Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Butterfly in my Throat : Complicated Decisions

My New Year's Eve was the same as it had been every year. I was alone, in my pajamas, sitting downstairs watching the Times Square ball drop on tv. I never felt well enough to do something on New Year's Eve. I pulled out a little notebook and began writing down things I wanted to change. 

I wrote a list of about 30 things, so I could look back at it on my next New Year's Eve and see that new things have happened. I wanted some affirmation that my life wasn't stagnant. I wanted to know that I wasn't under the governing power of my disease forever. 

wanted to laugh more, I wanted to enjoy living a healthy lifestyle (even if my disease was technically keeping me from feeling healthy), I wanted to be a better friend, I wanted to pray more, I wanted to be a better person. At the end of the list, I wrote this, considering it already done: "2014 will be one of the best years you've ever had... And it will only get better!!!" 

So midnight came and went. I prayed. I teared up. I felt lonely. I felt disappointed that I wasn't out doing something fun, but I had my list of intentions for my New Year and welcomed the proactive feelings. 

The first few days of my New Year were rough. I wasn't sleeping at all, and no amount of "sleepy time" teas, Benadryl, or melatonin were helping. I had committed to a healthier lifestyle, but I could barely stand up straight. I had been inactive for months because of the virus, but now that the symptoms had passed, I was physically exhausted. Since yoga had supported my body so much in early 2013, I looked for a January yoga program that could help usher in a healthier life, and help strengthen me, post virus. 

As mentioned in the previous post, I followed Yoga with Adriene and learned that she was releasing a yoga program for the new year called, "REBOOT: A 29 Day Yoga Experience." I fell in love with the title of the program. It was exactly what I was looking for. I faithfully stuck with the program for the month (skipping only a couple of days) and through the process, I learned how to nurture myself, especially with a disease that causes limitations. I was finally able to get control of my sleep cycle. I was feeling much stronger. I lost a little weight and for the first time ever, I was able to see actual defined muscle in my body.

I started incorporating more intermediate yoga routines into my life to challenge myself even more, physically. The practice helped me develop more discipline by focusing on my inhales and exhales, gave me a daily opportunity to let go of stress, taught me to stop allowing self-deprecating thoughts, humility by accepting where I was at the moment, and how to tend to my needs. Some days, I would not feel strong enough to handle a fiery practice and a gentle practice would suffice, or I would need a break altogether. It supported my new lifestyle and for the first time ever, I was able to take care of myself and stick with it. 

Diet & Exercise. 
My diet changed completely. For the first couple of months, I was experimenting with what worked for me and my body. After some time, I found a good balance of healthy grains, lean proteins, fruit, vegetables, legumes, minimal dairy, and I only used honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar as added sugar. I avoided soy, processed foods, and gluten, however I allowed myself to occasionally enjoy a meal/dessert that didn't technically belong in my diet. It became my absolute pleasure to eat real, whole, healthy foods. I lost any desire to "cheat" or eat processed food. 

I began to exercise regularly, incorporating almost daily cardio into my life with some bodyweight toning videos. I lost a very small amount of weight, but not much. My endocrinologist informed me that I had been hyperthyroid for so long that my body wouldn't allow me to lose weight, as a way to keep me safe. Regardless, I was getting physically stronger. 

Longterm Damage. 
Despite feeling a bit better, my blood work was still the same. I still struggled with anxiety attacks, crazy headaches, intense brain fog, and I was still dosed up to the eyeballs on anti-thyroid medications. My doctor had enough. He began threatening to remove me from his care if I did not choose between a full thyroidectomy or radioactive iodine therapy. I asked about any other alternative treatments, but he gave me information from the American Thyroid Association and explained how most treatments that work for other diseases (for example, steroid treatment for Lupus) does not work for thyroid diseases. "We cannot reprogram these cells."

He explained the longterm damage of the disease. When he talked about the strain from hyperthyroidism on my heart, my eyes, my bone marrow, various other organs, I felt nervous. When he mentioned that the damage to my ovaries could prevent pregnancy, or cause my body to birth out a nearly microscopic baby, I panicked. I never realized how badly my disease could be affecting me longterm. 

The Decision.
The brain fog was brutal in the first few months of the new year. It was so common that I didn't even like leaving the house. I remember one time I was driving home and completely forgot where I was or how to get home. One morning, I got up and tried to talk to my Mom about something but stumbled over all of my words and couldn't remember what I was trying to say. Every healthy person has a "brain fart" or "senior moment," but that happened all day long, every single day. I remember talking to my Mom in that moment and breaking down into tears. "I can't take it anymore! I'm done! No more! I need treatment." 

I made an appointment with my endocrinologist. When he came into the exam room, guns were ablaze. He was already yelling at me before he sat down. I finally got a word in and was able to say, "I want treatment." His demeanor completely changed. The walls came down and he became my instant buddy. 

I am a voice teacher and a musician. Surgery was never an option in my mind, since the risk of vocal cord damage is possible. I did not want to take that chance. My doctor agreed to take surgery off the table for this reason. So, I decided to get radioactive iodine treatment. 

My doctor explained exactly what happens in this treatment...
The thyroid is the only part of the body that uses iodine. When the iodine is radioactive, the thyroid soaks up the iodine and the radioactivity damages the tissue. So the thyroid actually helps in destroying itself. The point is to kill off the thyroid gland and become hypothyroid, which is easier to treat  Once hypothyroid, the patient then takes synthetic thyroid hormones pills every day for life. It sounds easy enough, though the idea of taking daily pills made me uncomfortable. I knew I had to accept this for my future health. 

We set a date for treatment: Early May 2014.

Be blessed and be well,

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