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Starting Over: January is Thyroid Awareness Month

CatherineHi. My name is Catherine and I have Hashimotos disease.

I think this is where you say, “Hello Catherine.”

I used to be afraid to say that I have Hasimotos disease online, afraid that companies wouldn’t hire me or take me seriously if they knew that I have “Hahimotos.” 

What’s that?  A Japanese boyfriend?

Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot before you get to the job interview.

I felt this way until Oprah announced on her show that she suffers with the same disease. I then felt like I could stand behind her and shout, “See! See all that she does in her life!?  We can do anything.”

Facebook over the years has helped a lot too.  If people could post their drunk-college-mascara-under-their-eyes-from-crying-and-saying-I-love-you-to-everyone photos for the world to see, then a little Hashimotos is nothing by comparison.

It is said that as many as 36 to 60 million (or more) Americans suffer from some sort of thyroid disease.  That’s quite a family I’ve got.

My thyroid disease shows up in the form of hypothyroidism and this hypothyroidism is caused by my Hashimotos disease. That’s my story.

Starting Over: January is Thyroid Awareness Month

Since you mentioned Thyroid Awareness Month

Well that’s not the entire story, because this year (2012) I am going to take you (if you are willing) on a little journey with me to feel the best that I can feel. I am out to prove that people can thrive with thyroid disease (Oprah please do well with that network thing of yours – no pressure). Hell, some thyroid people even go out and start a top blog website called, “8 Women Dream” while working full-time and raising two teenagers (one the son, one the ex).

Anything is possible.

And, well Thyroid Awareness Month seemed like the perfect time to start telling my stories here.

This year I will share my weight loss stories, my exercise stories, my medical stories, my food stories, my wine stories (see some things don’t change), my pill stories (no not my son although he is a teenager now), my doctor stories in the hopes that I will make you laugh and understand Oprah Hasimotos disease.

It is a part of who I am but it is not all that I am.

I am in the process of making over this blog to tell my thyroid stories, but don’t worry, the old stories from raising my son are still here.  You can find them on the top menu titled, MOM & BRIAN 2005-2010.

My thyroid stories will still include him from time to time because he was the reason I fought for the medical protocol I am now on and the reason (in the beginning) that I got out of bed every day before my doctor understood what was wrong.  There’s nothing like a hungry kid standing over you at 6:00 in the morning saying, “Mom! I’m hungry!” to give you a reason for getting your ever-growing butt out of bed — thyroid or no thyroid.

January is Thyroid Awareness Month: Hasimotos in familiesThe truth is that no one’s life is perfect.

This is the hand I have been dealt so I am going to play it with everything I’ve got.  It’s the only life I have.

Besides, my mother and grandmother have/had this disease — nothing ever stopped them.

My Irish grandma used to juggle oranges while she told me stories of grand adventures of a little mouse.  She was something else.

My mother is 83. She still folk dances, drives and goes to college.

My disease is the legacy these women have left me … and so I must go out into the world and find answers.

I promise I’ll make us laugh.

Won’t you join me this year?

Catherine

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Thyroid Awareness: Hashi’s Info

 Frightened Woman Clutching Her Neck in Fear Buy at Art.com

As many of you know by reading this blog, I suffer from Hashimoto’s disease.

It took a team of doctors over two years to figure out what was happening, even though my Irish grandmother died from complications of Celiac disease.

And guess what? January is thyroid awareness month.

Hashimoto’s disease, also known as chronic Lymphocytic Thyroiditis, causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, which leads to hypothyroidism.

It’s a pain in the butt redhead an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system inappropriately attacks the thyroid gland, causing damage to thyroid cells and upsetting the balance of chemical reactions in the body.

Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism vary widely, depending on the severity of hormone deficiency, so it can lead doctors in another direction.

At first, most barely notice symptoms, such as fatigue and sluggishness and attribute it to getting older.

But as the disease progresses, many of us develop more obvious signs and symptoms.

I believe I have been dealing with this condition my whole life and it finally took me down (literally), forcing doctors to look at all disease possibilities.

My Hasimotos symptoms were:

  • Sensitivity to cold. I always had these strange “cold attacks” where I’d get cold and nothing raised my temperature. It is a type of hypothermia, and hot showers left me shivering in the shower. One solution was to take a blanket and cover me over a blowing heater vent. I’d became exhausted, still shivering and fall asleep. I awoke feeling hung-over as if I ate too much sugar. My doctor felt I was experiencing a mild form of Myxedema.
  • Pale, dry skin.
  • A puffy face.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Unexplained weight gain, followed by weight loss, then gain again without changing lifestyle.
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness, especially in shoulders and hips.
  • Pain and stiffness in joints and swelling in knees or the small joints in hands and feet.
  • Muscle weakness, especially in lower extremities. If I wasn’t careful and turned wrong I’d have a nasty fall. The first few times it happened I thought nothing of it, but after a while it began to scare me.
  • Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia).
  • Depression.
  • Tingling and numbing of hands and feet.
  • Catching many colds.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Memory problems.
  • Hair loss.
  • Extreme fatigue.

The thyroid gland produces two main hormones, Thyroxine (T-4) and Triodothyronine (T-3). They maintain the rate at which the body uses fats and carbohydrates, control body temperature, influence heart rate and help regulate the production of protein.

The rate at which T4 and T3 are released is controlled by the pituitary gland and the area at the base of the brain, which acts as a thermostat for our system. The brain signals the pituitary gland to make thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The pituitary gland then releases an amount of TSH depending on how much T4 and T3 are in the blood. The thyroid gland regulates its production of these two hormones based on the amount of TSH it receives.

Blah. Can you believe I know all this?

Neither can my mother.

Normally, our immune system uses antibodies and lymphocytes to protect against viruses, bacteria and antigens that invade the body. As I stated at the beginning, Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system creates antibodies which damage the thyroid gland. The disease causes inflammation of the thyroid gland, known as “thyroiditis”. This can impair the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones, leading to hypothyroidism.

Doctors don’t know what causes an immune system to attack the thyroid gland. Some scientists think God is getting back at redheads a virus or bacteria might trigger the response, while others believe a genetic flaw may be involved (yeah I married it). My mother has thyroid nodules and elevated TSH.

Since my Hashimoto’s disease caused a thyroid hormone deficiency, I needed replacement therapy with thyroid hormone. This involves a daily dose of Armour Thyroid and Cytomel, other people may be prescribed Levothyroxine.

This medication is suppose to restore hormone levels and reverse the symptoms listed above. It has taken me another two years after starting treatment to begin to feel better. They say it can take time to reverse symptoms, especially if the disease went untreated for a number of years or if you are raising your ex husband.

Here are a list of websites for more thyroid information:

  1. AllThyroid.org
  2. Celiac Disease Foundation
  3. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada
  4. Thyroid Disease-Org.UK
  5. EndocrineWeb
  6. Genetics Home Reference
  7. Dr Lowe
  8. Dr Hotze
  9. The Experience Project
  10. A Hashimotos Story
  11. Stop The Thyroid Madness
  12. Myxedema
  13. Armour Thyroid Information

At first the diagnosis and day to day dealing with the idea of a disease was difficult. Doctors don’t say much when they deliver a diagnosis. As patients we are often left to search for our own answers and hope. Thank God for the Internet, books and medical studies.

There is also the worry of being able to handle one’s life and how ‘un-sexy’ the word disease can be. We think some foolish thoughts before we settle into the idea that we are stronger mentally than we ever knew. We fight back, manage the pills and get on with the day to day living of our lives.

I still have good days and bad days. There are the occasional “crashes”, where for some reason the meds don’t work and some difficult symptom reappears. I think this is the cycle of auto-immunity. When I catch a simple cold now (it is rare) the old feelings of exhaustion return and fear overtakes my thoughts. I have to remind myself it is “just a cold.”

In a few days I will be up and running again bugging the crap out of my son (it’s a mother’s job). I rest, then recover — thrilled that my body is doing what it is meant to do: heal.

Some people overcome this disease, and for some strange reason the body stops attacking the thyroid and TSH returns to normal. For me, I am not sure about the outcome since I think I went too many years undiagnosed.

Thank God for red wine.

Catherine

 

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