I get alot of questions about how I got the scar at the base of my neck. I don't cover it up or put makeup on it because it presents an opportunity for conversation to bring awareness to a disease that has affected my life and so many others. March is autoimmune disease awareness month. Over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease,including myself, and most don’t even know it. Coupled commonly with thyroid disease, it affects 10X more women than men.
Now, this might not be the most glamorous topic I share BUT it has been and always will be a part of my life and it’s my hope that by sharing my story that I can encourage, inform, or help someone choose to speak up about their health, especially new momma’s. Now, let me start off by saying I am not a Dr. or expert, this is just my personal experience.
I never knew anything about autoimmune disease or thyroid disease until after the birth of my first child, Coco. One of the craziest parts of autoimmune and thyroid disease, is that you look completely normal and healthy on the outside but feel just the opposite on the inside. Which can make it hard for people to empathize and understand how bad you truly feel and make you feel like you’re just some crazy hypochondriac( atleast for me it felt that way!) From what I understand, it is something that can lie dormant in some peoples bodies and certain triggers like stress,foods,sickness or trauma to your body etc., in my case pregnancy, can cause it to rear its ugly head. At 6 months post partum this is where my journey and battle began with autoimmune/thyroid disease.
After Coco was born, I felt HORRIBLE day in and day out and I was a TOTAL looney toon, ya’ll. It’s important to note that autoimmune/ thyroid disease (which typically go hand in hand and can be related to genetics) not only impacts you physically but also, mentally. I’m talking crippling anxiety, I cried in the shower every single night, my hair was falling out in abnormally massive clumps along with my eyelashes, my joints hurt so bad to the point I couldn’t soothe my daughter standing,crazy constipation ,brain fog, I continued to gain weight no matter how much I worked out or dieted and I had extreme chronic fatigue on top of life with a newborn (OH MY SWEET JESUS). I honest to God, do not know how I put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.
All of this was relayed in my postpartum checkups BUT no blood work was done, I was given a Zoloft prescription (which helped nothing) and sent on my way.[This is where I get extremely passionate about post- partum care and health. New mommas, if you feel like something just isn’t right or “normal” feeling- put your foot down. Speak up and insist on tests, second opinions, or a different Dr. Etc.]
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t have any postpartum depression at all but given what I know now, a simple blood draw could’ve most likely saved me months of suffering. I look back and grieve over that time with my daughter because I believed that was just how post partum depression was and it was "normal" for a new mom.
Eventually, I ended up at an afterhours drs care in so much pain only to find out that my thyroid levels had me physically and mentally to quote the Dr. “ functioning at the capacity of an 80+ year old with a thyroid that looked like moths had destroyed it and a body that was quite literally full of sh*t.” I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that causes your body to produce antibodies that attack your own tissue and hypothyroidism (cue all of the lovely symptoms above.) All of which, had been for the most part misdiagnosed as postpartum depression.
(I do not own the rights to the image below. source : lindwellness.com)
Fast forward from the diagnosis, I finally got in with a great endocrinologist. It took months to get my medication right but coupled with diet and exercise, I slowly but surely returned to feeling like a semi- normal human being.
THEN I got pregnant with baby #2. Throughout this pregnancy, I insisted on constant monitoring of my thyroid levels and health, from both my OBGYN and endocrinologist. For myself and some women, pregnancy does a number on autoimmune and thyroid conditions (HELLO HORMONES!)
After Benji was born, we found that I had swung extremely hyperthyroid (weight loss, anxiety, tremors, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, insomnia) coupled with postpartum thyroiditis aka my thyroid was inflamed, angry and HUGE. For months,we tried everything to get the inflammation down and my levels to return to normal. My only other option was radioactive iodine and that would require quarantine from my children for weeks, so with the decision not made lightly, but for the safety of my health it came down to removing my thyroid completely.
I ended up having a complete thyroidectomy, which resulted in the scar you see at the base of my neck. To put my condition in perspective, what should have been a 2 hour outpatient surgery, turned into 5.5 hour surgery and an inpatient stay. The surgeon said my thyroid was as hard as a rock and one of the largest he’s ever seen- it physically left an indention in my neck after surgery. The recovery was rocky, but it gave me almost immediate relief of many symptoms related to thyroid disease that I had been suffering from. People have a lot of opinions about this surgery but it’s what was best for me personally.
To this day,I am still working on taming my autoimmune disease through diet, exercise, and integrative medicine. It’s something that I will deal with my whole life but it’s not something that will define me. With proper self-care, the help of doctors and keeping my health a priority ,I’m determined to keep on keeping on with a big ole’ smile on my face and it’s my hope that sharing my story has helped, informed or inspired even just one person who may be experiencing or living with autoimmune disease to do the same!