Part 1: My health has been compromised since I came out of the womb
This article could start a million ways and I've thought about all of them over the last several weeks. Sentences flowing out of me at the most inopportune times like when I'm trying to go to sleep at night! Alas, today, I will record the words that first come to me and call it a day! You see, this is a very important subject matter. But for the sake of getting it written, I need to give up on the idea of perfection.
I have spent most of my life with health challenges. Although I didn't really consider myself to be severely health challenged until those health conditions slowed me down enough I couldn't do what I wanted anymore. That is what led me to this point. My health has been a bear (very nice word for what I might choose to call it!) my whole life but it's something I dealt with. Until it began holding me back more and more from my life, dreams, passions, a career, volunteer work, housework and even relationships with others. There is so much to say about this topic that it will actually be a several part series. I hesitated to do this but rather than give you a novel, it is my best option!
I'll start by providing an overview of my history in Part 1 and Part 2 to help you understand more of my story and how I've come to make some pretty courageous health changes over the last several months -- not without sacrifice and grief. Although terribly challenging to be so open in this series about some of the most painful experiences of my life, it is critical to help you understand the recent undertaking I have dove into head first as I continue my holistic journey to health. My deepest desire is to feel well and live with greater freedom from the health conditions I endure.
I vulnerably share my story so that you, the reader, who also may be silently and invisibly suffering from one or more autoimmune conditions or countless unpleasant symptoms (low energy, exhaustion, pain, digestive issues, difficulty losing weight, food intolerances, insomnia, depression, anxiety, etc) might find solace in knowing you are not alone. And of course it is always my intent to help others through sharing my experience and bring hope to fellow sufferers.
Part 3 will go into detail about the positive health changes I've implemented in recent months. I've experienced diminished health for years with few answers to the root cause. Now, finally, at almost age 40, I have been opened up to a life-changing pathway of information. I am so grateful. And no worries, I am not trying to sell you a thing! Just using my platform here at OnTrack Diabetes to educate and share powerful knowledge for everyone that lives with an autoimmune condition -- information that somehow 99% of healthcare providers seem to be in the dark about!
The Story Begins...
My belly was often extremely distended (very, very bloated -- like a huge soccer ball on an otherwise skinny body). A mean trick I liked telling my mom in high school was that I was pregnant (yes, my belly was that big!). Being that I was in several serious relationships during high school that could have made this a believable scenario, it didn't go over so well. But it gave me a good laugh every time!
I also picked up every flu, virus and infection that were possible in my grade school years. I spent a lot of time in our local family medicine clinic very sickly, plagued often with strep throat -- the infection that got me down every time and was often resistant to antibiotics. I remember one year I was out of school so long that my elementary teacher called my house to talk to my mom and check on me. "Is Cynthia okay? She has been out of school a week!" "Yep, just sick again..." was all my mom could say.
Then, at the age of eleven, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that would change my life forever. Type 1 Diabetes. For those not familiar, Type 1 Diabetes makes up just 5% of all cases of Diabetes. In Type 1, the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas rendering the organ useless and unable to function.
An injectable medication called insulin is what keeps us alive unless there is too much or too little of this life-saving drug which is what makes Type 1 Diabetes a life-threatening disease. Trying to get the balancing act just right many times each day, insulin is mere life support until a cure comes. It is a very serious condition, but most people do not understand the extreme nature of a disease that is invisible in so many ways. So I thought I'd throw in a little lesson!
Was my Type 1 diagnosis related to the excessive illness I experienced as a child and possibly unrecognized Celiac or food sensitivities? I surely think so. But Type 1 Diabetes didn't stop me. Not at all, for many years. Don't get me wrong! It almost took my life a few times, was at times very frustrating and a ton of work but I was still able to do nearly everything I set out to do.
Even with two autoimmune conditions under my belt by age 19, it wasn't until my third autoimmune condition was diagnosed at age 26 that I was no longer able to live a carefree life. Just a few years after college graduation as I was diligently trying to use the degree I worked so hard to achieve, I was diagnosed with a severe case of Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It changed the way I felt and looked from someone young and healthy to puffy, overweight and unwell.
Any sense of control over my health and how well I was able to feel was stopped in it's tracks. It was a game changer for me in all the wrong ways. For the first time in my life, 15 years past the diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, I was weighed down in ways I didn't know how to overcome.
For the next several years my endocrinologist would alter my thyroid meds, trying to find the right dose for my body to keep it in range. Always thin, my weight had ballooned up on my 5'5" frame over 35 pounds (a lot!) and I was now struggling with very severe depression and anxiety, not caused by my weight gain but certainly exasperated by it. I also could hardly move, my energy was so low. Who knew that small gland in your neck was responsible for so much of how we feel? My whole life had been turned upside down.
Bless the guy I was in a relationship with that summer. Once a bubbly, energetic young woman, he would come over to my apartment to find me hunched over in my bed in an anxiety attack, crying so hard and paralyzed to my bed. This is also when serious migraines started for me.
I remember once he left his job early to come all the way to my parents house to be with me after I was released from the Emergency Room, about a 90+ minute drive across the cities. The relationship didn't end up working out, but I'm quite certain health challenges or not, it would not have worked out anyway.
Throughout my twenties, I dealt with frequent and persistent sinus infections that would leave me in tears I was in so much pain and in and out of ER's. One year I called home to say I didn't think I'd make it home for Thanksgiving, I was too sick. This didn't go over well as no one could understand how very sick I felt and how much pain I was in.
I also got a serious case of hives that ultimately ended up costing me my job (at a healthcare organization...). This is when my financial woes started and the economy tanked with 9/11. No longer was I able to find a job that paid me what I had previously been making.
The job I took after this lay-off was over $4.00 less per hour and I had just bought a condominium. Familiar with credit cards? Yeah, this time in my life for many years sucked in all ways. Financially, emotionally, mentally, socially and of course physically. By this time my health, or the lack of it, had permeated every area of my life. But I carried on with my new way of being, best I could. Even though I was a far cry from even looking or feeling like the person I remembered.
I was given several more diagnoses over the years and had half of my thyroid removed in my 20's due to the possibility of cancer in a nodule that was found. It was one of the scariest times in my life as the severe emotional challenges continued and were certainly intensified by the extreme nature of my health. But I was a fighter. Through the immense suffering and scary times I continued to work full time and even dated some.
I'll be back soon for Part 2 with the continuation of my story! Thanks for reading.
In Peace & Wellness,