[Pretend] Good Days & [Really] Bad Days

I don't always want to be the Negative Nelly of this blog, but what's the point of a blog if everything is fluffed up and edited, right? The reality of this disease is that it makes for very few good days and very often bad days. It comes and goes (probably due to the swings in hormone levels) but it never goes...away. It is relentless and unforgiving and no matter how strong of a figher Elisha is, it gets the best of her at all costs. Just when it starts to get better, it get worse. For perspective, keep in mind that these bad days I am referring to are pre-treatment and for all but the past couple weeks, where days where we had no idea what could be causing the symptoms creating them.

There is really no such thing as good days when someone is suffering from the symptoms of it. There are better days than others, but no days are GOOD. By good, I mean full energy, smooth sailing, worry free days. Days where Elisha can get out of bed feeling rested, or doesn't have to worry about eating something and getting sick, or days when we don't have to worry when the energy is going to be sucked right out of her, no matter where we are or what we are doing at that moment when it happens. These days just don't come anymore.

Right now we seem to be on the downside of things. The better days have been seldom lately and by better, I mean those where there are no severe symptoms. Where she can actually get out of bed, get ready, AND have the energy to leave the house. Those days where we can ride our bikes around the neighborhood or walk the dogs. Those days where she can even make it through a 90 minute Bikram yoga session. Those days where she can be in a social setting and manage to not show any ill effects. Where she can eat a meal and not feel extremely uncomfortable afterwards.Those are the [pretend] good days.

The bad days look drastically different. Today would be categorized as one of them. She couldn't get to sleep last night/ this morning. She didn't wake up (the final time) until 2pm and that was because I woke her up. Her energy is low and she woke up feeling sick and in pain. She is very uncomfortable and that makes her upset. When she is upset, she gets frustrated and doesn't want me around. She gets mad when I ask what's wrong (as if something is right), and she tells me to leave her alone. So, despite the fact that I was off work today, I have seen her for about 10 minutes all day (7pm right now).I have to give her the space she needs during this time but it eats me up inside more than you could know.

The hope in all of this is that treatment is coming soon. Our visit with the doctor is less than a week away. We understand from his website that he practices natural thyroid treatment and this makes us excited, as most doctors want to push synthetics. We are starting to have hope that he will finally be the one to help. More hope than we have had in a long time about a doctor. While this doctor has not proved a thing to us, the reviews we have read, information given to us by a current thyroid patient of his, and the information provided on his website give us HOPE. Maybe the good days are within reach...

Suspect a Thyroid Problem? Try the Low-Tech Body Basal Temperature Test

One of the common symptoms of thyroid problems (loose term) is being unusually cold or hot.  I am almost always freezing and I've been that way for many years.  In fact, I carry a blanket with me pretty much throughout every room in our house. I can feel that my feet are cold to the touch even through my socks. So, in comes the basal temperature test.

Although it is not used as a definite means for diagnosis, this test can assist you in identifying a possible thyroid problem. It's probably a good idea to share the results with your doctor, though they'll likely need to conduct the proper lab tests to confirm it. If your temperature does run low, don't freak out just yet, but it's probably a good idea to call your doctor and get properly screened for Hashimoto's, which is the #1 cause of hypothyroidism in the US.

So, body temperature is a measurement of your metabolic rate, which is largely controlled by the thyroid. It's super easy and all you need is a thermometer. I used a glass one for better accuracy, but a decent digital one is likely to be just as reliable.
The test was designed by Dr. Broda Barnes and was widely used as a diagnostic tool well before LabCorp existed.

Women who still menstruate- check your basal temperature (underarm) the 3rd-5th day of your period. You must check it in the morning before getting out of bed.  Record the results. 

Men or women, who no longer menstruate- You should record it for a week straight.

Analyzing the Results 
<97.8- May be a clue of an under active thyroid 
<97.6- A stronger warning sign of an under active thyroid (I fell in to this category)

A low basal temp. is also an indication of a SLOW metabolism And, I’m not only referring to how many calories you’re burning, but yes that too.  

A Husband's Perspective

Perspective - noun /pərˈspektiv

       1. A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view

       2. True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion

The above two definitions of perspective have a significant relevance in our lives. 1. We have both had our own perspectives towards everything we have been through with Hashimoto's Disease and after the revelations of the past couple weeks, our perspective of what was once an unexplained laundry list of symptoms has now become one of a very specific condition. My perspective will never be the same as Elisha's about this because of who we are, what our roles are in this journey, and what we each will experience but because of those differences, we hope that this blog will relate to anyone who is affected by Hashimoto's Disease. While I don't feel her fatigue, pain, anxiety, insomnia, and brain fog, I am absolutely affected by this disease too.

My wife doesn't deserve this. She is a kind-hearted person who wants to help people and animals. She desperately wants to contribute to the world and make a difference. This disease has prevented her from this. By the time she has any energy to do something, that energy is already fading away. She tries so hard and has struggled for so long wondering if she is just a weak person, not knowing WHY she feels the way she does. She worked 40+ hours a week while dealing with this for years, not knowing what was causing this and why she had nothing left in the tank by the end of the work day (and really during the work day). She would tell me she didn't even remember driving home and she was always exhausted, no matter how much sleep she had the night before.

We made one of the hardest decisions in our lives last August, when we decided that Elisha should stop working. Her job was extremely stressful and the environment was not one that anyone should be in, let alone someone with such a debilitating [still undiagnosed] condition. She would have panic attacks in the morning when her alarm went off and she would cry because she had to go to work so sick. Her brain fog was compounding her stress levels because it made her already demanding job even harder to do. After spending more than four days bed ridden with severe back pain and fatigue and a very unhelpful diagnosis from her PCP of a "slight back strain", Elisha resigned from her job. We had no idea how we were going to manage it but we knew it had to happen and the details would have to come later. So far, we have made it a year. We were very fortunate this past June when I started a new job, making a significant amount more than the previous one, but it still does not cover what our combined salaries were. Needless to say, the financial impact of this disease has not been kind to us.

One thing you will learn about me through my postings is that I am a financially minded person. This means that finance related issues are one of the biggest stressors in life. I will probably bring up the cost of things on more than this one occasion. I have read so many other blogs, forum posts, articles, websites, etc. and people rarely talk about the cost of it all. I don't want to sugar coat it... this disease is expensive. While we actually had it better than most (only 3+ years and 6 [useless] doctors), we have spent the better part of our relationship paying medical bills for doctors visits and tests with NO valid diagnoses. Ultrasounds, MRIs, CAT Scans, HIDA scan, blood panels, hormone panels, ER visits, blood sugar monitoring, etc. all with the same inconclusive results. At most, we would get "well this level is 'slighly' low" but no one could ever make a connection. In the beginning we would say "at least we know it isn't that" when we got a result back, but then we started just wanting a test to say "it is THIS", just so we finally knew. In the end [of the beginning], we ended up purchasing our own tests to get the results we could have easily had over 3 years ago (and really Elisha could have had 15 years ago when the doctor found her goiter).

We have a life-long journey ahead of us with Hashimoto's Disease but we are going to manage it, and I have every reason to believe that once treatment starts, Elisha will be able to start living a much more normal life, we can finally start growing our family, and we can continue to live the American dream we thought we were going to have.

The Long Beginning- Part 3 Elisha

I started exercising for about 45 minutes almost every day because I noticed that I was gaining a few pounds and then losing a few within days.  I’d taken pride on my level of fitness and worked hard to stay fit. I never really got a ‘good’ workout and became even more lethargic and malaise for the rest of the day. It was a far cry from the days of my early 20’s, when I used to take a spinning class and work with a personal trainer in the same day. I wasn’t experiencing the release of endorphins that I can fondly recall. You would think that exercising would have positive effect on my body, but it was just the opposite.  I started having sneezing attacks, swelling, headaches, broke out in rashes, and actually spit-up blood on one occasion. I also wasn't obtaining any results from the months of jogging. This is coming from a woman, who actually studied dietetics in college and worked in fitness clubs. On many days, I jogged for 30 minutes and for months on end, and didn't deter from my strict diet.  
One day, after finishing my work-out, I noticed that my body had begun to swell and I was unable to pull my pants past my calves. I noticed that my neck felt tight, ached, pain in my legs, and my heart was racing. I felt exceptionally disoriented and confused. I started panicking and feared that I was having symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot. My symptoms progressed for about an hour and I finally decided that we needed to go to the hospital. We weren't to the highway yet and my symptoms came on stronger, so we stopped at the closest fire station. They took me to the hospital. My blood pressure was very high for me. The nurse was concerned that I had not ate any food, but I explained to her that I had multiple nutritional drinks that day, which had more vitamins, electrolytes, and minerals than an entire meal would have provided to me. It wasn't like I ran a marathon or even half of one. I jogged on my treadmill slowly for about 25 minutes and used the elliptical trainer for about 20 minutes. Since I often became bloated after meals, I typically didn't eat solid meals even three hours before exercising. My digestive system wasn't processing efficiently. While I insisted that I had consumed enough nutrition that day, she ignored my answers and decided to give me a sandwich, which had processed cheese and salty, cheap turkey. In the meantime, we discovered that both my sodium and potassium levels were low, which was odd to me because I had consumed a fair amount of electrolytes shortly before exercising.  I usually have slightly low sodium and although I do not add salt to my food, I'm surely getting enough of it in my diet. Anyway, they sent me home without providing me with anything other than a sandwich (oh, and a nice bill that arrived weeks later). I was still disoriented and confused until the next day. To this day, we are still baffled as to what caused that episode, however we do believe that it was related to my thyroid. 
So, I hadn't worked for months, but still had the extreme exhaustion, like the kind that people probably get when they have the flu.  My brain-fog made it hard for me to take up a hobby or be more than slightly productive around the house.  I disliked being so sedentary, but had no energy stored in my body.  It was a hard subject to discuss with family and friends because I did not really look sick. Some family members would ask me if I 'was just depressed.' I guess that was a fair question to ask, but I'd explain my symptoms as best as I could, but they'd always go back to the same question. This part was frustrating for me, but I've pondered on what I would have asked years ago to someone in my shoes.  It's not something that one can comprehend easily unless they've felt the symptoms, and that's not something that I would ever want them to experience even for just a day. I also did not like showing my symptoms around other people, so I was good at coming across as though I felt fine that day. I got anxiety when we ran in to friends or saw family and they wondered what I’d been up to, or how I was feeling. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them what was really going on inside of me. 
I started to research nearly every medical condition that related to many of my symptoms and found myself looking at autoimmune disease. Because my symptoms often 'waxed and waned', I had a strong premonition that my immune system was attacking my body. I also have read various theories on the internet regarding the relationship between Rh-Negative blood and autoimmune diseases. I found groups of people, who suffered from autoimmune conditions and had negative blood. The fact that an Rh-Negative mother can attack an Rh-Positive fetus is enough reason for Harvard to conduct studies on the connection of negative blood and the immune system.  Of course, I brought this up to my family doctor and she politely disagreed with my theory. 
Anyway, one day at the grocery store, I suddenly came down with the famous fatigue and dehydrated feeling, combined with confusion and brain-fog. I was at a newer store and felt vulnerable in my confusion. I quickly left in tears because I couldn’t focus on obtaining the items that I needed and worried that people would think that I was either on drugs or drunk. On the way home, I called my doctor and was prepared to unload to whoever answered their phone. I had been in their office just a few weeks prior and they ran more of the typical blood work, including the standard TSH level. Of course, the results came back as 'normal' on their one-size fit's all lab ranges. Why couldn’t they find what wrong with me?  I started wondering if there were other blood tests, which they hadn’t ordered yet. I spoke directly with the doctor and pleaded with her to dig deeper. She referred me to an endocrinologist.

In comes the endocrinologist. We had high hopes for that visit.  I informed them of my family history with autoimmune disease, and particularly the thyroid diseases.  I asked for the ANA test because I had read somewhere that many autoimmune diseases were identified if the test came back positive.  I understand now that ‘endos’ are clearly well educated on the topic of diabetes, but not so much on the thyroid.  At that time, I didn’t know a thing about thyroid testing, but I was still surprised that she didn’t raise an eyebrow when I told her about my family’s medical history. Apparently, she didn’t know much about thyroid testing either because she didn’t bother to look at any of it. So, out of that visit, we learned that I tested negative for the ANA, my sugar level is always normal and that my DHEA was ‘slightly low.’ DHEA is secreted by the adrenal glands.  DHEA levels in the body begin to decrease around the age of 30.  Though they decided to take no actions regarding the lower level, it is a good indication of an adrenal sufficiency issue.  Unfortunately, we did not know that it can also be linked to Hashimoto’s disease. The endocrinologist’s office couldn’t offer us a referral or even a recommendation for our next course of action.  I was starting to lose hope.
A few months ago, I started researching the thyroid gland again and stumbled upon http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/, which is an advocacy site for people suffering with mismanaged thyroid diseases. I read the first few lines of the website and a light bulb went off in my head:
“Well, here’s the skinny. Globally, informed hypothyroid patients have come to a unified conclusion that for 50+ years, they have been subjected to a thyroid treatment which didn’t work, leaving their lives compromised with lingering thyroid symptoms, besides adrenal stress and low levels of important vitamins and minerals. Could you, a friend or a loved one be a victim of this poor thyroid treatment? You betcha.” (stopthethryoidmaddness.com)

I looked at the list symptoms for the diseases and my jaw dropped.  I saw symptoms that I experienced often and had communicated to my doctors. Yet, I still gave my doctor credit (this was for the last time) because my TSH level had been ‘normal’ at the few times that she checked it. So, I was just about to disregard the website when this paragraph caught my eye:
“Did you know that there were decades of successful treatment for hypothyroid that involved nothing more than dosing you by symptoms?  The TSH lab didn’t even come into existence until the mid-1970′s. Today, the tables have completely turned. We now live in a lab-obsessed society, where most doctors completely ignore your thyroid symptoms and make your man-made lab results with the dubious “normal” ranges the holy grail of diagnosis. And diagnosis and treatment based solely on a “normal range” is a consistent failure, leaving millions of patient either undiagnosed, or undertreated.  Even worse, when labs are used, the majority of doctors are only doing the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and total T4 to diagnose or treat you, neither which give an accurate clue to your hypothyroid condition. Additionally, ranges are made as if from God Almighty. They are not. So…when you visit your doctor, symptoms should be the conductor of the orchestra. Then use the right lab work, and knowledge of where results should fall, for more knowledge.” (stopthethyroidmaddness.com)

 Aaron and I decided to find an internal medicine doctor.  We found one nearby our home, who apparently had a good track record with thyroid illnesses. We quickly learned that she was not the doctor for us when she refused to allow Aaron to accompany me in the exam room. Her office quoted her as saying, “Absolutely not, under any circumstance could he come back.” She has a policy that no family members or spouses are allowed in the room with the patient and gave no reason other than something regarding “Side bar conversations.” That’s all we needed to hear and walked out of that office. Yes, it was frustrating and I was quite ill, so I was looking forward to getting the blood work handled that day. We started conducting research on thyroid doctors in our area. Throughout the next few weeks, we discovered the awful experiences that many patients with thyroid diseases have with family doctors, endocrinologists, internal medicine doctors, etc., I was astonished at the amount of uneducated, stubborn, lab obsessed, and just pin-headed doctors that choose to work in medicine.  Meanwhile, I was beginning to not just suspect that I had a thyroid disease, but I wanted to look for evidence on my own, especially when I got very ill and had what I can only explain as a reaction from eating almost an entire bag of edamame (movie snack recipe from Pinterest), and I found out that studies have shown that soy can aggravate thyroid diseases. I am not allergic to soy either. 
A few weeks ago, we were frustrated that we weren't experiencing any luck in our research to find a functional doctor, and I was going through a rough patch that I couldn't seem to shake, so we decided to purchase the proper blood work for Hashimoto’s disease on our own from an online store called Private MD (we highly recommend them as they are professional and economical source to purchase standard lab tests), so I went to our local LabCorp and completed the tests.  I got the results two days later via email. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking because I knew that if the antibodies did not appear in my blood, then I was officially crazy, and I would have checked myself in to the nearest mental institution (ok, not really). Sure enough, I read through the results and all that my eyes could focus on was the word ‘HIGH’ listed multiple times. I immediately let it all flow from me. Years of suppressed tears started rolling from my eyes. I was crying because I was relieved.  I was crying because I knew it was something that did not have a cure. I was crying because the doctors did not bother to screen me for the disease.  Aaron was on his way to the store and when I called to tell him the news, he turned right around and came home and consoled me. 
My Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies (TPO) were at 272 (reference range 0-34) and Antithyroglobulin antibodies were at 270 (0-40).  In addition, my Reverse T3 was 49.5 (13.5-34.2).  My TSH was at 3.2 and considered ‘normal’ (0.4500-4.500) by lab obsessed doctors eyes, however most ‘healthy’ adults walk around with a TSH of about 1.0 and many patients treated with thyroid hormones report symptoms when their levels are 1.5.  As a result of indepth reesearch in 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) recommended  that the ranges for TSH levels be altered to .3-3.0, however few labs have adopted the suggested levels. Here's a great ARTICLE  written by Mary Shomon, an internationally known patient advocate and the the author of The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss. 
The majority of these lab tests were not available until the 1970’s, and patients were primarily treated based on their symptoms. Now, it's the opposite. The challenge that many patients have is finding doctors that will look at them from a functional prospective and believe that everyone’s ‘normal’ cannot be predicted by our lab obsessed society. So, obviously I have antibodies that are attacking my body and since I want to be across the board about lab results, I am not concerned with what the levels are in regards to the ranges, but I am concerned that I have anti-thyroid antibodies and that should never be normal. 
So where do we stand today?  We are anxiously awaiting an appointment with a new doctor that we have read excellent reviews about and are more than willing to travel an hour to see him. I am nervous, anxious, and crossing my fingers that he will allow me to be involved in my treatment and work with us as a team.
I must give a shout-out to the fabulous ladies from the Thyroid Sexy Facebook page.  They are an interactive advocacy group, which was started by Gena Lee Nolin, who is a former actress from Baywatch and she has Hashimoto’s disease. I asked them about my results and they gave me some awesome advice.  If you’re reading this blog because you’re looking for answers, support, or hope, then you’ll want to head over to their page too-http://www.facebook.com/thyroidsexyJ

The Long Beginning- Part 2 Elisha

In 2011, I accepted a position with another company. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay focused during the training because of the brain fog and fatigue. By the third week, I started getting lower back pain and threw my back out again.  The next 11 months working for the company were full of new and consistent symptoms and few answers from doctors. Though this job carried a high level of stress too, I was to the point, where I knew that my problems were not solely related to stress. I went back to the doctor and informed her that I was still experiencing the original symptoms, and more to add to the list. They ran more blood tests and the only thing that came back abnormal was my bilirubin level, which is a liver enzyme. It was slightly elevated, but they said that it's common and ignored it. I went to my family doctor multiple times within a few months and usually left in tears because she either told me that "nothing is wrong with you" or another Dr. from her office asked me, "What do you want me to do?" (I quickly walked out of that appointment), as if I'm the one that should be recommending tests and exams. I later learned that this is exactly what I needed to do.
I began experiencing bloating after eating most meals. Now, I've always had a somewhat small frame and the bloating was so severe that it made me look like I was 6 mos. pregnant. That was the first physical symptom that Aaron could see. I kept track of my diet, however was unable to relate it back to a specific type of food. I went back to the doctor and had to basically demand that she send me to get x-rays and an ultrasound of my gallbladder because bloating and indigestion are common symptoms. The gallbladder results showed that I had two tiny polyps (a recent follow-up ultrasound could not locate any polyps). They sent me to get a HIDA scan, which is a test that typically evaluates how well the gallbladder is functioning. They injected a dye in my veins, which allowed them to visualize both my gallbladder and liver. They then injected CCK in a vein in my arm. CCK is the hormone that the body releases upon eating a meal, which then triggers the gallbladder to empty the bile to aid in digestion. Although I didn't have most of the typical gallbladder symptoms and the hormone caused no ill effects on me, as they had warned that I would experience, my gallbladder ‘failed’ the test. So, my doctor referred me to a surgeon to get it removed. 
Yes, you can live without a gallbladder.  In fact, both my mom and grandma had theirs taken out many years ago, due to gallstones, and both of them now suffer from IBS, among other issues from the surgery. I was not about to allow them to yank an organ out of my body so easily, especially when I'd never even had a gallbladder attack. 
So, in comes the GI doctor.  He was also not convinced that my gallbladder was causing me symptoms, especially because it did not appear inflamed. He also noted that the HIDA scan can be controversial, as there are many factors that can cause the results to be lower than desired, including hormonal and some diseases. He tested me for parasites, conducted a stool test for gluten/wheat allergies (which many believe is not the most accurate way to test for gluten intolerance), and ran a few liver panels. He disregard my elevated bilirubin level because the liver functioning panel appeared normal. He also suggested that I get a colonoscopy, so I did and that came back normal too, which was relieving because it eliminated a lot of scary diseases, and we were so thankful for, but we still did not have answers as to what was causing me symptoms.
I've always been intolerant to cold environment, and I'm often cold when others are not, but we'd always blame it on my size and 'small' bones.  I'd have episodes where both my hands and turned white and blue, and I'd experience numbness and tingling too. We researched the symptoms and learned that it was probably Reynaud’s phenomenon, which is associated with many diseases. The muscular pain and itching that I was experiencing in my legs occurred almost daily and I felt weak, tired, and restless.
One night in April, 2011, I awoke in the middle of the night dripping in sweat and had severe nausea. I’d just started my period earlier that evening. Within a few minutes, I got sharp and stabbing pain in the area of my bladder and reproductive organs. The pain was so severe that in one minute, I felt like I was going to vomit and the next minute, I thought I was going to have diarrhea. Since we weren't sure if I was having a medical emergency, Aaron called 911.  Once they got there, they determined that my blood pressure was very low. By the time that we got to the hospital, the pain was nearly gone, as well as the sweating and nausea. Of course, they ran a series of blood tests, and could only determine that my white blood cell count was quite high, but mentioned that was common in people who experienced sudden pain. Someone else noted that I could have had an ovarian cyst that ruptured.
As a result of the incident, I sought help from both a urologist and gynecologist. My bladder emptied properly and an ultrasound of my kidneys was completely normal. My gynecologist noted that I could have had an ovarian cyst, but it would have been too late to detect it in my blood tests. A transvaginal ultrasound showed that all of my 'female parts' were just fine. We have never solved the mystery of this pain, and I hope that I never experience it again because it was the worst of my life.
The next few months played a huge toll on us. Just 11 months after I started working for the 'new' company, my back gave out again and the doctors could not help me yet again. I had missed so much work because of my symptoms and my boss would often push me to come in early and leave late just to make up for the doctors’ appointments. So, it was a hard decision for us to make, but we decided that it was time to eliminate the 'stress' and focus on restoring my health.  I left the workforce.  After a few months, we were able to confirm that stress was NOT the cause of any my symptoms. We took a trip to Italy and I became very sick with swelling, nausea, vertigo, fatigue, constipation, bloating, etc. It was a vacation that we wished that we could forget, despite it being one of our favorite places on earth. I was fed up with western medicine and their doctors. I decided that I needed to try some homeopathic and herbal remedies.  Unfortunately, I had yet to figure out what illness I needed to treat. 

The Long Beginning- Part 1 Elisha

Well, here we are, writing a blog, but I’d always pictured myself writing something more exciting and nimble, such as fashion, travel…or babies.  Just a few short years ago I was just another 20-something female taking her good health for granted. It's funny how an illness can drastically change someone's goals and future.  One thing that’s always been true is that I've always enjoyed helping others. The day that I finally found out that there was a name to the 'unknown' illness, which we suspect I've had symptoms of since puberty, was the day that I decided that I wanted to share my ever-unfolding story with others, and do my part to spread awareness about the way that Hashimoto's can go for years without a single doctor adequately screening for it, despite one’s family history of autoimmune thyroid diseases. I hope that the first thing that others with the disease learn is that the TSH level may be 'normal' on a standard lab's scale, but doctor's cannot accurately assess someone's condition until they consider the full scope of symptoms, combined with all of the thyroid tests, such as T4 Direct and Reverse T3. Remember that if you suspect that you have Hashimoto's, you'll need to be tested for two anti-thyroid antibodies, which are Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) and Antithyroglobulin. 
Before I tell you my story, let’s briefly talk about the basics of Hashimoto’s.  I promise that I will not be one of those angry bloggers, but let me get this one out of my system. Ok, you probably already know that it is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that has many jobs, including regulating temperature, metabolism, and energy.  In Hashimoto's disease, the body creates anti-thyroid antibodies that attack and destroy the gland, inhibiting the gland from being able to successfully create thyroid hormones on its own. While it’s being attacked, the thyroid will essentially fight the antibodies by working harder to produce the hormones.  This is one reason why the thyroid can ‘swing’ from hypo to hyper, and sometimes even briefly returning back to normal.  The disease can cause one’s TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) level to bounce from high, to low, and back to ‘normal’.  This may cause sufferers to feel like they are riding a rollercoaster. In the end, the thyroid will die and becomes hypo. Of course, this process can take decades and each case varies, especially if it’s undiagnosed for years….Ahem.  
Now, diagnosing the disease SHOULD be easy.  In fact, it can be identified on a few simple blood tests.  Unfortunately, for some reason unbeknownst to me, most doctors don’t routinely screen for the test, EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY OF IT. I don’t typically ride on the conspiracy theories train, and I do have faith that most people in the world mean well, but I have wondered if doctors decline to routinely run the tests for fear of fighting with insurance companies about the necessity of the tests, or if the doctors really don’t understand that a cluster of symptoms, like depression, brain-fog, and fatigue can only relate to INSERT mental disorder here. What is even more discerning to me are the multiple studies (here’s one-Maternal Thyroid Deficiency & Pregnancy Complications: Implications for Population Screening) that exhibit evidence that the antibodies, of which attack the thyroid, are related to several pregnancy complications, including miscarriages, preclampsia, preterm births, and low birth weights, as well as infertility. Still, it’s not common practice for doctors to screen fertile women for the disease, including those with a family history of autoimmune thyroid disease.  I live to tell.
Now that I’ve blown off some of my steam,  I’ll discuss my own personal story of how my husband and I came to learn that I have Hashimoto’s.  So, bear with me because I do have a long story to share, so in an effort not to overwhelm people, I’ll break it up in to multiple posts.  :)

I am currently 30 years old. The majority of my life was spent in good health. I've rarely had colds, have never had the flu, or strep throat, but since my teenage years, I have been someone who must sleep in late to feel refreshed. I've also endured bouts of insomnia for decades.  I used to joke that I was just a nocturnal creature and never really considered that insomnia could have been a symptom of a disease. So, I usually required about ten hours of sleep per night, and wasn't the easiest person to drag out of bed. I used to wonder if I was just an incredibly lazy teenager because my friends had no problem getting up early and seemed more motivated than I was, but I still felt this fire inside, and my mind was always full of motivation. I had unusual bouts of acne-like break outs on my face, chest, and neck. The painful sores would go away for months and precipitously come back in clusters, only to go away again. Some of the acne would leave permanent and smooth white (hypo-pigmentation) spots on my skin. It was as if my skin had two different personalities. It was not only a frustrating battle, but an embarrassing one because the sores often resembled chicken pox and were hard to conceal.
Around puberty, I started having issues with stress management and coping with negative experiences. It was very easy for everyone in my life to blame it on the fact that I was a teenager. I started panicking and losing my 'cool' during moments of stress and during arguments with people. It's as if the female Hulk had arrived. I've always said that it's like someone else has taken over my body and mind. After the incidents, combined with crying, my head felt clearer and I could rationalize so much better, but I undoubtedly had an overwhelming amount of guilt because of my actions. I've always been a caring and compassionate person for humanity and animals. I thought that I was crazy and wondered why I couldn't control myself or if I was even trying hard enough to control my emotions. I knew deep down inside of me that there was some sort of imbalance going on in my body. It is likely that I had been experiencing adrenaline rushes and the start of the thyroid problems. We now know that Hashimoto's patients can have problems with their adrenal glands too. Still, my mom took me to a therapist, who put me on anti-depressant, which made me sleep even more and I walked around completely censored, such as someone with their mouth taped. I wasn't experiencing the clinical term of depression, but I knew that something was not right and I was too young to understand hormones, therefore was unable to properly articulate my symptoms to doctors.
When I was about fifteen, my mom found out that she had Graves disease, which is also an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid, but it causes the thyroid to be completely hyper. Since it's a genetic condition, my mom took me to see her doctor, and he discovered that I had a goiter. Unfortunately, any blood work or tests that he did at that time were 'normal'. I've never thought about that incident again until recently when my mom brought it up in conversation.

In my early 20's, I was diagnosed with ADHD and started taking Adderall. It seemed to help me stay focused and motivated to complete tasks. Around that same time, I started having neck pain. I'd never been in any kind of accident, but I started getting whiplash from typical daily tasks. I was treated by the doctors as though I had been in an accident. They never found anything out of the ordinary, which would have explain my pain. I sought chiropractic care, but the whiplash continued to occur a few times each year.
Like many people, I cannot recall the exact day, week, or month that I began to experience the debilitating fatigue or brain-fog.  At first, I chalked it up as being from the stressful job that I had at the time. I was working as an insurance agent and spent most of my time on the phone.  The company that I worked for was often unorganized and signed unrealistic service contracts with partners. I wasn’t working in a sweat shop, but it was not an ideal environment. I would often hold off on going to the bathroom until I was ready to burst, only to come back with a curt message on my computer that read, “Where are you?!?” So, it was easy to disregard my symptoms because of my stressful days at work. Plus, we were planning our wedding.  My gut instinct started telling me that something was not right within my body. I remember feeling bursts of adrenaline rushes throughout the day, but would find myself crashing too. I didn’t drink coffee because it made me even more anxious. I’d get a sudden and drastic wave of fatigue and felt ‘brain-dead’ at the same time. It was like something sucked the energy and water out of my body. At the end of the day, I’d leave with this exhaustion and a dehydrated feeling, but my heart and mind were still racing. It would take hours for me to fall entirely out of this anxious state and I felt as if my vitamin levels were depleted.  I started having brain-fog to the point where I had trouble finding the right words to say, misspelled common words, and would easily get confused while in conversations with customers and co-workers. I'd always been a fairly witty and confident person, so I was alarmed by the changes in my comprehension and brain power.  After a few months, I started experiencing diarrhea in the mornings. I began to have panic attacks too. I had little to no appetite until I got home from work.  I was so busy at work that I rarely noticed how sick I was becoming until at the end of the day.  When I got home from work, I’d notice that my shoes were too lose and my feet, hands, and nose would often turn bright red.  Looking back, I was probably struggling with hyper and hypo swings sometimes even on the same day, and probably had adrenal problems, which are not uncommon in Hashimoto’s.
On many weekends, I would recover by sitting on my couch, just exhausted and unable to focus on activities. I was usually too tired to go out with our friends, and could barely think clearly enough to plan our wedding. I knew that something was wrong with me, but at that point I was not so sure that I wasn't having some sort of break down. On top of that, Aaron and I were about to get married. I decided to go to my family doctor to get checked out.
I told her that I had been experiencing everything from dizziness to diarrhea and that my gut was telling me that something in my body was off. I also explained my family history to her, which include thyroid and other autoimmune diseases, however she didn’t raise her eyebrows in concern, so I didn't either. That was probably a red flag.  I was naïve back then and thought that doctors knew everything. Oops! She ran some basic blood tests on me and they all came back normal. She told me that I had stress and needed to "take it easy" or "find a new job." At that time, I did not disagree with her.  So, I decided to start looking for a new job.
A few months  after our wedding, I started having lower back pain, and muscle spasms and discomfort in my hamstring muscles. Then, my lower back and sacrum area started aching and I eventually 'threw' out my lower back. I was unable to stand up straight without help from Aaron. I got an MRI and the results were normal. I saw a spinal specialist and another chiropractor and neither doctor could point out anything other than normal degeneration. It was a scary time for me because I was unable to work at all during those incidents and I could not get relief from the pain.
My gynecologist ran some blood tests on me and informed me of my blood type, which I hadn't known was one of the rarest types in the world. I later studied copious amounts of information about my blood type (B-) and the Rh-Negative factor that is present in my blood. There are many studies and theories about the connection between 'negative' blood an autoimmune diseases. I will discuss this in later posts. My gynecologist also discovered that my vitamin D level was low. Although it is common that most Americans do not get enough vitamin D, I actually did and was quite surprised by her findings. So, she prescribed me 50,000 IUs per week for six weeks. It seemed to provide me with bursts of energy that I hadn’t felt in years. I thought that I had finally figured out why I had been so fatigued. Unfortunately, my energy level ended up plummeting within a few weeks. So, it was back to the drawing boards.  

Our Wedding Day

Check out this video, created by Dr. David Clark about properly testing for thyroid function. Dr. Clark practices in Dallas and is hands down, one of the most knowledgeable doctors that I've came across, and he has his a YouTube channel.  I recommend his videos to anyone, who wants to learn more about the disease and how to properly treat it. 

                     Women & Low Thyroid Best Tests