Category Archive: guest post
Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2015/03/03/guest-post-making-chronic-illness-sarah-downing/
It is an honor to have Vanessa Steil guest post about her experience with thyroid cancer. Vanessa is the creator of the gorgeous website www.livinginsteil.com, where she blogs about fashion, food and health. I am grateful to Vanessa for choosing to share something so personal and reminding us how crucial it is to have our necks examined for lumps, no matter what our age is. A special thank you to Kelly Shadix for introducing me to Vanessa!
On April 2, 2013, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. According to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association and the American Cancer Society, approximately 60,220 people in the United States were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013 (up 4.6% in 2014 to 62,980 people diagnosed). I never expected to be part of that statistic at age 26. One month earlier, during my annual visit to my gynecologist, the doctor performed a complete physical as part of the routine visit. During a neck exam, he felt a lump on my thyroid. That discovery caught me off-guard; I had no particular symptoms and had been healthy. Nonetheless, my doctor recommended that I have a blood test and a neck ultrasound; he also referred me to an endocrinologist.
I told myself the lump was nothing more than a benign nodule, and I tried to put the findings out of my mind. But I could not. The next day, I scheduled a neck ultrasound preceded by blood work. Something during the ultrasound troubled me, so I was not surprised a week later when I received a call from my gynecologist with the results. My blood work showed I had subclinical hypothyroidism; I had an under-active thyroid gland, which without medication would eventually cause me to feel tired and sluggish.
A week after receiving my blood results, I had a consultation with an endocrinologist. He told me that the nodule was more than 1.8 cm and would require a fine needle aspiration biopsy to rule out the suspicion of cancer. Six days later I had the nodule biopsied. The endocrinologist compassionately called me and requested that I come in so that he could deliver the news in person. Not only did the biopsy reveal my biggest fear, a diagnosis of papillary thyroid carcinoma, requiring a total thyroidectomy, but it forced me to come to terms with having to take Synthroid, a daily synthetic thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of my life. Before I left his office, the doctor advised me that I “should not make a research project out of the diagnosis” and recommended I find a surgeon and schedule a thyroidectomy.
A few days passed as I digested the news. I had good days where I felt positive about my future, and days that were more difficult to endure. I began taking a low dose of Synthroid to treat my hypothyroidism, and each pill was a constant reminder of my present and what would become my future. With all of this new information, I felt confused and overwhelmed. I knew I needed surgery, but should I get a second opinion? How do I find a good surgeon? Should I have a second biopsy? It was then that I began to understand the endocrinologist’s warning.
My first step in finding answers to my questions was the Internet. There I found one of my most invaluable resources, ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. (www.thyca.org). ThyCa had a wealth of helpful information for newly diagnosed patients, along with questions to ask your surgeon, what to expect during and after surgery, and support groups.
As I began gathering names of surgeons, another question arose. Did I want to have surgery near home on Long Island, or did I want to see a doctor in New York City? After meeting with a surgeon on Long Island, I decided to get a second opinion from a doctor who came highly recommended at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. During my consultation he reviewed my results and told me something new. I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland that diminishes its ability to function properly. He recommended removing the entire thyroid and any surrounding lymph nodes to reduce the risk of recurrence. I felt confident with the surgeon and his proposed treatment and scheduled my surgery for May 3, 2013.
However, when I returned home and thought it over, I realized that I needed more time to process everything; I wasn’t ready to have surgery the following month. Again, the endocrinologist’s words haunted me. By this time I was torn, and allowed myself to indulge in the “what ifs.” What if the biopsy were wrong and it was nothing more serious than an under-active, enlarged thyroid? What if I underwent a thyroidectomy for nothing and had a scar on my neck as a permanent reminder? I needed more answers before I could feel certain that surgery was my only option. As a last resort, I sought the advice of a third surgeon, who was referred by my Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. The surgeon, after reviewing my extensive test results, came to the same conclusion as the surgeons before him: I had thyroid cancer and needed a total thyroidectomy. He was sure of the results, and his confidence finally forced me to face the reality I had been so desperate to avoid.
On June 17, 2013, I underwent a total thyroidectomy with central neck dissection and lymph node removal. I was no longer someone with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, but rather a cancer survivor. After I spent a night in the hospital and had symptoms no worse than a sore throat, I deemed my surgery a success and I was ready to start the next chapter — recovery.
I saw my surgeon for a post-operative appointment about a week later. The pathology results had come back. Of the six lymph nodes that were removed, one showed signs that the cancer had spread. I had done little reading about radioactive iodine as a cumulative follow-up procedure during my research phase, but I was sure that was going to be the next step. To my great surprise, my surgeon had a different plan. Since my most recent blood work indicated that my anti-thyroglobulin level was trending downwards, he felt comfortable in adopting a wait-and-see protocol. Should my levels plateau or increase, we would do a course of radioactive iodine. I left his office that day elated, and it marked the first time that I was able to think of something other than cancer.
It is now a year and a half after my surgery. In March 2014 I met with my surgeon, who requested another visit — but not until June 2015. I will continue to be under the care of an endocrinologist and have blood work done regularly to ensure that my Synthroid dose remains at an effective level. My scar is virtually undetectable now, but its remnants serve as an important reminder of how fragile life can be. I was blessed to have the support of family, good friends, and an amazing team of doctors at Weill Cornell. The thorough examination conducted by my gynecologist is what led to early detection and my diagnosis. To him, I am forever indebted.
If I could offer one piece of advice, no matter your age, it would be this: have your doctor perform a thyroid exam at your next appointment and learn how to do the exam properly yourself. I urge everyone to visit the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association’s website where you can receive free information on thyroid cancer, neck exams, radioactive iodine treatment, and so much more.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2014/12/20/coming-grips-thyroid-cancer/
Our thyroid community is full of beautiful people, like Tina Mil. Tina writes the blog The Diary of a Menopausal Mama, where she shares her experiences with early menopause, her recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis and tales of her life. Maybe some pictures of her kids and adorable new granddaughter too. You can follow her on Twitter @Tina_Ladd_Mil. Tina has generously shared the story of her health journey here. She is an incredibly strong woman who has been though a great deal. I am grateful for Tina’s openness and honesty.
A special thanks to my dear friend Kelly Shadix, the author of Your Journey Is Right On Time. It was Kelly’s idea to ask Tina to share her story.
Take it away, Tina…
Hello everyone! My name is Tina Mil. I am a stay at home mom of 4 beautiful children, new grandmom and wife to an amazing man! I was recently diagnosed with Hashimotos after a very long road of medial problems, depression and surgeries. I am so very happy to share my story with you all.
My journey began 11 years ago. After my youngest son was born I was diagnosed with PCOS. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with endometreosis. My life from then on was filled with pain and misery. I had periods that lasted 17-19 days, with bleeding so bad I was unable to leave my house or get off the sofa because of the pain that came with it. My doctor prescribed almost every birth control pill on the market and none worked.
Then came the surgeries. My first was a cyst on my ovary that was described as “the size of a newborn baby’s head”. Needless to say the ovary had to go. Because of my age, my doctor wanted to prolong removing the remaining ovary for as long as we could. Understandable, but given the pain and bleeding I was dealing with, well, I was begging for a hysterectomy.
Over the next few years I received 2 separate rounds of Lupron, which put me in a chemically induced menopause. This of course helped while I took the drug, but a month later all my symptoms resumed. I also received 2 endometreial ablasions. One by one my reproductive organs were removed, leaving my ovary for last which finally came out in June of 2010.
My menopause symptoms didn’t start right away and I finally felt like me again! I even finally got a job outside the home. 8 months after my surgery I felt that familiar pain and instantly knew that I had another cyst. It turns out that a cyst was missed during surgery and grew to a very large size. It had to come out. This surgery proved to be very difficult because of all the scar tissue I had, and I lost a lot of blood.
I lost my new job because of the amount of time I had to take off and shortly after this last surgery I knew something was wrong. I was having major menopause symptoms but the fatigue I was feeling was like nothing I have ever gone through. I had major depression, mood swings, all my joints hurt, my hair was falling out and in the winter it was like I could never get warm. I had my gallbladder removed many years ago and now I had all of these weird stomach issues. Through it all I just dealt with it. I was miserable.
Then I went to my annual gynecologist appointment. I did the usual weight check and sat waiting for the usual unpleasant exam. The nurse took my blood pressure 3 times before sending my doctor in who took it 2 more times. She looked at me and said I have 2 options, go to the ER or go see my cardiologist. My pressure was at stroke level. I had minor blood pressure issues in the past but haven’t been to get a check up in some time. I opted for the cardiologist who took me right in. I was put on meds which didn’t work, my pressure just wouldn’t go down.
On a routine pressure check visit I saw a nurse practitioner. She sat me down and asked my whole medical history. She looked at me and asked if anyone has ever checked my thyroid, of course I said no. She ordered some blood tests and sent me to a pulmonologist (who then diagnosed me with sleep apnea) and said I’m not an endocrinologist but i’m betting your thyroid is out of whack. 2 weeks later I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.
Apparently, a trauma to the body, a virus, etc. can trigger thyroid disorders that may have otherwise gone undetected. I am currently on levothyroxine and will be getting my levels checked again soon. After reading so many of your posts and hearing so many of your stories I am now armed with important information, information that can help me on my road to feeling better. If my levels aren’t what they are supposed to be, and I have a feeling they aren’t because I don’ feel any better, I am requesting Armour. If I don’t get it I will be looking for another doctor.
Its hard to distinguish what is menopause and what is my Hashi’s. Its a daily struggle and most days my energy is at a zero. The way I look at it, I now know what the problem is, I know i’m not crazy. While I know that it may take some time, I know that one day I will feel normal. I will get there with the help of my amazing family and my saint of a husband. Through my blog I have met some really wonderful women who are going down the same road. We are traveling together and it makes the journey bearable. We lean on each other, cry with each other and enjoy the good days together.
If I could give one piece of advice it would be to listen to your body. You know it more than anyone, and if something doesn’t feel right chances are it isn’t right. Be your own best advocate and learn its OK to ask for help!
Thank you for letting me share my story and I wish each of you the best of luck on your own journey!
Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2014/10/04/diary-menopausal-mama-tina-mil/
Hello friends! I have missed being here at zenthyroid.com but am so grateful for our amazing community to always connect with on Facebook and Twitter. This guest post is written by a wonderful woman that I met through the Twitter thyroid community – Megan Usko, a.k.a. @Ladyzip15. Megan is always so sweet and supportive and is one of those kind of people who make Twitter a nicer place. I am grateful that Megan has generously offered to share her thyroid story here and talk about how she has gotten on the path to feeling better.
Megan has found that an over-the-counter thyroid glandular has helped her to feel better! I believe that it is vital for each of us to find out what treatment will work best for us as we are all individuals with different needs and situations. I definitely recommend finding a doctor who will work with you to figure that out if you can. While it can be really challenging to find a great doctor who will listen to us, there are resources out there to use.
ThyroidChange has created a list of patient-recommended docs. All the docs on this list SHOULD do complete thyroid testing and be open to thyroid treatment options. You deserve a doctor who will do this! Hypothyroid Mom has created this awesome resource to help you find a great doctor too. If you cannot find a doctor, feel free to contact me and I will help you however I can.
Take it away Megan….
I think back & believe some symptoms started right after I had my child in 2002. Back then I had frequent migraines & unexplained skin rashes. Both were treated as individual issues to resolve. I had no big red flags until late fall/winter 2011/12. I turned 40 & suddenly had this overwhelming fatigue. I played college basketball & kept in shape by swimming, weight lifting, running & Zumba and did most of it at 5:00am before work every day. I never changed clothes sizes from high school and I was getting into the obstacle course races to work towards a goal. Suddenly, I was skipping workouts because I couldn’t drag myself out of bed.
In early spring 2012, I discovered my warm weather clothes didn’t come close to fitting (we have 2 wardrobes here in Ohio). I went to my family physician, who begrudgingly did the basic thyroid panel (after much discussion as there was skepticism about how much I was exercising & that this could just be middle age stuff) & discovered I was hypothyroid and had gained 25 pounds in that year. I started levothyroxine & immediately got an itchy rash from head to toe. I was switched to Synthroid, which made me feel like I had morning sickness every day. Finally, I was given Tirosint.
In the meantime, I went to an endocrinologist who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s & Vitamin D deficiency. She helped me with some energy recovery with the Vitamin D, but I still felt like a zombie on Tirosint & I couldn’t lose a pound despite trying a gluten free diet. Fast forward to this past winter when I started reading about Armour which gave me a gut feeling that my body needed T3 (thanks to Hypothyroid Mom, Mary Shomon & Gena Lee Nolin’s Facebook pages and Twitter feeds). I asked my endo to try Armour & was armed with some charting of daily continued symptoms. The answer was adamantly NO.
I kept talking to friends and asking questions of the “experts” and stumbled on a porcine-derived natural dessicated thyroid medication that did not require a prescription. On May 1st of this year I started it and within 3 days I felt like a brand new person. My energy is almost completely back! I am sleeping better! My favorite part is my face puffiness decreased a bit within a month! I want to exercise and can handle staying active and busy throughout the day. There hasn’t been much weight loss but I am thankful for the renewed energy and my LIFE!
One word about Hashi that I hardly see: IF you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, then any siblings (children & parents too!) should be tested. I have 3 siblings – one was tested & she has it too. I know the other two have it but they are not wanting to face it. My grandmother had this undiagnosed (she always talked about migraines, not being able to lose a pound, taking necessary naps, etc…and she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at 65) and my mom’s sister & her daughter have it as well. Encourage your family members to get tested!
Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2014/06/30/adventures-hashi-land-megan-usko/
It is a pleasure to have Holistic Health Care Expert Jen Wittman guest post here on zenthyroid.com. I first met Jen on Twitter and love the knowledgeable and compassionate way which she shares advice. Jen is a leader in our thyroid community who has a sincere desire to help others recover from illness. She has healed her own Hashimoto’s (!!!!) and now coaches others to do the same.
Jen is the creator of The Radical TLC Solution, a home study program that teaches an effective and holistic approach on treating and reversing thyroid, autoimmune and inflammatory disease. Jen offers step-by-step plans focused on nutrition, lifestyle and heaps of self-care. I have personally done The Radical TLC Solution and it has changed the way I have approached my healing process. I now see my thyroid disease in a different light – more as a symptom of a larger issue than just the main problem that I need to focus on. I truly feel more empowered! This is the first program that I have endorsed – I really believe this can help so many of us to feel better and have greater control of our health.
In this article, Jen shares the benefits that we can get by expanding our health care team and mindset beyond the doctor’s office. Having a group of healers (including ourselves) approaching our disease from different angles provides us with more access points to wellness.
Don’t forget: Your Health IS Your Wealth.
If you’re a thyroid, autoimmune or inflammatory disease sufferer, it’s time to think outside the HMO/PPO box when it comes to your health.
The kind of health care that is the most impactful and long-term often comes from a team effort. Some practitioners on your health team will be covered by insurance—and that’s a great thing. Other extremely talented, complementary, functional and integrative physicians, practitioners, coaches and experts will not be covered by the health insurance companies’ wee little umbrella. But that doesn’t mean they should be left out of your health care.
When we take preventive measures to protect our health and stay energized and fulfilled, we don’t need to seek traditional medical care as often. We have to invest in our health—whether that means paying out of pocket for services, treatments, supplements or self-care like massage, fitness classes, reiki, etc.
Western medicine has its limits.
If you’re dealing with thyroid or autoimmune disease, chances are you’ve run smack into the limits of Western medicine. Don’t get me wrong: Western medicine can accomplish miraculous things and I definitely wouldn’t want to do without it. What I do want is for our doctors and medical schools to wake up to the fact that Western medicine isn’t all there is.
For example, complementary healing techniques can be powerful tools for reversing thyroid, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. Incorporating a few of these techniques will balance your personal healing program and likely speed up the process of reversing these diseases.
Some of these techniques may be covered by your insurance, so it’s worth it to check it out. I know investing financially in your health can be tough sometimes, but many alternative healing practitioners work on a sliding scale or are open to trading their services if you have something to trade.
The great thing is that you get to choose how to invest in your health so you get the best, most efficient health care which, in the end, will pay you back by preventing or eliminating disease as well as cutting down on health care costs now and down the road.
Who’s on your healing team?
Here are the top 5 practitioners I would invite onto your healing team NOW rather than investing in hospital visits later:
Health Coach or Nutritionist The number one key to healing thyroid and autoimmune problems is healing your gut, so a health coach, nutritionist, or other practitioner who can help guide you to getting your gut healed would be my absolute first priority if I were newly diagnosed.
Acupuncturist I came to acupuncture after my husband and I were hit by a semi-truck. I had so many physical injuries and I was under a mountain of stress and health care bills. Luckily, my GP was at UCLA and the clinic next to his office was the UCLA East-West Medical Clinic. My doc referred me there to try to get a handle on my stress and my injuries. I am so glad he did. He recommended I get weekly acupuncture (which was covered by my insurance!), so for 3 years, I had acupuncture treatments a couple of times a month. It really helped with so many things…and any new symptom that cropped up could be addressed in real-time with my beloved acupuncturist. He even helped me with nausea and other symptoms during my pregnancy. Acupuncture can be helpful for a host of things including thyroid.
Massage Therapist Massage is more than just a luxury. It’s true that it’s something you have to invest in, but as with so many of these healing steps, it’s an investment in your long-term health and wellbeing. Medical studies have revealed that even a 10 or 20 minute massage (the kind you can get at the grocery store or the mall!) can have therapeutic benefits including improving immune function, boosting circulation, reducing stress, reducing the time it takes to recover from injury, and alleviating pain. It can also reduce depression and anxiety and promote restful sleep patterns. Massage also promotes circulation and the elimination of toxins from your body, which are key to improving your thyroid health. And, massage is making its way into “mainstream” medical treatment. Some insurance policies now cover massage, and some massage chains (like Massage Envy) are adept at filing claims with your insurance company for you.
Reiki Practitioner I would have never believed that Reiki could work or even tried it if I wasn’t suffering so badly a few years ago. I read and read about it but was always worried that I’d waste money on a Reiki treatment because I wouldn’t be able to tell if it actually worked or not. Luckily, on a visit back home to Indiana, a friend of mine encouraged me to try out her Reiki practitioner when I was complaining of hip pain. The experience I had was life-changing. Not only could I feel this energetic massage, my nervous system felt relaxed, my thyroid felt vital and my body felt energized. I have not questioned the healing power of Reiki since and have incorporated it into my personal healing program.
Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong Instructor Qi Gong, tai chi and yoga are all ancient forms of mindful, meditative and gentle exercise, and also happen to be easy ways to increase the circulation of your lymphatic system. The movements of all of these mind/body fitness techniques helps provide relief to the lymphatic system as well as assists with lymphatic drainage, which is important to detoxifying your body. These techniques also relax the nervous system while providing energy to the body. We all know we need to exercise, even when we’re dealing with thyroid symptoms, and a good yoga class can be gentle enough for even your tired days, while invigorating enough to be beneficial to your body.
I know, first hand, that we can take charge of our health and our bodies and heal ourselves with the right application of TLC. If you’re ready to invite more healing into your life, I encourage you to check out my brand-new program, The Radical TLC Solution: Your simple, 6-week self-care strategy to turn around thyroid, autoimmune & inflammatory disease.
About Jen Wittman:
Jen Wittman, creator of Thyroid Loving Care, is a Holistic Health Care Expert and compassionate thyroid/autoimmune coach providing one-of-a-kind, long-lasting healing programs with a heaping dose of joy and humor. She offers a FREE program to thyroid & autoimmune sufferers on how to love their body back to health as well as in-person, Skype and phone coaching for groups and healing programs you can do at home. Jen has degrees in psychology, nutrition, culinary arts, transformational coaching, and Italian.
She spent a year honing her cooking skills in Italy and is passionate about helping thyroid & autoimmune sufferers take back their lives and feel normal again. She works tirelessly as an advocate, resource and coach to help people reverse disease and eliminate thyroid & autoimmune symptoms so they can live a life full of energy, joy and fulfillment.
Jen created The Radical TLC Solution (Click Here!) a six week program that teaches participants the diet and lifestyle changes that improve thyroid, autoimmune, and inflammatory disease and sets them up for a healthy, vibrant life long-term.
Permanent link to this article: http://www.zenthyroid.com/2014/03/25/health-wealth-guest-post-jen-wittman/