Did you know that each snowflake has a unique design and pattern? No two snowflakes are the same, and the same goes for people's stories. No two people share the same experience. This is my story with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.
As a child I was vivacious, possessing a lust for life and adventure. There wasn't a book I wouldn't read or a stone I would leave unturned. I loved hiking, camping, fishing, and horseback riding. My health was great and illness and injury records were short (aside from normal childhood scrapes and bruises). This all changed in 2008 when a drunk driver smashed into my grandparent's Dodge Charger on the freeway. After spinning out on the freeway and crashing into the retaining wall, my health took a drastic change. That night has been permanently etched into my mind as the night my life changed forever. I ended up fracturing my T-3 vertebrae, bruising my right lung, tearing my right Achilles tendon, and suffering seat belt trauma. My grandmother bruised her sternum and ribcage from hitting the steering wheel, and my grandfather fractured his left wrist. (We actually didn't find out about my spinal fracture until 3 months after the facts and with an MRI). As a 10-year-old, it was very hard to be told that I could not go out and run at the park or play with my little brother outside. I learned that I was now different, fragile and easily broken. The pain kept me from living a normal child's life.
Now fast forward two years, it is 2010, and I have been experiencing joint pain, exhaustion, and skin problems. After too many doctors appointments, tests, scans, and blood drawings, an endocrinologist finally diagnosed me with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune condition in which the Immune System develops antibodies to the Thyroid gland (basically it is in a constant loop of self-destruction). Common symptoms of this disease include weight gain, fatigue, joint pain, dry or inflamed skin, depression, glandular swelling, temperature dysregulation, and a lowered metabolic rate. Receiving this diagnosis was simultaneously a serious blow and also a hopeful answer. It meant that life was going to always be a guessing game, forever trying to regulate my body and keep it from destroying its own tissues. However, naming the beast also meant that we now knew what we were fighting, and could adequately arm ourselves. We began trying different medications and treatments, some which made my symptoms worse, others did nothing, some worked for a brief amount of time, and only a few had a lasting impact. I finally found a medication that worked and with the help of my endocrinologist, maintained steady blood lab numbers. As I entered high school, Hashimoto's has been damaging my body for about 3 years. I had gained quite a bit of weight and I struggled with my energy. This made being an athlete very difficult. It was often very difficult to balance school and sports, with the very little energy I already possessed. Having Hashimoto's also put me at a higher risk and susceptibility to injuries, which I experience playing volleyball (both club and school) for several years. Injuries that would take my teammates a week or two to recover from would maybe take me a month to completely heal. I still have old volleyball injuries that haven't properly healed.
Sophomore year of high school, in 2014, I received double concussions (one from volleyball and the other from falling down slate stairs). This unleashed a whole volley (see the pun?) of autoimmune hell. Not only was I dealing with the intense pain and memory issues from the TBI (traumatic brain injury), but this event unleashed more Hashimoto's symptoms. My body became riddled with pain, inflammation, bruising, and stiffness. I had severe short term memory loss, and my sense of smell was also damaged. Every morning I fought to climb out of bed, my body completely and utterly bone tired, every fiber feeling as though it were smoldering. There is a huge difference between exhaustion caused by a long day versus the bone-deep exhaustion that comes from an autoimmune disease. The same exists for pain caused by trauma versus the seeping, aching, bodywide pain caused by autoimmune diseases. Due to the trauma of the concussions, my body developed another autoimmune disease, Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome (AMPS). Basically, AMPS is where the nervous system is hijacked and the nerves are on high amplification. It became so severe that even a slight touch to the arm would send pain shooting through my body. I had to quit sports and was kicked out of the Medical Cohort program. Every single day became a struggle; I was angry, depressed, and in pain. My wonderful mother never gave up hope and kept searching for new treatments and doctors. She scheduled appointments, researched treatments, and questioned doctors on my behalf. She fought for my health and healing, even to the detriment of her own. She finally found a chiropractor who specialized in treating autoimmune diseases. For the first time in years, I found relief and hope. Through his treatments, I went from almost being bedridden, to being able to live a fairly normal life. The presented the career of a Hippotherapist before me and has paved the way for this pursuit.
Now, I will always deal with Hashimoto's but with new knowledge from the health community and alternative medicine, fighting the beast keeps getting easier. Through trial and error, I have found what helps and what hinders. There is always hope. No matter where you are in life, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Keep fighting for hope and healing!