After hours and hours of stress, deliberation, doctor's appointments, prayers, research, and sleepless nights, Wes and I finally developed a tentative plan for all this thyroid stuff. Of course, this plan is completely individualized and very different from a conventional approach, so it's very tentative based on how my body responds and other tests and symptoms and such along the way. (I am going to a sleep lab tonight, have an ultrasound on my heart tomorrow, have an eye appointment in a couple weeks, and am in the process of being constantly hooked up to a portable EKG machine which monitors me during my "episodes" so we can make sure everything in my heart is still functioning normally.....no news is good news and so far that's what we've gotten. Please keep your fingers crossed for me in the morning - the ultrasound is a big deal and they will be checking things out pretty extensively. I want so much to find out that my heart is looking good.)
Anyway, all the details aside, the plan is so start with some pretty extreme self-care. The doc in Illinois suggested a protocol to heal the gut, which may have torn due to the stress of our holidays this year. Wes and I both really want to try the protocol, since we are both apprehensive (to say the least) about the conventional alternatives. Wes especially, seems very attached to my thyroid. :) So, we are going to be working closely with both her and my local endo and follow the "gut healing" protocol for 8 weeks. The part I am nervous about? All of it! I really have "good" and "bad" days and they are getting to be much more extreme one way or the other, and I'm exhausted from all the sleep I'm missing. Hopefully this all works and I can begin healing, and then we will go from there.
The protocol consists of a few things: supplements, mostly pre and probiotics to replace what's been lost, and also a few supplements to hopefully tone down the autoimmune response going on in my body (I am starting to test positive for many antibodies from celiac to type 1 diabetes that I shouldn't be, and this doc seems confident that this is because of the gut problem.). I am to follow a strict gluten-free diet for 8 weeks, no raw for 4 weeks (lightly steamed, broiled, or sauteed - easier to digest), lots of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc. - these are naturally rich in iodine.), minimal dairy and starches. Then I can slowly integrate in raw foods starting with salads (man I miss those SO much right now) and go slow. Six weeks in, we are going to retest my levels and see if anything has changed. Assuming that it has, we will finish the last couple weeks and then slowly reintroduce gluten. If it's not agreeing with me, I will have a biopsy done to test for celiacs (which I don't think I have, and if I did, I want to be in denial about it right now). If I don't react to the gluten, it's safe to assume the gut is healed and go from there.
This doc thinks I only have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's. It can turn into hyperthyroid every so often as it gradually burns itself out. I think we are trying to calm it down and then deal with the hypothyroid, or even better, return to normal thyroid function. We'll see.
My vitamin D levels were low, so we decided to make sure I am outside on sunny days and in UV-B tanning beds when it's not. Why not? Every little bit we can do will help increase the chances of this working. I will also be doing something called, "Brain Gym" to help with the anxiety, along with yoga daily (which I love, so that will be easy) and Callanetics 3-4 times weekly (the closest thing I can do to weight-bearing exercise right now, so it will hopefully stave off any developing bone issues - osteoporosis is caused by bad thyroid function). I am also going to make sure I am doing my vocal exercises a few times a week, to hopefully help strengthen my lungs a little since I've been experiencing some breathing issues also. I am going to really try to be disciplined about a good sleep schedule (which has been hard with Wes' work schedule) and go to bed and get up at the same time and see if that helps. At the very least, everyone else will be rested, and I won't be wasting time dragging myself out of bed in the morning - it's not like I feel more rested later on anyway.
Wes and I also went to the temple over the weekend, and we both agreed that right now we should be attending a little more often than we'd planned. We're going to shoot for twice a month or more, depending on what's needed. Together. We're also going to try to go alone once or twice a month as needed. I know the Lord knows me and my trials, and he's led me to all the right places so far, and I really need to feed my spirit and be in a place where I can just listen sometimes. This is the part I am actually most excited about. I love the temple and I have missed being there. (This was my first time being there since weaning Jonah, so it was long overdue.) I have a strong testimony of temples and feel an unmatched amount of peace and comfort there. I love how going there makes everything else in my life fall away, and the big, scary things you don't know what to do about just suddenly seem so small and juvenile when you're looking at a much bigger picture. It really strengthens my faith and brings me so much hope. Along those lines, I kind of stopped writing in my gratitude journal over the end of the year just because I got so busy and forgot about it. But I really think that focusing on the blessings and good things in life would do me some good too. Things are hard, but there are SO many blessings among all the hard things, and I want to keep things in perspective.
The cruise is on hold. I can take the risk of being out to sea or in another country and having something go wrong. There's many strenuous activities that I can't participate in right now, so it changes things. For now, we are planning a little getaway to Catalina Island or Disneyland. Somewhere sunny, away from the stress at home. We need to get away and have some time alone. It's going to be so fun!
I will also be seeing a natural health practitioner here who has already been a instrumental part of my journey so far. She is a good family friend as well as a person very familiar with the things I am dealing with, particularly the asthma and the anxiety. I feel so good when I see her, and so we're going to just play this part by ear. We're thinking monthly will be plenty.
Something interesting that we realized just awhile ago is that I stopped drinking Monavie around the time this all started to come about. Monavie was instrumental in getting me off of my steroid inhaler a few years ago, and it kind of began my quest for health through nutrition. There is a particular variety of it that not only fight inflammation, but strengthens the immune system, so that's the one I will be drinking for now. We figure every little bit of something helps. The body starts to become sick due to oxidation and inflammation, and Monavie is a simple, effective way to fight both.
So, we will see where the beginnings of this leads us. We are planning on working very closely with all of our medical team and being very honest and open with them about our plans. The fallback right now is surgery. The other options are just not good ones for me, and may even make things worse before it's better. Surgery would be the option whether it's Hashimoto's or Graves' or both because ultimately, if it remains, it's going to continue to burn out my thyroid until it's gone. If we end up going that route, we will still probably follow most of this protocol just because we want to avoid risking developing another autoimmune disease down the road. Ultimately, it's all in God's hands, but I want to know that I have done everything I can and fought a good fight. I already feel this making me so much stronger, and I know that someone upstairs knew that would happen too. So for now, we're just going to follow the inspiration and guidance we received that brought us here and see where it leads us. Wish us luck!
PS - If anyone knows any good GF recipes or local stores, please let me in on your secrets. :)