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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

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Still Bargaining…

21 Feb

Finally! Something to celebrate!

I just got a call from U of M, so I thought I would do a lunch hour post to share some news.

First, my ultrasound showed no abnormalities and my thyroglobulin (cancer tumor marker in the bloodstream) level is still undetectable.

The rest of my numbers are as follows:

  • B12: 490 (normal, and way better than before)
  • Vitamin D: 31 (normal, but could be higher)
  • TSH: 1.55 (I think that’s high – Dr. E likes it)
  • T4: 0.97 (I think that’s low – Dr. E likes it)
  • T3: 2.4 (that’s just about perfect, and that is while taking Cytomel)

So what does all this mean? It means I FINALLY get to go back on 125 mcg of Synthroid. Dr. E wants me to drop the Cytomel, but I begged to stay on it. We’ll see what she says.

OTHER NEWS:

  • I continue to live flour-free, and I think I am happy with the choice. I feel healthier overall, so it’s worth it. I never thought I could win the battle over bread, but I did! I don’t even crave it anymore.
  • I added back my iodine supplement (Iodoral) and started taking Selenium. It’s been 4 days, and I have lost 3 pounds. It’s hard to attribute the weight loss to any one thing, but whatever, I’ll take it. I am researching and closely monitoring my response to iodine, and will post separately about my findings.
  • I am feeling really good. I always forget to reflect on the improvements in my health. My energy level is almost normal, my hair totally stopped falling out and looks normal, my skin is not as dry, and I don’t feel as depressed as I did before. What’s changed? Cytomel? Flour elimination? Added estrogen? The fact that I have been exercising a little bit more? There’s no way to know, so I will just keep doing what I’m doing!

Cheers to being cancer-free, and to a higher dose of Synthroid!

***THIS JUST IN***

 I get to stay on 5 mcg of Cytomel with the new increased dose of 125 mcg Synthroid. It’s what I have been pulling for all along! I am seriously jumping for joy!

The Flourless Experiment

15 Feb

I made it through 21 days of no flour. I incorporated Ezekiel bread into my breakfast. I ate more fruit, vegetables and lean meat. I skipped the quick airport and meeting snacks when I traveled to Florida last week. I even ordered salad at Disneyland. And what were the final results?

-0.8 pounds

That’s right, my initial weight loss kinda rebounded back, and I basically have nothing to show for my suffering. It’s true, I didn’t gain anything over the past three weeks, which is positive. And my digestion, brain fog and energy level have maintained their improvements. But what’s the use if I am still overweight? Today at lunch I ate 4 croutons in my salad and I had some vegetable dumplings. And boy, did I regret it. My stomach ballooned out and I almost fell asleep at my desk at 2:00 p.m. I have ruined my favorite food forever, and I am still fat!

So, here we are in My Journey…

DENIAL: I will be fine. This is the best cancer to get!

ANGER: I am NOT going to be one of those people who get really fat and have permanently hoarse voices!

BARGAINING: Okay, maybe if I try Armour. Or adding Cytomel to my Synthroid. Or giving up flour. Maybe then I can have my old life back.

DEPRESSION: Why do I even bother? Now the best I can hope for is never eating white bread or noodles again and still being overweight! Why did this have to happen to me??

I guess the next step is ACCEPTANCE. But can I go there after I have one more round of bloodwork this Friday? After all, I did start on birth control pills. Maybe the added estrogen is interfering with the thyroid meds. Maybe a magical dose increase will make me normal again?

Oh wait, now I’m back to bargaining.

9 Down…12 To Go?

4 Feb

I have been officially “flourless” for 9 whole days. And as I sit here in my recliner, enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir from Oregon, I gotta tell you…it ain’t that bad!

For the first 3 days, I had an awful headache and felt like I was coming off of drugs. Then in the last few days the fog began to clear. My watch and my rings got a little looser. I’ve started thinking clearly. The only way I could describe it is like putting your glasses on in the morning…the world is suddenly in focus. I can think straight. Oh yeah…now I remember! I used to be smart! I used to be able to get through my work day without feeling confused and overwhelmed! I used to be able to work out and still walk the next day!

I feel pretty good. Some of this might be attributed to the Cytomel finally kicking in. Whatever it is – I’ll take it. The biggest change I have made is the elimination of flour. I replaced my sugary morning cereal with a slice of Ezekiel flourless toast. I still eat rice with my stir fry. I still eat sugar…it’s in my salad dressing and my occasional handful of Hershey’s Kisses.  I don’t even feel that deprived anymore. And believe me, I would tell you if I did.

I was listening to Coldplay’s new album this morning – Mylo Xyloto. Those of you who know me know that Coldplay is my all-time favorite band. And there is nothing I love more than one of their live shows. As I cranked up “Charlie Brown,” I imagined myself at the concert, singing, screaming, jumping around. And in my head, I am my normal-sized, cancer-free self.

Coldplay releases butterfly confetti during In My Place. How thyroid-appropriate!

Tickets go one sale tomorrow for the August 1 concert. And mark my words…I am going to make that vision come true. And if I have to pass on the bread basket for the rest of my life, I’ll do it.

Week 1 Results Recap:

  • Pounds lost – 2
  • Energy level – Good
  • Digestion – MUCH improved! I would even call myself normal!
  • Brain fog – Gone

Stay tuned!