I have a goal; to feel well and seek answers on my own. After seven to eight years of symptoms that not one doctor could link them to, I was finally diagnosed two years ago with Autoimmune Hypothyroid Disease called Hashimoto’s Lymphocytic Thyroiditis. As you might think, getting the diagnosis and treatment would be a relief. NOT! The medical community is failing and I’m here to prove that we as human beings have to take charge of our own health. If a doctor can’t help me, then I’ll help myself. Lab produced medications, as well as processed foods are causing our society increasing health problems. There are alternative ways to healing and feeling well and my goal is to get well.
Let me begin my story. Growing up I was always the shortest girl, the skinniest girl, the late bloomer. Until well into my late twenties and early thirties I weighed about the same. In fact, I was the friend who could eat anything and not gain weight. I had menstrual problems and thinning hair from my adolescent years. No big deal though. I never sought treatment and I was able to get pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby, in my twenties. Then, eight years ago in 2006, I went to the doctor for a routine physical and lab work. My labs indicated that my thyroid numbers weren’t normal, but I couldn’t tell you if they were high or low because the doctor didn’t offer me anymore information other than that. It was never suggested that I see a specialist so I left and that was that. Not even a year later I was awakened to a rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing. I called 911 and went to the ER. Diagnosis: tachycardia & high blood pressure and was put on a beta blocker to control the symptoms. Over the next few years, I lived with an elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure. My doctor thought I potentially had poly-cystic kidney disease, because it’s rare that somebody so young and active would have high blood pressure, but the tests came back negative. I tried different blood pressure meds and finally found one that worked for me. Then, the dreadful news. In 2010, I suffered a miscarriage. Some months later, I had heart palpitations and was rushed to the ER. Diagnosis: panic attack. Seriously? Panic attacks? Those doctors were giving me panic attacks, that’s for sure. This shit is crazy and I need an educated doctor. PLEASE. Somebody help me!!!
In April 2011, I got up and went to work…just a usual day. As the morning progressed, so did swelling in my neck. My neck swelled to the point that others could notice and I couldn’t swallow. Luckily, I worked next to the hospital. Yet another ER visit. Diagnosis: swollen thyroid gland. The ER doc checked my thyroid labs but the numbers were normal. I was pumped with IV steroids and sent away with a week supply of prednisone.
From late 2011 into early 2012, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. My body was slowing down, I could barely function (although I did and faked a smile), my hair was falling out, my face and eyes were puffy, my vision was off, I had brain fog and could barely think sometimes, I slowly began to gain weight and my lymph nodes were sore everyday (similar to when you have a cold). At the dinner table one evening in January 2012, I broke down in tears and said to my family “something isn’t right, I just know something is wrong.” I begged my husband to take me to the ER. When I arrived at the ER my blood pressure was high so I slid past all the others in the waiting room. A CT scan showed zero signs of stroke. I then begged the ER doctor to ultrasound my neck, hence my complaint of lymph nodular pain. She agreed. The doctor came to me and said she didn’t know much about thyroid conditions and I might want to consider seeing a specialist, but the doctor neglected to explain the test results to me and sent me away. Diagnosis: Extreme Fatigue.
In March 2012, we moved from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Any move is stressful, but into Spring that year, I thought death was ensuing me. I was packing on the pounds, as if I was spending my days eating nothing but Twinkies and Ho-Ho’s. My husband and I started running and doing sprint training. I literally was gaining 4lbs a day and NO I wasn’t pregnant! Finally, I saw a new doctor in my town. I had labs done, AGAIN, and all was normal. She referred me to a specialist.
I was like a kid in a candy store, waiting to see my new Endocrinologist. I took my medical history with me for her review. Clearly, she saw the reports from a previous visit in the ER (the one where I begged for the neck ultrasound) and it showed a lump on my thyroid gland near my wind pipe, as well as elevated thyroid numbers. What the……? Seriously? How on earth can doctors be so freaking negligent? What if it was cancer? Geez, people!!
I was put on Synthroid, a synthetic T4 replacement thyroid hormone and ordered to have a neck ultrasound and biopsy. The biopsy was inconclusive and the lymph nodes in my neck were swollen on both sides, as they remain to this day. She had me see a Thyroid Surgeon for a second opinion, where I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hashimoto’s Lymphocyctic Thyroiditis. Finally, a diagnosis…but I thought to myself, “what is Hashimoto’s?” The doctor didn’t really explain it to me, so I set out on my Internet search.
For the next year and a half, I had routine ultrasounds and biopsies every six months, as well as increased doses of meds. My hair began to grow in thicker, heart palpitations and heart rate dissipated and my blood pressure became a normal 120/80, discharging my BP meds. But I still didn’t feel 100% as I thought I would and I continued to put on weight. In December 2013 at my routine office visit, I wasn’t happy with the “listen to your patient” capability of my Endocrinologist and fired her when she failed to explain the “real” reason I was gaining weight. She stated I must be doing something wrong. OH NO SHE DIDN’T JUST SAY THAT! Really? I was doing something wrong and that’s why I was gaining weight? I should have punched her.
So a month later in January 2014, I already had a new Endocrinologist. He was very informative and based on my history of symptoms since 2006, very nicely explained how I’ve gotten to the point where I am today. He provided me with dumbed-down analogies so I understood exactly everything he was saying. IT ALL MADE SENSE! For the first time EVERYTHING made sense! I’m not crazy after all! Everything that happened to me since 2006 were all symptoms of my body’s immune system attacking my thyroid gland! Oh thank God, I think I’ve found a gem of a doctor! Amen!
He explained that Hashimoto’s is a progressive disease and it can never be reversed; rather, I was told I will have to spend the next years or so trying to find the right dose of thyroid replacement, for me, that’s comparable to what my body used to produce on it’s own. After joining several support groups, I found that Synthroid (which is just T4) doesn’t work for everybody and there are alternative, more natural forms of thyroid replacement hormone that may help improve health and overall wellness. Some patients in my support groups take Armour Thyroid, which is pig thyroid and contains both T4 and T3. They claim to love it and say it has even stimulated weight loss, as it was initially created to help people with obesity. I emailed my doctor to see if he would prescribe Armour Thyroid and he replied “No” which really upset me. To me, a good doctor would offer treatment options. As much as I liked this doctor, he got the ax. Fired. This is my body, my disease and I want options. I’m entitled to them.
I understand not everybody cares about my problems and may not have interest in hypothyroid disease, but for those of you who think you might have it or do have it, let me explain something: Synthroid is a synthetic lab produced drug that contains only T4 hormone. Now, T4 is supposed to make T3. But how do we know if lab produced Synthroid is making enough T3 or if any at all? Armour Thyroid and Nature Throid offer both T4 and T3. What if a simple lifestyle and diet change such as the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol could be the answer to helping prevent more Autoimmune diseases?
My journey has begun. By doing this project I hope to find overall health and wellness, with a lifestyle change by incorporating both a simple diet change and daily exercise, that I hear may contribute to weight loss and a happier life. I’m no longer dwelling on my symptoms of the past or the symptoms of my present; but I am focusing on my future self and hope to inspire others on this journey and educate those who aren’t getting what they need from the medical community.