Life After Thyroid Cancer

5

MARCH, 2018

As a young college student, the stress became unbearable. Classes, the general unknown about a future, my dad’s terminal illness turned into straight up clinical depression and debilitating fatigue.

It’s amazing I finished college with a respectable GPA while dealing with these issues and working 2 to 3 part time jobs all while being a full-time student. How different would things have been had I understood how the adrenals worked back then. Even before this, though, I struggled with low mood, fatigue, headaches, and what seemed to be a very weak immune system.

I doctored for this regularly. I was “normal” and my thyroid was totally fine. I just needed to relax and not worry so much. Despite all of this, I was active and worked out a lot. I socialized and had a lot of friends and spent time with family. So what was the problem? I shouldn’t have had anything to be sad or worry about at all. Jump ahead into adulthood. I had a career in education that I was good at and enjoyed. I had a great family two adorable girls as well as a supportive and loving husband. At a routine yearly check up, my PA noticed a lump in my throat. I had never noticed it, felt it, and neither had anyone else. No big deal. These things are benign 98% of the time. I had an ultrasound that was negative and then was going to have to wait to get into a specialist just to check it out further. But, I was fortunate to get into the Mayo within the week and they did their own Ultrasound and biopsy. And, there it was…cancer. The “C” word. Fortunately, it turned out to be Stage I Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma even though it had metastasized to the lymph nodes.

Without me questioning a thing, I went with the plan Mayo had for this type of diagnosis. Surgery for a total thyroidectomy and removal of lymph nodes, a 2-week recovery (not enough, by the way), and Radioactive Iodine Treatments a couple months later to kill off any remaining thyroid tissue – cancerous or not, and then medication management for life. It was fine. I was good with it because, after all, this was the “easy” kind of cancer. I was lucky!

So, the plan was put into play. Everything seemed to be going well until it wasn’t. Through a long series of appointments, monitoring and getting meds under control, I struggled to find a sense of balance. I still struggled with many or all of the debilitating symptoms I had prior to my diagnosis. I still had tumor markers flagging as something to watch. I had a recurrence a year later. Every time I’d get a new dosage of meds, I swear it took a good 6 months to “level out.” That’s how I describe it. But I still had lingering depression, weight gain, hopelessness and a feeling of heavy despair. Balancing a husband who travels for work, teaching full-time, going to grad school, and raising to little ones proved to be way too much for me. I was done! I asked for help. Something different but my doctor said there was no other protocol for my issue. Nothing else to do. It would just take time. At this point, it had been over 3 years. As I said…I. WAS. DONE.

When I suggested it may be my diet. I was told to just eat “healthy” and that food wouldn’t really affect how I felt. That didn’t sit well with me. I knew there had to be some link and I was going to find it.

Enter nutrition education, my own research, seeing alternative medical professionals, and hard work and discipline. I began by really getting to the core of what was bothering me on a food sensitivity/allergy level. I figured out within a week that gluten was not my friend…not at all. I learned about thyroid and stress on the adrenals and how what we eat impacts BOTH of those things. The ability to manage stress in the body is completely correlated with how the thyroid functions…or not. The core of this was eating whole foods, foods specific to managing stress and the thyroid, foods to balance blood sugar and to boost the body’s own ability to make the chemicals necessary to balance mood, cravings, and level out my depression and anxiety. I was finally free of all meds for mental health that I had been on for 15 or so years. I was able to go off of the medications I had taken for depression and anxiety just by changing my foods and using nutrition to support my body and to get rid of symptoms. Wow!

I wanted in. I wanted in to be able to legitimately help others like me. I know there are plenty out there that deal with thyroid disease even without the cancer who feel like all is lost. I know others deal with depression, anxiety, cravings, lethargy, and hopelessness. I went back to school so I could help. I started a functional nutrition practice so I could help others in similar situations as me. I teach people how to use foods for the core function – providing nutrients to support the body in any way it needs. I teach people to get rid of the food rules they’ve come to think of as complete truth and have them start from scratch and take a deep dive into what works for THEIR body. We are all unique but we all start somewhere.

My basic recommendations for supporting your thyroid and other symptoms are as follows:

  1. Get plenty of rest
  2. Manage your stress through diet and lifestyle changes
  3. Heal you gut
  4. Balance your blood sugar
  5. Eat whole foods

It’s simple. It’s just not always that easy. I’ve got you covered. I have developed a program that helps you do these things by learning how to use REAL foods to improve your health. This core offer is a self-paced, online program. It’s called the Beginner’s Guide to Whole Food Eating and you will learn how to plan and prepare real foods as well as tips and tricks for making healthy changes. All the information can be found here on my online class page.

 

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