Fast Forward – 2006

2006 was a pivotal year for me. I was sicker than ever, could barely work and I was on the system to help provide food and medical care for me and my son. I was depressed, had horrible anxiety, and I felt like every step took all the energy I could muster. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t even be in my own sister’s wedding.

I ended up in the ER with heart palpitations and was sure I was having a heart attack. Turns out, it was a really bad panic attack. Nothing precipitated it. It just happened.

The ER doctor really was the one who saved my life. I was crying and he was asking me to explain to him what had been going on. I told him about the last two years of pleading with my Family Physician to test me for this and for that and how all my labs were “within normal range”. I will talk more about “normal ranges in a later post because I have a lot to say to the medical community about that. So, I flat out said to him……”One of two things is going to happen. Either you are going to help me find out what’s wrong with me or I’m going to ask you to put me in a padded cell.” So, he started by getting a family history…. Heart disease, Thyroid Disease, MS, ALS, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and the list goes on. So, he decided to do a carotid artery ultrasound just to make sure that there were no major blockages and rule that out.

Turns out, that ultrasound was my saving grace and the beginning of 16 years of living with Papillary Thyroid Cancer. They saw a nodule on my Thyroid, and I was scheduled for a biopsy. I remember getting that call just like it was yesterday. There were so many emotions – and one most unexpected emotion was RELIEF. Relief you ask??? Yes, because I FINALLY had an answer as to why I was so sick. It wasn’t all in my head and I wasn’t crazy. I was truly, physically sick.

During my next doctors visit, I found out that I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the Thyroid. The Mayo Clinic describes it like this: “The immune system wrongly enlists disease-fighting agents that damage cells and lead to cell death”. Wow. Cell death. The most prominent symptom with Hashimoto’s is depression. It’s a depression that anti-depressants don’t help. I struggled with it for many years and still do, to some degree. Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, which means your thyroid doesn’t work as good as it should. There is no cure for Hashimoto’s but the typical treatment for it is Synthroid or Levothyroxine for life. If you have a partial or total thyroidectomy, you will have to take this in order to put those thyroid hormones back into your body, because without it, your body won’t work properly. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can cause heart problems, heart failure, mental health issues and Myxedema coma, which is a rare, life-threatening condition that can lead to heart failure, seizures, coma or death. I went for YEARS without any treatment because my labs were “on the high end of normal”. If you don’t hear anything else, I say – HEAR THIS. Just because your labs are “normal” does not mean you are not sick.

This is how I learned the hard way that I have to be my own advocate.

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