2012: Reflections on my journey so far

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I’m really tired to day. My head is fuzzy, but I’m going to try to put a couple of sentences together. I think that taking time to reflect on what has happened helps a person move forward in life.  I thought I might take some time to reflect on my health journey and how I discovered I was dealing with thyroid and other reproductive hormone issues.

A few days ago I said goodbye to a pretty wild year.  2012 was exhausting and painful but looking back I also see a great amount of progress and renewed hope.  Last year at this time I was grasping the reality that I was pregnant again and looking forward with joy and expectation. It was a very welcomed surprise and my husband and I were beyond excited to be parents. It didn’t take me long to start planning a nursery. I even started crocheting a little blanket. I knew that it was still so early but I couldn’t help but be caught up in the excitement of a new life joining our family. Fast forward to 4 weeks later and I found myself lying on an exam table while an ultra sound technician searched in quiet desperation for any signs of life in my womb. When she left the room without any explanation my husband and I sat in silence looking at each other. There just wasn’t anything to say out loud. I remember he held my hand and wiped my tears. About 15 minutes later, she put us on the phone with my Doctor who first told us we were expecting twins but that there was no sign of life.  It was a cold and dark January day and I found myself reliving the same nightmare for the third time.

The weeks following my miscarriage I remember praying and pleading that I might find some answers to my most consuming question, “why?”  The next few months I poured myself into researching the terms I’d heard my doctor use: “recurrent miscarriages” and “unexplained miscarriages.” It was all I had to go on and at some point in one of my searches I stumbled on the word “hypothyroidism.”

I read everything I could find about hypothyroidism over the next few months.  I remember pouring over the list of symptoms and feeling like I had discovered a missing piece to the last few years. It was eye opening to me think how far back I could remember experiencing several of the symptoms and yet I would doubt myself that I was making too much of it. 

I was too nervous to talk to a doctor about it.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed and honestly, I expected they would just tell me I was depressed and put me on depression and anxiety meds.

In March I made an appointment to see a new chiropractor as I had been experiencing some flare ups of pain in my lower back, and my left ankle I had injured a year earlier while I was trying (key word: TRYING) to get in shape so I could run a half marathon and hopefully lose some weight. About a month into my “training plan” I hurt my ankle after a run and was told I had Achilles Tendonitis. It was really painful but after a lot of physical therapy I did get the green light to start running again. I worked up to 10 miles a week (which wasn’t a lot but it was something). I was always confused by the fact that I never saw a change in the scale even though I was exercising and watching my diet. I started juicing fruits and vegetables that summer too. It was really frustrating because I really found that I enjoyed this sport and it helped ease stress and anxiety and for a little while I would feel an increase in my energy. I gave up trying to run around September of 2011.

Anyway, back to the Chiropractor appointment. I went for my first appointment and filled out a “new patient questionnaire” which asked for health history and current symptoms. I was surprised to find that the questionnaire asked about a lot of other things besides my back.  I decided to check all that applied including feeling depressed and anxious, trouble sleeping and fatigue. I also included in the notes section that I’d had 3 miscarriages. I sat down with my new doctor and he asked me a couple of questions about my back and ankle and had me stand and do a couple of exercises to measure my level of discomfort. 

The next part totally surprised me.  He pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of me.  He asked me to explain my anxiety, fatigue and depression and the miscarriages. So I told him. I told him that for as long as I can remember, I always feel tired.  Not just “I need to get to bed earlier tonight” tired but after at least 8 hours of sleep I wake up to feel knuckle dragging exhaustion by 1:00 in the afternoon.  EVERYDAY.  I told him how I find it really hard to concentrate at work or any task for that matter and that sometimes, more often than I would like to admit, I don’t want to leave my house.  I explained that I wasn’t afraid or paranoid to leave my house; I just couldn’t muster the energy to walk out my door. I told him about the babies and that I had lost them all before 9 weeks and no one could tell me why.

I remember saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me” to which he quickly replied “I do.” He said, “Robin, I think you have a thyroid condition. I can tell just by looking at your neck.”

I really don’t want to make this sound all dramatic, but when he told me this I literally burst into tears.  I couldn’t believe what he had just told me. I had been reading everything I could find and yet I struggled to believe it could be happening to me.  He let me sit there and cry and offered me a Kleenex. I said “You must think I’m crazy!  I just met you, but I have been wondering for some time if this was happening to me.  It means a lot that you just said that.”  He encouraged me to find a doctor that would prescribe desiccated thyroid, like Armour.

A month later, I met Joanie.  It’s been quite a journey that continues to bring surprises but today I increased my dose to 90 mg of Armour Thryoid.  I am hopeful that I will continue to feel better and that my other hormone and digestions issues will improve also.

On another note, I had my annual eye appointment a few weeks ago (just before Christmas) and would you believe that my vision has actually improved in my left eye from my appointment last year?  It’s a slight change, but I was very surprised to hear this considering how much work I do on the computer.  She adjusted my prescription and I just received my new contacts.  I don’t know if this could be related to being treated for hypo, but who knows!

It is amazing how everything is connected.

Looking back, I feel like I am very far away from a year ago.  I feel that my prayers were answered, which is a great blessing.  I still have no idea what may or may not happen in the future, but I know that I am making good strides in my health.

That is all I can ask for now.

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Focus On The Good.

An update:

I am in the midst of some big changes since my appointment with Joanie almost 3 weeks ago but before I begin I have to say this continues to be such an unpredictable journey. I really have no idea where I am going! As confusing it has been for me to understand what is going on with my health, I imagine it is as confusing to anyone who reads this.  

After 6 months of hearing that “thyroid issues are not presenting in you,” despite ongoing symptoms and after supporting my adrenals with hydrocortisone, Joanie decided at my last appointment that it was time to start me on Armour Thyroid. In fact, the conversation went something like this:

Joanie: Robin, how would you feel about us trying Armour? You haven’t responded the way I thought you would on hydrocortisone alone.  I think it’s time we try dessicated thyroid.

Me: (Forcing myself to not jump out of my chair and start hugging her) Well…yes, (very calmly) I would be very open to that. 

I am stunned, frustrated that it has taken this long, but very happy that she is willing to explore thyroid treatment for me. 

Before I explain the details I want to review my experience with Hydrocortisone. When I got the saliva test results back and learned I was in Maladapted Phase II of Adrenal Fatigue I started on hydrocortisone in early August. At first, I really started to feel some relief of some of my most troubling symptoms: anxiety and fatigue/lethargy. I finally realized how vital my diet is to my health when I learned I am actually gluten intolerant and adopted a strict gluten and dairy free diet as well as no sugar, no coffee and no simple carbs to help heal my leaky gut issues which I believe are improving. At the end of August, she increased my hydrocortisone from 7.5 mg daily to 12.5 mg. I was hopeful that this would help me feel even better as she said it was pretty clear I was dealing with adrenal issues. Instead, it had the opposite effect. I started to feel a real increase in anxiety and depression. I gained 5 pounds in a month (NOT awesome). I was weepy, avoidant and overwhelmed constantly. For a few weeks I doubted my ability to continue to work. I was a mess and my fatigue only made matters worse. My posts during the month of September are very telling of this. I was withdrawn, which is my “normal” way of coping when I feel overwhelmed.

I shared all of this at my last appointment, and Joanie immediately backed me off the hydrocortisone to only 5 mg a day (2.5 am, 2.5 noon). Once I reached 5 mg I started on 30 mg Armour Thyroid for 2 weeks, then to 60 mg daily. I just started 60 mg yesterday. As I was stepping down the dose of hydrocortisone my anxiety and especially depression started to ease off and become more manageable.

About a week after I started on the 30 mg of Armour, I noticed a change in the way I felt during some of the most unexpected times. Like at 4:30 am when I wake up for no reason and can’t fall back to sleep because I am anxious about the fact that I’m not asleep or my mind is racing thinking about all of the things I need to do that day and to not forget this or that.  Instead, on most occasions, I’ve been able to relax my mind and drift back to sleep until it is time for me to wake up. This morning, I didn’t wake up at all before my alarm. Or when I get home from work and I am tired and hungry, but the first thing I need to do is start dinner and take care of my 3 dogs that are also very hungry and have missed me all day. For the last week, I’ve been able to do this most days without breaking down into tears because all I really wanted to do was crawl into bed and pull the covers over me and sleep until morning. Instead, I have realized that I have had energy to spend time playing fetch with my dogs, make dinner and still have a little energy to take a relaxing bath, or to spend time reading, or sewing. On Saturday, I went to the grocery store to shop for this week. Usually, this trip exhausts me and puts me in a very foul mood for the rest of the day. I dread it. I loathe it. I have grocery aisle rage—no one is safe. It wasn’t until I was unloading the bags from my car to take into the house that I realized I was thinking about what I wanted to do after I had unloaded the groceries. Usually I’m lucky if I get everything unpacked before I am lying on the couch.

TMI Warning:

One thing I am concerned about is my menstrual cycle. I seem to be going in the opposite direction. Most recently I went from a 23 day cycle to 21 days.  I’ve been taking progesterone since April, only 2 months have I lengthened my cycle to 24 days.  21 days seems really short to me.  I see Joanie again next week, I will definitely talk to her about this.

That’s my update for now. I will be curious to see how I feel over the next week. I am cautiously optimistic.

I also wanted to share a blog I found recently, Hypothyroid Mom. Dana brings a well informed voice to the tragedy of miscarriage and hypothyroidism as she lost a child after being diagnosed as hypothyroid. I am SO GLAD that she has started this blog and I am reading her posts with a fine tooth comb. It’s really nice to know there is someone out there who can relate to my nightmare. I would encourage you to read her blog, too.

Good things happen when you fall into a tourist trap.

On our way to the ice cave

On our way to the ice cave

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything about traveling (see archives from 2006-2007), so I’ll give fair warning: you’re not going to read about Trifels Castle in Germany where Richard the Lionhearted was held captive in this post (by the way I’ve been there and it’s fabulous).  Today’s post falls in the “kitsch & kin” of American tourism.  When I was a kid, my Mom and sister Deanna and I would pile into our 1984 Toyota trecel wagon and head for Kansas to visit grandmas and cousins.  Dad never made it on these trips.  Somewhere in Wyoming we would start to see signs boasting the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and the World’s Largest Spur. My most favorite was the World’s Largest Hairball found in Garden City, Kansas (a basketball sized hairball from a cow, apparently).  We would crack up about the nearby attractions.  I have some great memories from our road trips.

Now, as an adult I think it might actually be a fun, quirky vacation to hit the road in a certain direction and see what you find in the small-in-between-places.  Little did I know, in my own backyard, there is a little gem called the Shoshone Ice Caves.  Today Don and I were itching to get out of town and try to beat the heat.  I suggested we check out the ice caves, having never been there even though I was born and raised here.  Within thirty minutes we were headed to Shoshone, about 1 ½ hours to the southeast. 

I’ve seen some impressive caves on other trips to Colorado and Missouri as a kid, so I didn’t really know what to expect. About 20 miles out I started to see signs for the ice caves with a giant picture of an American Indian Chief Wakasiki, leader of the Shoshone people and “friend to the whites,” I found out later. I began to have flash backs to our road trips through the Midwest. “Oh boy, what are we in for?” I wondered, hoping Don would remain a willing participant.

Chief Wakasiki

Chief Wakasiki

We arrived at the site of the Ice Caves to find Chief Wakasiki standing watch over all those who came to see this ice cave, and a cartoonish Flintstones-like dinosaur with what is supposed to be a cave man sitting on his head.  We chuckled at our surroundings as we walked to the gift shop to purchase our tickets for the tour and within 5 minutes we were on our way.  Stepping out of the gift shop was like walking into a convection oven.  It was very hot, and like most summer days here in southwest Idaho, very windy.  I felt a little silly carrying my scarf and fleece jacket at that moment, but the website suggested that you bring warm clothing because the average temperature in the cave is 30° f, even when it’s over 100° f outside. 

We made our way down the lava paved trail where our guide, Tonya, explained that the cave is actually a collapsed lava tube that is 1,000 ft. long and varies between 8 and 30 ft. in height.  She also explained the geologic, volcanic, and historical background of these large lava ice caves.  I was really hot by then and I mumbled to Don under my breath, “This had better be worth it.”  Thankfully, I was not disappointed.  As we made our way down to the entrance of the cave, I could feel the temperature drop with every step. 

Much cooler now!  A few minutes earlier, I wasn't nearly this happy.

Much cooler now! A few minutes earlier, I wasn't this happy.

Inside the cold, damp cave, we learned that a young boy found this ice cave in the 1800’s when he was looking for a lost sheep.  After its discovery, the caves were an ice source for the nearby town of Shoshone, which boasted 23 saloons and restaurants and was the only ice-cold beer for miles around before the invention of refrigeration. Unfortunately as a result they opened up the entry to the cave and allowed more air to flow through which ended up melting all of the ice that occurred naturally with the low flow of air.  Later it became the town dump.  Finally, in the early 1960’s, a Mr. Robinson purchased the land, and having researched the cave and airflow, closed the entry back off and soon the ice began to reappear.

The cave temperature was 30°f, even though it was at least 100°f outside.

The cave temperature was 30°f, even though it was at least 100°f outside.

Driving away an hour later after our journey from the blistering desert heat, deep into the unexpected oasis of the ice cave and back again, we both commented on how really enjoyable our excursion was.  On the way home, we noticed a sign for the “Mammoth Caves” and another sign for the “Mammoth Cave Civil Defense Shelter.”  We looked at each other and smiled.  I’m pretty sure we’ll be back soon.   

Some may call it a tourist trap, but I consider the Shoshone Ice Caves a pleasant detour from the ordinary. What’s not to like about a family owned and operated interactive geology and history lesson?

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Inside the cave, best I could do in the dark.

Next time you’re driving through southwest Idaho along Highway 75 and you want to escape the heat, take a worthwhile trip to the Shoshone Ice Caves. Don’t forget to visit the museum!

A welcome home rant

Greetings, everyone.  This post is just to let you know that Nook and I made it home safe and sound.  The 5 hour layover we had in Baltimore wasn’t as bad as I feared.  Nook  and I walked around a parking structure for 2 hours (luggage cart and all).  We arrived safely and on time (miracles do happen) in Salt Lake City and my Dad was waiting to take us to our hotel for some much needed rest.  I think that Nook has finally forgiven me for sticking him in a box with holes for almost 24 hours.  Boy, am I glad that’s over!

 I’ve really enjoyed being home so far, something I was a little curious about.  I have experienced a touch of reverse culture shock and since this is my blog I’m going to use it to tell you what I have noticed about America since my “re-entry.”  Please note the  following comments are my opinions, so deal if they offend you.

  1. Billboards are ugly and they are EVERYWHERE.  I’m looking for an anti-billboard coalition to join. 
  2. Those of you that think you’re cool walking around talking on your hands-free phone I’ve got something to tell you.  You are not that important.  You look like you’re talking to yourself.   I do, however, applaud you if you use it while driving. 
  3. Refer to #2 above.  If you are driving HANG UP THE PHONE, please!   Or, if you must, use a hands free phone.  You aren’t that important, either.
  4. Big trucks= annoying.  Unless you are a farmer or a rancher and actually have use for one you look like an idiot.  Or that you are compensating for something (Oh, stop.  You were thinking the same thing, admit it).
  5. Please think for a moment before you throw that aluminum can or yogurt cup in the trash.  Why not look up a recycling center in your community (if you don’t recycle already)?  Here in my parents small rural Idaho town I found a recycling center just 5 minutes from their house.  Believe me, if Mountain Home, Idaho has one your town probably has one too.  Here is a website that can help: earth911 just enter your zip-code and it will provide a list of recycling centers in your area.

Don’t get me wrong, it really is good to be home.  I’ve been able to reconnect with friends and family and will have more to tell you about in the coming weeks.  I only have access to a computer when I am visiting with friends or at the library, so I cannot tell you what the frequency of posts will be. 

 Until next time, Robin

Snow Day!

This weekend this part of Germany was hit with a huge snowstorm that left behind a foot and a half of snow. This is our third winter in Germany, and it is definitely the longest and coldest. Since Don was raised in sunny California, snow for him is like a giant playground. He loves to shovel it, drive in it(actually doing donughts in empty parking lots), any excuse to go outside, and I love watching him run around laughing like a little kid (he has an infectious laugh- one of the first things that I remember when we first met). He tried to convince me to run outside in our backyard in the middle of the night with him and join the polar bear club, but in my old age I’m just not up for catching pnemonia! I attached a couple of pictures. The one without snow was taken last weekend. The other two were taken today. My tulip and daffodil bulbs had already started poking through the soil (a gardner’s nightmare), I really hope they hang on until the snow melts!