But along with financial comfort and critical acclaim, the 1980's also brought health problems to the vigorous artist. "The first symptoms appeared about 1986 ," Frank relates. " I had three jobs going on at the same time and I was burning the midnight oil. Coincidentally I had bought some really inexpensive turpentine, real junk. The fumes were so terrible that it probably screwed my thyroid up. Nobody's quite sure what makes a thyroid malfunction or quit or go hyperactive, but they certainly know it can be affected by chemicals. I was working for about two weeks with this turpentine that just permeated my studio: my wife and kids wouldn't even come into the room it was so bad. But good ol' Frank just kept plugging away. "I'm tough, this won't affect me. " Around the time I was finishing the jobs I suddenly got this eerie, insidious taste in my mouth. It was almost as if Death had entered.
Painting became more difficult and he began to experience dizziness and debilitating pain. For the next eight years Frazetta saw dozens of doctors and was subjected to every imaginable test, always with inconclusive results. His weight plummeted from 180 to 128 pounds and his anxiety increased. A visit to the Mayo clinic proved to be a disaster. They thought his problems were mental; they could discover no biological basis for the symptoms. Frank returned home to Pennsylvania and thought he would soon die. Luckily, a local doctor ran a standard thyroid test and found the problem - a malfunctioning thyroid that was causing an extreme hormonal disfunction. Once the proper medication was determined Frazetta began a return to normal state.
Few people realized that Franks's "come back" was more of a display of personal triumph that it was an indication of a desire to return to his comic roots. An undiagnosed thyroid condition had played havoc with both his professional and personal life. " I suddenly had no more of those wonderful images running through my head. And even though I could sit there and sort of work out a composition and a design, the actual application was gone. I noticed when I used the brush, nothing happened. Everything was flat. There was none of that spontaneity, none of that courage to site there and ride it out and let things happen. "What have I lost?" I thought it was because I was getting older and I knew that I'd lose some of my skills. Eventually. But it happen so suddenly. I tried everything: pen and ink, pencils, painting; the were all awful. I used to look at my old work and ask myself, "How did I do that? I guess that's just what happens when you get old." Obviously I realized that it was something in my brain that wasn't functioning right, it's just that neither the doctors or I attributed it to the thyroid."
Once they corrected his hormonal imbalance, things immediately turned around . "The most wonderful and incredible thing is, the minute they got this thing adjusted, bang! It all came back in an instant. I never imagined that my skill would come back just as good as ever. That's crazy, but it shows that the brain is like a delicate computer and sometimes the circuits need a little soldering."