My name is Mara, and two years ago I was diagnosed with stage two papillary thyroid cancer. I had just turned 23. I had always suffered from chronic illness, several in fact. Since I was a preteen it seems like I was always either recovering or coming down with something. And that was my life, for a long time. Struggling, confused, depressed. It didn’t help that my body was already going through all the other natural changes and the challenges they brought along.
By the time I was in high school it was terrible, just awful. Junior year I was practically bedridden. Missing so many days I almost wasn’t able to finish, but I made it happen. I pushed, and stressed, and kept my grades high despite this mystery illness. But with all of that, entering college, I just became so depressed. I wasn’t able to do the things I loved.
I began to isolate myself from friends and family, I didn’t know how to describe what I was going through. How could I describe to them that I was feeling, to them I looked ‘fine,’ I had no outward signs of being ill. The whole time, that decade I spent sick, I was going doctor to doctor, specialist to specialist and taking test after test. Nobody could figure out what was wrong with me. I was a collection of symptoms and syndromes, but they weren’t a diagnosis.
While getting the diagnosis was heart breaking, it was also a relief in its own way. Cancer isn’t a thing to take lightly of course, but that was the beginning of me healing, finally. So yeah, there it was, on my 23rd birthday I was diagnosed and by the end of that week I had my thyroid removed. With that cancer diagnosis I started researching functional medicine approaches, anything that I could be in control of when it came to my conditions. What things could I do to help my health. This is around when I got into paleo, and cleaning up my diet. Limiting environmental factors. Getting rid of gluten and dairy did a world of help when it came to inflammation. I actually started getting into health coaching as well as holistic nutrition, and that’s my career now!
So I no longer have a thyroid, and it was clearly the cancer that was the problem, right? I couldn’t possibly have Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. I had an allopathic oncologist/endocrinologist who said that that sort of autoimmune thyroiditis was a non-starter for me. After all, I didn’t have a thyroid anymore so if there was an autoimmune condition, I wouldn’t even have anything for those antibodies to attack.
Turns out, that was false. I went on for a few years, two- almost three I think, where I believed it was impossible for Graves’ or Hashimoto’s to be having any effect on my life. But, after getting the right testing, looking for the auto-antibodies and sure enough, it came back positive. I had Hashimoto’s.
By this point, I knew exactly what I needed to do. In addition to relying on Synthroid for my thyroid hormones, I had to dial in my diet, anything to reduce the autoimmune reactions I was experiencing, anything to support my mitochondria. This is all stuff I work with my clients on, the power of their diets in their health. Anyways, it’s honestly been great now. Scary, yeah, of course. Knowing I can’t go, what seven, maybe ten days without the thyroid hormones or my system shuts down. But knowing exactly what’s going on in my body, what things I can do, along with my doctor’s help. It’s all become so much better for me. After almost a lifetime of being confused and being told ‘It’s fine, it’s fine, everything is normal,’ when I knew it wasn’t. It has been such a relief for me.