My Hashimoto’s Journey- Part 1

Since discovering I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Disease in March, I’ve shared the ups and downs of my health journey and have received many questions along the way. I think the best way to share about my current standing with Hashimoto’s is to start from the beginning. Since I want to be thorough for those of you also walking through the same thing as me I’m breaking up the story into three parts-mostly to spare your eyeballs. Get ready for lots of reading, friends.

I’ve battled anxiety ever since I can remember; certainly before I knew what anxiety actually was. One of my greatest sources of anxiety came from fear of getting sick. I spent many nights laying on a bathroom floor nursing a knotted stomach that came from fear of a stomachache. These intense ‘stomachaches’ became predictable and routine in any new place or unfamiliar experience. Can anyone relate to this? It’s all I’ve ever known, but the eye-rolls from my siblings let me know it wasn’t normal.

The stomachache’s ruled my life there for a while in the little years and the only way I could think to avoid them was by following a strict set of rules for myself. I’d never go near anyone who was sick (this was tricky since my younger sister/roommate threw up roughly once a week), I’d go to bed early every night, I’d skip anything with risk whatsoever and stay clean. No rides at carnivals, no concerts, no scary movies, no staying up late. This was my system. And for years, the anxiety was okay aside from travel.

In 2011, one week before finals as a college sophomore, I married my favorite man in the world. As you can imagine, it was a wildly stressful time. I met with every professors at the start of the semester asking if I could take each final a week early so I could go on my honeymoon and all that. We got married in May during the NFL lockout. Guys. This was crazy. After playing with the Rams for 6 years, he had been signed by the Redskins which meant we needed to move to Virginia, find a home, get settled and build a life. The lockout meant we were on hold, which meant I was completely out of control.

I could talk about the stressors that lead to this next bit for hours so I’ll sum it up this way: unrealized anxiety, college volleyball during my long-distance engagement, moving across the country from my family a couple months after marriage, flying 12 hours a week to finish college in SF and simultaneously be home with my husband, discovering a food allergy and treating H. Pylori all led to absolute burnout in the Spring of 2012.

When we moved to Virginia, I thought it was finally time to address this unusual thing happening with my appetite. No matter how hungry I was, after a bite or two of food I felt instantly full. Disgustingly full. It wasn’t normal, but didn’t feel like a “thing.” I also started having intense tightening in my throat for large chunks of the day. I saw doctor after doctor who said I just had a lot going on and once things settled down, my appetite would pick back up. My friends noticed, my family became uncomfortable and I desperately wanted an answer. After months of praying for the right person to fall into my lap, she did. Dr. Barbara Mackie in Virginia was the first doctor to say “firstly, lets do an allergy panel to see if you’ve developed a food allergy. secondly, I think you have H. Pylori.”

Turns out I had developed a food allergy, and turns out I did have H. Pylori.

For whatever reason, at age 21 I became allergic to corn. Corn! At first I thought, “Okay I’m so glad I know now! I won’t eat corn on the cob and I’ll skip the corn in my burrito bowl.” But no, friends. It’s just not that simple. Corn is in everything. It took me having a corn allergy to find out just how present corn is within nearly every packaged item we consume. Avoiding corn starch, corn syrup, corn meal, corn sweeteners (turn over every cracker box, chip bag, drink container ect. you own and see if you can find Maltodextrin. That’s corn.) I became obsessive about reading labels and after having an allergic reaction to a bagel on my weekly routine 6 hour flight to California, I began having panic attacks over fear of having an allergic reaction.

I carried Benadryl absolutely everywhere and took one at the first sight of discomfort. I’ll never forget sitting at a fabulous restaurant in Napa Valley, laughing over our second course when my throat started tightening up. O and I had done the song and dance about talking to the waiter than talking to the chef-checking and double checking that my food didn’t have corn and yet here I was. In panic. I was sure I’d somehow eaten corn and needed a Benadryl which always meant another premature end to a lovely night. The problem was, I had used my last Benadryl (probably the day before) and after dumping out everything in my purse I had to accept the cold hard truth. There was no little pink pill to save me from my panic attack. No placebo pill to bring me comfort. It was me and the Lord.

I ended up taking a trip to Nigeria to meet O’s family and also to be healed of my corn allergy for life. Read more about that here. Now, on to the H. Pylori. H. Pylori is a bacterial infection of the stomach responsible for ulcers and stomach cancer. I was immediately put on an antibiotic to essentially wipe out all the bacteria in my system, good and bad, for a ten day period. I was warned the side effects would be severe but necessary due to H Pylori’s resilient nature. It was a miserable 10 days filled with exhaustion and extreme discomfort. Once it was all said and done, a stool sample confirmed my body was free from the infection.

If you’ve stuck around this long, Brava! Next week I’ll dive into how this all set the stage for the autoimmune disease, the symptoms that had me searching for answers and the resources that have been most helpful thus far. Social media and the internet in general have been such a blessing to me in this weird, wild world of autoimmune disease. I’m going to put it in writing here: Lord willing, soon my Hashimoto’s will be in remission. I will have more pregnancies, carrying healthy babies full-term. My symptoms will diminish and I’ll live a vibrant life. In the meantime, His power is made perfect in my weakness. His grace is sufficient for me.

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