’t tolerate bullies.

Since I’m such a sucker for sweets, I posted a cake and frosting recipe in a post named Birthday Cake.


Thank you for  reading.


© Janet Radtke Stockton  December 2013

Birthday cake

Birthday-Cake-Pictures-with-CandlesBirthday Cake

  If I could be assured that the marked down cake at the supermarket has a gentle cream filling and the frosting tastes like something other than confectioners sugar and lard, I would no doubt look like a barrel.

When you think about a birthday cake what do you think of?  For me, its a golden layer cake frosted in a heavenly whipping of butter, vanilla, milk, confectioners sugar.  Frosting has to send me past the mezzanine on my way to heaven.  Cake is the frosting delivery system for me. The cake  should have a good body like an Olympic diver and when cut with a knife, continues to stand up straight.

I found the following recipe in a general cookbook.  I was looking for something to use for strawberry shortcakes and it worked.

Golden Layer Cake

1stick + 2 Tb soft butter
2 C all purpose flour or cake flour
1 1/4 C sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C milk

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter or grease the bottom and sides of 2 -9 inch round cake pans.  Dust with flour. Dump out the excess dusting flour.  If you use parchment or waxed paper, cut out a circle of the pan and grease and dust that paper, too.

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Set aside.

Cream the butter until smooth, then gradually add the sugar with the electric mixer still running. Beat until light for 3 to 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the flour mixture and the milk alternately by hand.  Stir until smooth.  Do not over work or your cake will be chewy.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the layer comes out clean.

Remove layers from the oven, allow to cool on bakers racks for 5 minutes before turning the pans upside down.  Allow to cool thoroughly.  If the cake is the slightest bit warm when frosted the icing will melt.

Sander’s Butter Cream Frosting (its a Michigan thing)

1/2 C Vegetable shortening.
1 stick butter
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 C confectioner’s sugar
2/3 C milk (the fatter the better)  Heated to not quite scalding
1/2 tsp almond extract

Cream together the shortening and the butter, add sugars gradually beating until mixture is no longer grainy.  Gradually add the warmed milk, continue beating until very light in texture.  Add the almond extract.

Sanders website:   They don’t seem to be making birthday cakes anymore.  I do wish I had a photo of what they used to have on their store shelves.  They were beautiful.  And on the sides of their birthday cakes were chopped walnuts.  Oh yum.

I worked for the Fred Sanders Company as a teenager.  They gave me my first “real” job.  In 1970 I made a whopping $2.10 an hour scooping ice cream, making ice cream sodas, hot fudge sundaes and hot fudge cream puff sundaes.  How I got through working there without becoming morbidly obese:  I never touched a crumb.

Sunday Drive

We went on a Sunday drive instead of going to church.  No destination in mind, we went west, straight into the shadow of Mount Princeton.  There is one point in the pass before it disappears behind a minor rise along the roadside, amazing as the mountain stands over 14,000 feet above sea level.   The rise a large mole hill.  Mt. Princeton humbled me and I felt the spirituality of being full of the light of life.  In that moment I felt anything but depression.

I do maintain objectivity in spiritual matters.  Life happens and there are times it’s a slap in the face, other a fork in the road, and lastly a blessings with lessons or road signs messaging me to “go this way”.

One direction is to be mindful.  Mindfulness gained some celebrity in the recent past few years.  It’s been around forever.  Our heads get in the way.

A dear friend handed me a book in the early 1980’s entitled BE HERE NOW.  The book was published during the height of the flower power movement.  The book  gave lessons on  Mindfulness without using that terminology.  I learned to feel the air, the ground, the breeze, the thing you hold in your hand and your hand itself. Look around you, see the sky, the birds, see everything.  Listen, all senses open and engaged.  When I will myself to be in the moment I feel a type of energy unlike anything else.  The energy feels alive.  I could feel that all day long, but I’m not always in the moment.  I have to be willing to open up to the spirit.  I have to be ready.  I need to move out of my own way.

It has been a long stretch of time since I gave thought to this.  I recall one fine, sunny day the local swimming pool in Key West, BE HERE NOW resting in my lap.  A new swimmer, one who 2 weeks prior took their first swim lesson, boasted their plans to  compete in the Key West, Florida swim around the island. The distance is approximately 14 miles.   The water is undrinkable (salt water), the sun beats down upon the water mercilessly frying any unprotected human flesh in its beam.  There are sea creatures or parts of creatures floating in the water ready to sting and make the rest of your week mighty uncomfortable.  The race is not for the meek nor the untrained.  For the first time in my life I easily formed the word: bullshit to his claim of readiness to conquer the ocean, swim the distance.   With clarity of being comes clarity of thought.  Clear as a bell, Bullshit! rings in my ears when previously I would have bought it.  For the first time the spirit in me told me to trust in my own knowledge and instincts, to be confident in my own thoughts.


Truth be told

My dad disliked one thing:  to be lied to.  He hated it. Whenever I have tried to pass off one itty bitty teensy weensy ‘fib’, I might as well have committed suicide on the spot and gone straight to hell.  It never worked with him.

Not surprising, lies make me really unhappy.  When Dad kicked off I inherited his uncanny ability to see through them.  Sometimes a curse, in the end a gift.  I’ve come to see it as my Dad protecting me.

The truth is  buoyant, it wears a life jacket. To test this: Take one for a permanent swimming lesson, weigh it down with concrete shoes.  Squeeze truth into a small trunk. Wrap chains around that and lock it up tight.  Give it a good heave into a deep body of water, wipe your hands and go for a beer.

When you least expect it a package of quiet understanding arrives at your door.  Open it up and out here comes the truth.   “Hey,” Truth whispers from under the dust of time gone by, “look”. Then truth disappears into vapor finding its way into your soul where it plans to stay forever.

Mark Twain and truth