The ThyroidNation site has a good piece on finding the humor in Graves’ disease, the site DearThyroid is dedicated to humorous letters to the thyroid, and the Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association (ThyCa) has a humor page, including poems and song lyrics.
These sources use humor to bring laughter and levity to those who live with a serious illness, instead of simply poking fun at them.
“Golden Girls” got it right
Surprisingly, a comedy show did the best job of effectively highlighting the struggle of dealing with chronic illness.
Season five of Golden Girls began with a two-part episode focused on the character Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur. She reports to the ladies that she’s gone to numerous doctors for months to deal with some sort of flu. The doctors all tell her she’s fine. Says Dorothy:
“I am at a point now where I am so exhausted that sometimes I cannot speak — literally, cannot speak. There are days when I can’t get out of bed. Raising my arms to wash my hair in the shower is too exhausting for me. I can’t even do that.”
She is sent to another doctor, the smug and condescending Dr. Budd, who tells her that she is just getting old, and she should see a hairdresser to dye her hair, and implies that it’s all in her head — a situation all too familiar for many women with thyroid disease.
Dorothy finally sees a doctor who diagnoses her with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), another frequently overlooked health condition that, like thyroid disease, primarily affects women and is often misdiagnosed.
At the end of the episode, Dorothy runs into Dr. Budd in a restaurant, and calls him out in front of his wife in an epic takedown, saying:
“Dr. Budd, I really am sick. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It's a real illness ... There are some things I have to say. Words can't express what I have to say. What I went through, what you put me through ...
Dr. Budd, I came to you sick and scared, and you dismissed me. Instead of saying ‘I’m sorry, I don't know what's wrong with you,’ you made me feel like a child, a fool, a neurotic who was wasting your precious time. Is that your caring profession? Is that healing?
… You know, someday Dr. Budd you’re gonna’ be on the other side of the table, and as angry as I am and as angry as I always will be, I still wish you a better doctor than you were to me.”
It’s no surprise that Golden Girls got it right. The episode was written by the show’s creator, Susan Harris, who herself had CFS and struggled to get properly diagnosed.
Over the years, many thyroid patients have told me that they laughed, cried, or cheered when viewing that episode, as they could relate all too well to being dismissed by patronizing doctors over the years.
Given the tendency for writers to use thyroid patients to make not-so-subtle fat jokes or insults, thyroid patients face two choices: Laugh it off and refuse to be insulted, or push back and call on writers and advertisers to put an end to the “thyroid code.” There are pros and cons to each approach, and only you can decide how you want to respond.
See more helpful articles:
Becoming Your Own Thyroid Advocate
How to Find the Right Thyroid Doctor: 9 Tips
Weight Loss Challenges for Thyroid Patients