Finding Normal

26 Dec

I have been waiting for three years to write this blog. As we close the year, I am celebrating FINALLY achieving the New Year’s Resolution that I have had since 2009. I have achieved normal.

After my thyroidectomy, I tried everything to relieve my hypothyroid symptoms. Based on all my research, I believed natural thyroid hormone replacement would be the answer I was looking for. For a majority of people, Armour Thyroid or NatureThroid is all it takes to resolve the symptoms of weight gain, dry hair that falls out, exhaustion, depression…(the list goes on). I had the opposite experience. Coming off of my stable dose of Synthroid put me in an uncontrollable tailspin. A year later, once I finally gave up control and went back on 125 mcg Synthroid + 5 mcg Cytomel (as my endocrinologist prescribed), I stopped the tailspin. But could I ever recover the “normal” that I lost so long ago?

Over the course of my journey, I have tried many weight loss strategies, including strict calorie counting, vigorous exercise, the elimination of wheat and the elimination of dairy. Absolutely nothing worked. Imagine my devastation as I found myself 20 pounds heavier from all of my medication changes. Even after stabilizing on Synthroid/Cytomel, starving and working out like a crazy person, the best I could do was a 3 pound weight loss over 8 weeks. I believed I was doomed to live a life avoiding pictures and mirrors. I would never feel comfortable again. I would not be able to shop in my favorite clothing stores, and I would never be excited for a dressed-up event ever again. I started every morning on the scale, filled with shame and dread. I went to see my holistic doctor one last time in desperation.

She prescribed the HCG diet. It’s controversial, it’s really hard, and it probably isn’t a good idea for someone who wasn’t already committed to doing whatever it takes. But it literally changed my life in just one month.

  • Phase 1 (2 days): Daily HCG injections and eating a “loading” amount of high calories and fat
  • Phase 2 (23-30 days): Daily HCG injections and eating only 500 calories a day…no sugar, no starch, no dairy, NO DIET SODA
  • Phase 3 (21 days): No HCG injections, 1500 calories a day, no sugar, no starch
  • Phase 4 (life): Slowly add back starch and sugar

I lost 9 pounds my first week. I am currently in Phase 3, and I am down 18 pounds and 14 inches. It was pretty hard, especially during the holiday season. But the quick results made it much easier to adhere to to the strict diet. The HCG reduces hunger and weakness, but I did have to temporarily postpone my workouts. I did a few TurboKick sessions that made me feel like I was going to pass out. That was really the only “con.” Critics say that anyone would lose weight by eating 500 calories a day. However, I was literally burning more calories than I was consuming during my low-iodine diet, and I didn’t have any noticeable weight loss at all. As for regaining my lost weight, I am confident that I will maintain, because I was already in the habit of watching my calories and exercising.

Before: My heaviest weight ever, exhausted and riddled with hypothyroid symptoms. After: Lower than my pre-surgery weight, happy and healthy!

Before: My heaviest weight ever, exhausted and riddled with hypothyroid symptoms. After: Lower than my pre-surgery weight, healthy and happy!

Because my thyroid medication is now stable, I feel very normal. My hair and skin look better than ever. I sleep great and I have plenty of energy to get through the day. Before my thyroid cancer diagnosis, I would not be happy with my size 8 pants. I would still be beating myself up and trying to fit into my wedding dress from 2002. Not this time. Today, I celebrate my healthy BMI, my comfortable jeans and my favorite Coldplay T-shirt. This Christmas, I posed for as many pictures with my family as my children would tolerate. I found normal. And I am never going back.

Christmas 2012 - enjoying my normal hair, my comfortable clothes and my wonderful family

Christmas 2012 – enjoying my normal hair, my comfortable clothes and my wonderful family

14 Responses to “Finding Normal”

  1. Tabitha Mason December 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Hooray! I’ve heard of the HCG diet, but never actually knew anyone who got the injections. Good for you for sticking to it through the holidays. I’m proud of you!

  2. Anna Ryan December 27, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Sarah….so extremely happy for you and you look amazing!!! Funny..I am also on Synthroid 125mcg and started Cytomel 5mcg about 5 weeks ago, after feeling terrible being so suppressed, and just started feeling so much better in the last couple of weeks. I go for labs next week so I’m hoping I’m feeling better because of the Cytomel and not because I am not as suppressed..haha!!

    • sarahyoung1119 December 27, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      Thank you! I hope the Cytomel is working. Helped me a ton with energy!

  3. Jenn December 31, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Its nice to read your blog, i had total thyroidectomy after thanksgiving due to papillary thyroid cancer (2.5cm right lobe) and as of tomorrow I am suppose to go off the synthroid for two weeks to prep for a scan, then back to Endo to determine need for RAI treatment (which dr said is likely). I’m dreading being off the hormone & the symptoms to follow…& frightened of RAI…it’s nice to read about other people’s experiences with thyroid cancer

    • sarahyoung1119 December 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Jenn! Any chance of doing Thyrogen instead of medication withdrawl? It was so much easier! I didn’t have RAI, but I know lots of people who did. It always helps to find people who have been through it. If you’re on Facebook, you might want to check out the Light of Life Thyroid Cancer group. Awesome and very supportive members. Hang in there!

  4. Anna Warner January 1, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Congrats Sarah! You look beautiful! Happy 2013!

    • sarahyoung1119 January 1, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Thank you Anna! Cheers to another healthy year for you!

  5. Loren January 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you. 🙂 I am thyroid less too and just got my end to put me on a combo of synthroid and cytomel :-). How long did it take you to feel better on the combo. 6 or 8 wks or more ?

    • sarahyoung1119 January 23, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      For me, it took 6 weeks to feel better on Cytomel. But hope it is sooner for you! 🙂

  6. gina March 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    Hi Sarah,
    The short story is….I got remarrried almost 2yrs ago…my hubby is a wonderful cook…I’ve gained the “freshman 15”. I’ve been hypo for 18 yrs on Synthroid. Weight has always been a roller coaster! I began taking phentermine (daily) with HCG injections 2x week in early Jan. Then I find out on 1/21 I have papillary thyca. I’ve lost 13lbs since beginning the weight loss journey. My weight loss RN took me off the HCG once I got the Thyca diagnosis but I’m still doing the daily phentermine up til 2wks prior to surgery. My TT surgery is 4/5 and like all women I’m concerned about gaining back the weight.
    How long will you be doing the HCG?

    • sarahyoung1119 March 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis! I only did one round of HCG: 23 injection and 500 calorie days, 21 days no starch or sugar, and now I eat totally normally. I have not gained weight back and it’s been 3 months. Hooray! I still want to lose another 10 pounds, so I might do one more round this summer. Hang in there – you might be one of the lucky ones who don’t gain weight, and at least you know HCG works for you if you do.

  7. Ally May 21, 2014 at 7:43 am #

    So glad to find your blog. I had my thyroidectomy 12 years ago. I have had two very conservative Endocrinologists. I would feel uncomfortable to call and ask them about starting the HCG diet. It has been a struggle to have Cytomel prescribed. My levels are finally stable and I feel ok. I have battled over the past 12 years with my weight. I exercise and watch what I eat. NOTHING works. My question is how safe is it to do the HCG diet while being on Synthroid and Cytomel? I am concerned it will cause my levels to change drastically and we all know what that can be like! Any feed back would be greatly appreciated.

    • sarahyoung1119 May 21, 2014 at 8:02 am #

      Full transparency – my endocrinologist had no idea I did the hCG diet. I found a natural doctor that prescribed it for me. My levels remained stable throughout the diet and I take Synthroid and Cytomel too. I was tested before and after and the only thing that changed was that my cholesterol went down by 30 points! I’m gearing up to do it again next week now that I am six months postpartum. The weight stayed off until I got pregnant and I really do believe in this diet! I have felt at the end of my rope with desperation and this was the only thing that has worked!

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