Happy Friday + Randomness

dr-office

This is the view from my doctor’s office. A muddy shot I took with my ipad while I was waiting — that building in mid-construction hadn’t even broken ground when I first started seeing my doctor almost three years ago. I had an appointment on Wednesday, the quarterly one for my thyroid condition called Graves’ Disease. Every three months or so, I get blood work done, and my Harvard-educated physician and I go over the numbers while we sit next to this view from the seventh floor.

This time, the prognosis was a mixed bag. My condition hinges on the levels of three types of hormones: TSH, T4 and T3. I’m not going to delve into details, but basically two of my numbers are heading in the right direction and the other one is decidedly ambling the wrong way. My results shift around with each lab test. Last quarter, two different numbers were looking better and the third one had held steady so I was definitely improving. I’m not in critical condition now but I’m not really out of the woods either.

I often feel like we’re conducting an experiment together, my doctor and I. Every quarter, I report on my stress level, my diet, my exercise regimen and we examine how they correlate with my numbers. I am an anomaly in that I refuse to take medication and my doctor — who I love and if she weren’t my endocrinologist, I’m certain we’d be hanging out as friends — tells me I’m “so fascinating”. I take zero medications, and the nurse who checked me in (blood pressure, weight check, etc.) marveled that my medication list was empty. “I never see that,” she told me. “Even eighteen-year-olds have a laundry list of meds these days.” That surprised me, though I suppose anyone who needs to go to an endocrinologist has some predilection that should or could be controlled with drugs.

For the first time in nearly three years, I was intensely curious about the specifics of my thyroid hormone levels. I didn’t really know what any of those numerals meant. I talked in-depth with my doctor about my test results. I asked her to show me the numbers when I was at my worst, and though I knew I had been in a seriously dangerous state, I hadn’t known or had forgotten that I was “off the charts”. My thyroid was producing nearly four times the normal amount, which as I understand it is the equivalent of shoving every known black market amphetamine down my throat. So sick and haggard and mentally deranged was I at the time, I hadn’t paid close enough attention — hadn’t really needed to pay attention since I was obviously in a downward spiral. I had so much thyroid hormones pumping through me, I could have easily had congestive heart failure. My ticker could have literally jackhammered itself to death. I’m actually surprised I didn’t have a dozen goiters on my neck. My doctor told me that she couldn’t believe my refusal of medication at that stage (she had actually pushed for surgery to remove my thyroid at the time), and that she is still consistently amazed by how much I’ve improved via simple lifestyle changes. I think she may view me as an experiment of her own too, but in a good way. I’m grateful that she stood by me as I learned (and am still learning) how to trust my instincts and listen to my body.

What we know is this: I’m highly susceptible to stress, and I risk shutting down my immune system if I try to revert to my workaholic ways. This is terrible news for me, because it drives me crazy when I can’t get a lot done and a lizard brain part of me believes that I thrive on stress. My version of relaxation makes the President of the United States look like a sloth. But this has also been an epic blessing. I had been steadily killing myself for years with my need to push myself, and now I’m forced to stop. To breathe. To take stock of what’s really important. It is hard for a chronic people-pleaser and productive-aholic like me. In this culture that celebrates doing astronomically more with less, in which the national anthem is “I’m too busy” — in this culture that I used to represent wholeheartedly wearing my workaholicism like a badge of honor, I’m compelled against my will to say “I can’t.” Or more accurately: “I won’t”.

The good news is that I have a fabulous liver of a 25-year-old, according to my doctor. Which doesn’t help with my thyroid, but still. So I will continue my experiment. I think incorporating meditation in earnest might be next…I will record my results here come January 2015, and maybe by the time that building is completed, I’ll finally be able to say I’m in full remission.

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It was so heartwarming to read all of the comments for my giveaway — the winner is Danijela, congrats!

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K on improving skills:

Mama, I’m not comfortable singing in front of people and I love singing. I think I need voice lessons to get better…it’s time for me to man-up!

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Have a lovely weekend, all!

At the end of it
My health is what’s most vital
Sleep, eat well and move

 

 

20 thoughts on “Happy Friday + Randomness

  1. You are an inspiration! I don’t take medication either, but I also don’t have a serious illness or condition. I like to think, though, that even if I did I would not take pills. I love that you are trying to improve your health and manage your condition with diet, exercise and lifestyle! The world needs more people like you.

    1. Oh, thank you Sarah! So kind of you, though I don’t know that I’m doing anything that isn’t simply part of common sense. I’ve been trying to really hard to understand why it’s so hard to do the basic things that are good for me and slowly I think I’m learning!

  2. Wow. Thanks for sharing the more personal side of your life. I hope things become more balanced soon. Although being a type 1 diabetic with celiac I realize that doesn’t mean perfect. 🙂 Glad to hear you are doing better and making improvements. Sometimes people don’t know what they are missing until we’re forced to slow down.
    I love K’s comment!

    1. K’s so sweet, isn’t she? Thank you for your encouragement, Em — it sounds like you aren’t a stranger to the challenges of compromised health and I hope you are finding your own version of balance too!

  3. Sanae Ijust wanted to let you know that I find your blog such a pleasure to read and inspirational too. Not only from a making perspective but also from a lifestyle point. Like you I am hesitant to resort to medication and believe that so many illnesses can be helped and even cured by lifestyle changes. You might be interested in the blog of Sarah Wilson. She is an Australian journalist who founded the I Quit Sugar program. She suffers from a thyroid condition as well and manages it through diet and lifestyle. Her writings on the subject are very interesting and she is constantly sourcing research and evidence to support her choices.

    I have been reading your musings and eyeballing your creations for over a year now and as a home sewer you have inspired me greatly. I eagerly await each new post and am particularly looking forward to the release of your books. Thank you sincerely all the way from Sydney.

    1. What a great site, thank you, Kate! I am so appreciative that you’ve taken the time to comment and I’m very thankful that my posts have found a regular space in your days!

  4. As a fellow thryoid-condition patient, I am impressed beyond words that you control your Graves without the use of medication. Seriously Sanae – that is huge! I’m considered a bit of a “freak” in my friendship group in that I don’t give my kids antibiotics, Tylenol or the like when they’re sick. When they have an ear infection, I bring them to the chiropractor. So the fact that I do take Synthroid for my Hoshimotos really goes against my nature. When I was diagnosed at 26, I had no idea that it was even an option to NOT treat the condition with medication. So now my wheels are turning . . .
    You are an inspiration in so many realms – the creative one, obviously, but also in the way that you are striving to take care of yourself and be proactive about creating an environment conducive to good health. I wish you well these next three months until your next check-up!

    1. Thank you Lucinda! I can’t claim to always succeed with the diet/exercise, but I’ve definitely come a long way. We’ll see how my experiment turns out 😉 As for Hashimotos, I know that Aran of Cannelle et Vanille completely reversed her hypo condition with a gluten-free diet. More evidence of how food can have tremendous impact, but because I’m not a medical professional, I’m hesitant to encourage people to ditch their medication. All I know that it’s working for me, and it sounds like it’s worked for others as well…

  5. Thanks for posting on this. I have several endocrine issues (hypothyroid being one) and I don’t take any prescription medications either. I’ve found that relief comes more from slowing down, cutting stress, and being healthy. Thanks for a great reminder and a great blog!

    1. That’s wonderful to hear, Becca! I strongly believe that stress and the way stress is perceived is one of the biggest hazards to health and I try very diligently to keep bad stress at bay. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Thank u for the personal share. I Needed that reminder today because I am also a production a holic. I forget to stop and breathe and love looking back on “what I’ve gotten done”. So not healthy. So I’m going to wait for your January post and see what little changes I can make between now and then. Inspired by you taking charge of your health!

    1. I think it’s all about the “little changes,” Anita! I knew that I would fail miserably if I tried to overhaul everything, so I started slow. First with sleeping. Then with food. And now I’m incorporating regular exercise. It’s been over two years now since I started focusing on my health and though I have a ways to go, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction!

    1. I totally remember that article! It’s such a great one. I think you’ve got your priorities straight, Alana! I strive to do far, far less 🙂

  7. As always, I love your posts, and admire your frankness and strength. I used to think ahead all the time, and getting busy and productive seemed like only a good thing. It was, until I stopped being present. But like you, “now” is more attractive to me than tomorrow. That is changing my life.:) Thanks again for blogging and putting yourself out there.

    1. Thank you, Annelieke! I love the way you put it: “now” is more attractive to me than tomorrow. Part of the reason I want to incorporate meditation is so that I will be able to focus more on the now and to appreciate it because let me tell you, I can worry myself to death with my to-do list and the future!

  8. Hi Sanae it was quite appropriate reading your blog this morning as it’s struck a huge chord with me over here in Blighty, I have Hashimotos thyroid alongside a host of other health conditions including a really serious vitamin D condition and am feeling a bit low with all the meds at the minute, I love that you are soooo positive and feel like a little bit has rubbed off on me today, just what I needed! I am a little like you in that things are up and down and really struggle with the whole being a massive perfectionist/ workaholic thing, honestly we all really need to be kinder to ourselves, keep inspiring us Sanae I love love love your blog and keep well xx

    1. Thank you, Shelli! The whole perfectionist/workaholic combo seems to go hand-in-hand, doesn’t it? Cheers to being kinder to ourselves and here’s to hoping improved health for you!!

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