Friday, April 22, 2011

Make It Happen

I have been struggling for years to feel "normal" with no solid answers as to why I feel like a stranger in my own body. I am a 32 yr old mother of 7 who is happily married. I had my first child shortly after I turned 18 and made a trend of having another baby every 2 years thereafter. I had my last baby when I was 30 and came to the conclusion that no one was missing anymore so it was time to tie my sweet little tubes. It was shortly after having baby number 7 that I noticed I wasn't losing weight very easily and I was tired and fatigued all the time. I had also started to miss my periods which was not normal for me and I harassed my Gynecologist relentlessly to draw blood and check for a pregnancy inspite of several negative at home tests. Luckily, my blood test was negative but in the process of testing me for a pregnancy I had a thyroid panel ran as well which showed that my TSH levels were in the high normal range. It was at that time that I began seeing an Endocrinologist and started taking the lowest dose of Synthroid which is a thryoid replacement hormone. It was discovered that I had an auto immune disorder called Hashimoto's which is where your body attacks your thyroid. My concerns were raised because I already suffered from another auto immune disorder called Vitiligo, aka the Michael Jackson disease. It is where your body attacks your melanin cells causing hypopigmentation turning your skin white. If you have ever seen a person with white spots randomly placed on their body while other areas are of normal skin tone, that is Vitiligo. It struck me as odd that now I had another auto immune disorder that effected my thyroid and was the reason for my fatigue and struggle to lose weight. All I could do was wonder when will it stop and how can I be a catalyst to make it better.

After starting the Synthroid in January of 2010 I felt great. I was hitting the gym every morning and losing weight. I had more energy than normal and didn't have the afternoon drag that I had lived with for over a year. One thing I did notice is that when I would leave my house and be in an environment where there was a lot of people I would start to feel nervous and overwhelmed and want to go to home. I would often times scope out the nearest bathroom just in case I got sick. It didn't take long to realize that I was suffering from anxiety attacks. After filling my prescription for Synthroid one day I happened to read the side effects on the pamphlet that came with it and sure enough, anxiety was listed. I called my Endocrinologist to inform them of how I was feeling and what I thought it stemmed from only to be told that I was on the lowest dose possible and that if I didn't want to keep taking the medication there was nothing they could do for me. Really? That's all you can say? I was livid and couldn't believe that the person I put my trust in to help me didn't have an answer. I opted to stop taking the Synthroid for 10 weeks to see how I felt once it was out of my system and then decide if I would start taking it again or not. I noticed a decline in my anxiety level and the frequency in attacks when I left the house but it was still there to some degree. I made the decision to stay off the Synthroid completely rather than continue taking it while pairing it with Xanax to control the anxiety.

In July of 2010 I caught up with an old friend who told me about a Naturopath Doctor who specialized in Hashimoto's and could help me with my auto immune disorders. I was ecstatic as I hadn't been able to get any results from my traditional doctors and felt I was headed towards a dead end. Later that week I caught a commercial on TV of that very Doctor talking about Hashimoto's and how to control it without the use of prescription medication. I was convinced that it wasn't coincidence and called to schedule an appointment. I went and had my initial consultation with Dr. Jason Pickel in Overland Park, KS and was blown away at the amount of information he shared with me regarding auto immune disorders and hypothyroid. Prior to the appointement I filled out a packet of questions which gave him an idea of how far my auto immune disorders had progressed and what parts of my body were being effected. I had never been told by any of the other doctors I had seen that auto immune disorders were progressive, meaning if you have one you are likely to acquire more as the inflammation in your body starts to attack new areas. I also felt like I had answers as to what caused the unexpected death of my father at the age of 57. As he was connecting the dots as to how auto immune disorders effect various parts of the bodies he mentioned the term "leaky gut" which is what they referred to my father as having hours before he passed away. I left his office overwhelmed with emotion as to just how serious my conditions were and could become if left untreated and yet I felt relieved because for the first time in my life I felt like someone listened to me, heard my health complaints and validated them. He gave me hope that I could get better and that my body was capable of reversing the conditions I suffered from with the proper treatment. The catch was that because he is a Naturopath doctor, insurance would not cover the cost of his treatment. Drug companies rule the roost and if you don't hand out presciptions you don't take insurance.

I couldn't afford to shell out the several thousands of dollars it was gonna cost me to seek 9 months of treatment with him so my husband and I decided we would wait and I would keep searching out traditional doctors. I was hoping I would get lucky and find someone who could help me and take insurance. Over the next several months I noticed I was becoming more and more fatigued with no motivation to go to the gym or even get out of bed most days. It took everything in me just to care for my 7 kids and maintain my household. I surely couldn't expend any extra energy on anything else as I didn't have it. I had come down with Strep throat from one of my kids and started noticing little red, dry patches of skin on my arms and legs. I wasn't sure what it was so I went to see a dermatologist who informed me that I had Psoriasis and having a Strep B infection can make you have an outbreak. Guess what, Psoriasis is also an auto immune disorder. Now I had 3 total and was becoming worried that things were progressing in a negative direction for me and quickly. I tried several prescription ointments and nothing seemed to clear up the Psoriasis. I couldn't get rid of it for the life of me and was becoming overly frustrated that nothing seemed to work. The dermatologist wanted to prescribe systemic antibiotics to which I refused. I knew my immune system was already failing me and the last thing I wanted to do was wipe it out completely. I decided I would keep using the ointments I was given and see if I could get it to keep the progression of the Psoriasis at bay and take my chances.

Finally in December I went to see my family care doctor because of a constant dull ache in my tailbone that never went away and left me unable to sit directly on it. It felt like someone had taken a steel toe boot and kicked me in my tailbone leaving it sore and bruised. She ran a battery of blood tests on me for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac, Auto Immune Disorders and Thyroid and well as an allergy test for the 32 most common allergies. All the tests came back negative. I was amazed that not one of them came back positive, especially knowing I suffered from auto immune disorders already. Finally, my husband said it was time to bite the bullet and start seeing the Naturopath doctor. I had my first appointment with Dr. Pickel in March and brought my husband along so that he could ask questions and gain understanding as to what was going on inside my body and how we would effectively treat it. We made the decision to delve in head first and see where this journey would take us. We are determined to regain my health and make it happen.

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