I am so honored to introduce you to Kelly Shadix, thyroid warrior. Kelly is an integral part of our amazing thyroid community on Twitter, always supporting the rest of us with kindness and positivity. Kelly’s openness in relaying her experience is inspiring and I am grateful that she has shared her thyroid story with us. Follow Kelly on Twitter @ShadixKelly.
“Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free”
My name is Kelly Shadix. I’m 42, will be 43 in March. A mother of two and married almost 20 years.
This is my Thyroid Story:
I was 37 years old when I first noticed a change in my body. At first I thought it was new stress from leaving my job, which by the way I was very unhappy with for a long time. It wasn’t till later that I realized Hashimoto’s is brought on by stress. My body seemed to start breaking down, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, hair loss, mood swings, anxiety, weight gain, and last but not least and this is a big one – zero focus! My mind is all over the place like the quote “My brain has too many tabs open”. Yep, that’s me all the time!
It wasn’t until a dry (constant) cough that started and never went away did I start to realize something was wrong. At first of course I tried to play it down to friends & family “it’s no big deal-just a cough it will go away”… well it didn’t. I became so self-conscious of my cough when I was out running errands, son’s baseball games, at the movies, shopping. I was constantly popping honey cough drops everywhere I went to sooth my throat.
I remember one day talking to my mom over the phone and she said “Kelly, why do you keep coughing?” And of course I said many excuses to her, its nothing, no big deal! I will go see a doctor soon. I said this just to pacify her, so she wouldn’t worry. But I did worry! It’s funny how talking to my mom made me realize my cough could be something more!? Moms always seem to know when something is not right.
I began so many cough/combination and over-the-counter allergy medications and doctor visits, only to say, “This is not working either” over two years. It was starting to wear me down. Finally, my doctor recommended for me to see an allergist to get tested. All came back negative for indoor/outdoor allergies but we tried a new medication(s) just in case something might work. Well, it didn’t…I can’t even remember all the different trial-runs of medications I went through; it’s all a blur to me now.
I got a referral to see an ENT. Okay, so this is where my Thyroid Journey truly begins. This moment will stay with me for as long as I live. My ENT doctor, who I call Dr. B, sat me down in his office to begin an exam of my neck. He barely touched my throat and stopped to press in, as if he found what he was looking for, then stood back and calmly said, “You have a nodule”. I remember just sitting there not realizing what his words meant. A nodule? What is a nodule and why is it in my throat? Dr. B was so patient with me, explained that we can have it biopsied and not to worry, that its chances of being cancerous were very slim. He went on to explain percentages and biopsy procedures, but it all went over my head. My mind was stuck on the word “cancer”. What? How can this be happening to me?
After leaving the doctor’s office my mind shifted from worry to detective. I guess this is when I became my own advocate, although it never occurred to me at the time that was what I was doing. I called my mom ASAP! When I told her about my nodule, she said she had a nodule for as long as she could remember and doctors just told her to get it checked every so often to make sure it wasn’t growing. I was stunned! She then told me about my great-grandmother dying from thyroid cancer. Apparently, before she died her goiter or nodule got so big that it was hard for her to lay down flat without feeling like she was choking and couldn’t breathe.
At my next scheduled appointment with Dr. B I told him my family history and that I wanted to skip the biopsy and go straight to surgery! I wanted the nodule removed. Surprisingly he agreed to my request to have the nodule removed and get it tested during surgery. Dr. B also felt the nodule was pressing against my vocal cords and that could be causing my cough. I wanted it done immediately! The cough was not my worries anymore, if anything it was my body trying to tell me something was wrong! In August of 2011, I had a partial-thyroidectomy. The good news was the nodule was benign. The bad news was they found another nodule on the right side which was too small to remove. In recovery, I felt like I was hit by train. Thankfully, one of my good friends is a nurse who helped me with the bandages and told me what to what to expect with my recovery.
During this time, my twin-sister Penny went to get her thyroid checked. She also had nodules and had a biopsy done. The biopsy came back inconclusive. Penny decides to have a total-thyroidectomy and they find capillary cancer. The doctors said she was extremely lucky, because the cancer spread to her lymph nodes, which they removed nine of. Following her surgery she had to do radiation. As of today she is “cancer free” and doing well, but is having a hard time adjusting without her thyroid.
Six months following my partial-thyroidectomy surgery, I had a follow-up with Dr. B and found out that the nodule on my right side was growing. I requested Penny’s medical records for my doctor to review. We discussed my options to continue monitoring my nodule or go ahead with a total-thyroidectomy. I opted for a total-thyroidectomy. Benign or NOT, I wanted to be pro-active and not take any chances! My intuition told me to get it done! This was my choice. My doctor thankfully agreed with me. Aside from experiencing low-calcium levels right after surgery, all went well. No cancer! My sister, mom and I agreed that “my cough” and persistent follow-ups potentially saved my sister’s life. Listening to your body is so important! Little things could turn out to be big things!
I don’t think I could have ever imagined how hard I would struggle without my thyroid. I thought after my surgery the worst would be over, little did I realize the hardest struggle of my life had just begun. Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroid. All I knew was to take my thyroid meds every day at the same time and get blood work done every three months. Four months after my surgery and taking Synthroid, I knew it was not working for me. Brain-fog, skin irritation, irritable, no energy! It was just the beginning. I thought I was losing my mind, and didn’t know what was wrong with me. I finally went to my doctor and my TSH was 7.11 – it was high! No wonder I felt like a ZOMBIE. I requested to switch my Synthroid to Armour, but my doctor would not do it. I knew Synthroid was not the right medication for me.
So, during this time I continued to get worse and gain weight no matter how much I exercised or ate. I even had a trainer work with me. I wasn’t aware at the time how important gluten-free was, or adrenal fatigue. I became a different person seemingly overnight! I knew if I was going to get better I had to accept where I was at that moment and move forward. I let myself get stuck and depressed. I had to start healing myself from the inside before I could even think about my hair falling out, weight gain, mood swings, brain fog etc. Changing my attitude was important. I got lost in the anger and not realizing what was happening to my body. Also, during this time, the stress of my health put a strain on my family and relationships.
I knew to get healthy I had to find answers…
I began to search the web. I came across so many great thyroid advocates on Facebook. But the one that stood out and gave me hope was Dana, a.k.a. Hypothyroid Mom. I read Dana’s blog and I literally felt compelled to contact her immediately! I had no idea what to say at that time, except thank you. I know that seems crazy, but her words touched me, and I knew from that day on it was going to be okay! Getting off Synthroid was my first priority. I did a year on Tirosint/Cytomel and I was JUST okay for a while. After three doctors, I finally found one who had no problem putting me on Armour. I began to feel better almost immediately. I feel so bad that so many women are taking Synthroid only, or “T4 Hell” I like to call it. I’m still a work in progress. I plan to get my hormones checked and a saliva test for adrenal fatigue. Weight is my #1 issue that I know will always be a challenge for me. It is going to take time and patience. I realized that many things will not be the way they used to be and I’m okay with that now.
My hope by telling my story is that it will give someone hope to know that you can overcome this disease. It will always be day-to-day with what your body can do. Most days, I feel like I can do it all, some days just enough and there are days I don’t want to get out of bed. What worked for me might not work for you. And don’t give up if you think something is wrong! The hardest part for me was to get the ball rolling and find a doctor who will listen. I’m thankful for Dr. B and for all that he has done for me.
And last but not least, Mikelle. I am so thankful to have found you on Twitter and what a great friend and inspiration you are to me. I was truly honored to be your first guest post. Thank you for getting me started with meditation. You are such a beautiful person and so helpful on easing my fears about writing my story. I love following you on Twitter and on your blog www.zenthyroid.com. I can relate too many of your struggles on thyroid issues. I love your perspective and how you overcome by having such a positive outlook on life.