Normal Doesn’t Mean Optimal

In the last six months, I’ve moved across the country to Seattle and got through what I thought the worst part of my Hyperthyroidism.  I am seeing I still have a long road ahead of me.  While my blood work shows normal, I still have many symptoms and I have done the bare minimum to address them. Why? Because it’s work.

While medication regulates my thyroid, the root cause of my Hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, and I have only scratched the surface of managing this autoimmune condition.  It was easy to think I was getting better because I got over horrifically painful, sometimes debilitating, muscle inflammation and excessive, rapid hair loss. I see now the nuance between regulated with medication and actually being well.

I still have a list of stubborn, seemingly mercurial and unpredictable symptoms I manage (or don’t) every day. Some days better than others, most days come with a handful of them and here they are:

  • Painful digestive issues—Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started.
  • Shortness of breath—Walking should not cause this particularly because I can do a 45 min spin class, on 100 and barely feel the burn.
  • Itchy hands and feet—Annoying.
  • Tormented sleep—Waking up five or six times in a night qualifies as tormented, don’t you think?
  • Brain fog—This just sucks. Imagine Nyquil brain.
  • Stiffness, all the time—I do yoga six times a week. This should not be happening.
  • Aches in my wrists, shoulders and knees—Aches jump around my body, no telling where they show up on any given day.
  • Extremely dry eyes—So dry, they wake me up at night from pain.

“I still have a list of stubborn, seemingly mercurial and unpredictable symptoms I manage (or don’t) every day.”

All of this together deserves a second look and one that I know my regular doctors won’t do.  So I set out to find a doctor that can enhance the traditional treatment I get from my endocrinologist.

I attended a talk at a small, privately owned health clinic that specializes in autoimmunity. That talk whet my appetite for the necessity of a functional doctor. A functional doctor can be an MD or an ND (Naturopath).  In my search, I landed on another similar clinic, close to my apartment, owned by a female (important to me)MD. Her work appeared both based in traditional science, eastern and holistic treatments, and was warm and inviting–a combination I, as a patient, look for.

I went for my initial consultation which was two hours. We talked about everything from how I spend my days to what I eat, to medication I took as far back as my teen years.  It felt thorough and necessary. Next step, more tests–gut tests, blood tests, breath test, all to gather auxiliary data to drive food choices, what supplements and herbs to try, and what lifestyle changes to employ.

This is not easy. There is a list of 30 different tests I have to try and get my insurance to cover (which I manage in a Google doc because is there any other way?).  As I sat one the phone and read all the codes to the customer service rep, I was reminded why I avoided looking at my Graves’ intensely – because this shit is hard.

“Managing your health, even when you’re healthy, is hard work. It requires tenacity and courage, time and patience, each of which surface or retreat depending on how much sleep I’ve had.”

Managing your health, even when you’re healthy, is hard work. It requires tenacity and courage, time and patience, each of which surface or retreat depending on how much sleep I’ve had. It requires pushing past a no and waiting 24 hrs to call back to see if you can get a yes (done this, it works).  It requires cobbling together treatments, tests, and input from multiple sources to create a plan of attack. And, that plan of attack will take time and commitment to plug away at, because I can’t do it all at once. In fact, my doc said to me: commit to doing one thing a week.

I can do that.

Medication for Hyperthyroidism has an end date of two years. I will hit my year mark in October. If I still have issues at that time, I have to consider more permanent treatments like surgery or radioiodine therapy, both guaranteeing medication forever.

So this week, I’ve committed to calling insurance and removing known inflammatories from my diet, including my dear hearts peanut butter and almond milk. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Right?

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