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.

Good Things

I have waited to write any updates until I believed that the changes I felt were real and a sign that I am making progress.  I think I’m ready to fill you in and will have a post up very soon. 

Until then I have updated my treatment page from my appointment this morning with Joanie. 

It’s good, my friends.

Thyroid 101

Since I miscarried in February, the last few months have been like a health scavenger hunt that eventually led to my the possible diagnosis of hypothyroid as my symptoms seem to indicate so.  It’s a long story, which I will share, but before I do I think it would be a good idea to have a crash course on hypothyroidism, or “Thyroid 101.”

What is the Thyroid For?

The thyroid is the small bowtie or butterfly-shaped gland, located in your neck, wrapped around the windpipe, behind and below the Adam’s Apple area.

Here is a picture:

The main action of the thyroid is to create energy and produce heat. All the cells in the body need energy to do their job. For that they need to receive small amounts of thyroid hormone every day. The thyroid produces several hormones, but two are key to our health: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 help oxygen get into cells, and make the thyroid the master gland of metabolism. A thyroid gland that functions normally produces T4 and T3. 20% of the T3 circulating in the body comes directly from the thyroid gland, and the remaining 80% comes from conversion of T4. When the thyroid produces more hormones and it gets to the cells of the body, it is similar to pressing the accelerator and revving up the engine of a car.

Without enough thyroid hormone metabolism decreases and weight will go up.  Energy will be low and you will get tired easily. Your immune system will not work properly, making your more likely to have infections and even cancer. Your brain will not be as sharp, causing decreased memory and concentration. In short, every function and every process within your body will slow down, from circulation to bowel movements. It’s like taking your foot off the gas pedal; the body’s functioning will slow down.

How do you know something is wrong?

There is a huge list of possible symptoms of hypothyroid and many of them are confused as other issues and so hypothyroid is often misdiagnosed.  You can find a long list of symptoms from Stop The Thyroid Madness or on my “Symptoms” page.

In my case, these symptoms went unrecognized, and quite possibly existed for years.  I am still figuring all of this out, but when I look back over the years several of the symptoms jump off the page at me as I read the list: miscarriages, anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, difficulty losing weight, easily and quickly gain weight, acne (acne in your 30’s is worse than as a teenager), forgetfulness, air hunger (feeling like you can’t get enough air), aching bones/joints, often feeling cold (sleep with socks on in the summer), low body temperature.  Only in the last few years would I agree that I have been dealing with low grade depression and I always equated it to grieving the loss of my pregnancies.

It wasn’t until my third miscarriage in February 2012 that I began to ask questions and feel dissatisfied when my Doctor rattled off the same statistics of women with multiple miscarriages going on to carry full term. I’d heard them twice before and at the time I just accepted that, for whatever reason, my babies died and I needed to work on moving forward.

After my second miscarriage in December 2009, it was my Doctor’s plan to start me on progesterone as soon as I learned I was pregnant, which we did. The hormone progesterone is often called “the pregnancy hormone” because it plays 2 important roles in pregnancy:

  • Progesterone thickens and prepares the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, for implantation of a fertilized egg.
  • After implantation, progesterone is important during the first trimester to maintain pregnancy.

During a normal pregnancy, around 8 weeks after implantation, the placenta takes over the production of progesterone from the ovaries. The placenta produces a significant level of progesterone to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

The thought was that perhaps my body wasn’t creating enough of the progresterone hormone and that by taking progesterone my pregnancy would be supported until the placenta took over.  Sadly and once again, I discovered I had miscarried at 9 weeks, just like I had twice before. We also learned that we were expecting twins. Genetic tests confirmed they were boys and there were no chromosomal abnormalities. I hate that it has taken this long to research for myself, but in the midst of my grief I just believed what the medical professionals were telling me. Miscarriage happens.

A few weeks after losing the last pregnancy, I started to research online the terms “multiple miscarriages” and “unexplained miscarriages”.  I found several websites mentioned thyroid dysfunction had a link to infertility and multiple miscarriages. I started to dig deeper and learned a lot about hypothyroid symptoms, body temperature and blood tests. 

I learned that many doctors only test for the “TSH” which only shows what the level of thyroid hormone is present in the body.  For many people, their body is able to create the hormone, but it does not utilize the hormone as it is supposed to. The best illustration for this that I have read is to think of a room with 4 white walls. On the floor next to you is a bucket of red paint.  You have all the paint you need to finish the room, but you do not have a paintbrush or a roller to apply the paint to the walls. This is what happens when you thyroid creates the hormone but can’t get it to the cells.

There is a test to determine if your body is converting the T4 hormone to T3 which “gets the paint on the wall,” so to speak, but according to my research, doctors are taught in medical school that T4 is the only thyroid medication that patients with hypothyroidism need and so the most common test is the TSH blood test which shows the amount of the hormone present (T4) before it is converted to T3 which gets to the cells.

Are you still with me?  It’s a lot of information I am still getting my head around. Here is a funny picture of a cat and dog.  Take a break. I’ll wait for you.

 

Better? Okay.

Of course I learned all of this the hard way when I asked my OBGYN to check my thyroid my results for TSH were 1.93 which is “within normal limits.” The most important first step is to get a full thyroid panel to determine whether you are lacking sufficient amount of thyroid hormones (T4), or your body is not utilizing the hormone properly (converting T4 to T3).

What Causes Hypothyroid?

Here is a list of the many possible causes of hypothyroidism, also from Stop The Thyroid Madness (STTM).  You can read more detailed definitions for each of them at STTM.

  • Heredity
  • Iodine Insufficiency
  • Hashimoto’s Disease (also called “Hashi’s”)
  • Overtreatment for Graves Hyperthyroid or Hashi’s with Radioactive Iodine
  • Thyroid Removal Surgery
  • Radiation of the face/neck/chest
  • Tumor on the Pituitary Gland
  • Trauma from Accidents or Surgery
  • Pharmaceutical Drug Induced
  • Supplements
  • Over consumption of Goitrogenic Foods
  • Over consumption of Soy Products
  • Cigarette Smoking
  • Pregnancy/Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Aging
  • Environmental Exposures
  • Perchlorate and Other Toxic Chemicals Exposure

 That’s probably plenty for today. 

References:
Stop the Thyroid Madness
Thyroid Manager
Alt.Support.Thyroid
Thyroid (About.com)
Endocrine web
 
 

Genesis

Hello. 

I was tempted to re-start this blog with a title like “In The Beginning” or “Once Upon A Time”.

I’m calling it “Genesis” because, you see, this is my Genesis. 

My new beginning.

It’s a little scary, but the hope I have that I won’t always feel the way I do even as I write this compels me to document it so I can see my progress for myself. 

I may not have a clear idea of what I will write about, but it is very apparent as to why:

  • So I don’t forget where I’ve been and how far I’ve come because I know that is very probable and only a matter of time.  (Such is the case with hypothyroid. The ever present “Brain Fog”).
  • For other people who, like me, are searching for something familiar in my story that may give hope that they can find answers too.

I am about to turn a corner from years of unknown and unrecognized struggles with my health. I am starting a journey to seek freedom from chronic symptoms I had long ago accepted as “normal”.

I am quickly learning that all along I have had a misguided understanding of my health and for more years than I will probably ever know I have been living with hypothyroidism.  

The time has come for me to step out into the unknown and discover truths about my health, my faith and my real potential. 

Here goes everything.