Having gone misdiagnosed for six years with Lyme disease, I am no stranger to the frustration of our medical system. I was told my illness was in my head for years. Meanwhile, I kept getting worse with crippling pain and deformity. Eventually, I found a healthcare provider willing to listen, test, and work toward getting me functioning again. So when I started having health issues two years ago, all my bells went off. Something was wrong, and I knew it. Unfortunately, I had also started going through menopause at the same time. Instead of being told it was all in my head this go around, they just said, “You’re getting old and going through menopause. It’s miserable; get used to it.”
Once again, I have been utterly disappointed and appalled at the lack of care and the shear laziness of the medical community! No one listened. I rattled off all my symptoms and my concerns, and I got blank looks of so-called professionals who just wanted to move on to their next patient. I could see it in their face: “Quit whining! Just accept that you will be fat, have no energy, and go bald.” Worse is I asked tons of women for advice, and they all shrugged their shoulders. “This is just how it goes.” How utterly sad that we accept poor health as normal or okay!
For the record, I understand what menopause is and isn’t. I wrote a book called Fit Over 50 and did extensive research for it. We’ve learned more since I published it—like how cortisol can really wreak havoc on your already unstable hormones—but overall, I knew what to expect. What I didn’t count on was my thyroid being attacked by my immune system.
I chased down all sorts of things like mold illness, food allergies and cortisol poisoning, just to name a few. All my blood work was normal. I was healthy…NOT! After two years of my own research, I stormed the gates and demanded help. I eventually found an endocrinologist who was willing to separate out menopause (which, by the way, I went through quickly) from the equation, listen to my complaints, and look at what was going on in MY body. Remember, ALL norms for blood work are just that. It means some of us might be lower or higher, but the average falls in the middle.
This was the case with my thyroid tests. They kept coming back “normal,” even though I had ALL the symptoms of hypothyroid. Worse, I actually have Hashimotos where your immune system attacks your thyroid. The classic systems (all of which I exhibited but one):
-Extreme fatigue (I couldn’t and still struggle getting up in the morning and have zero endurance)
-Very dry, flaky skin (I have been feeling like a reptile)
-Massive loss of hair (more than half exited my head in a month and is falling out in hand fulls)
-Unexplained weight gain that comes on rapidly (I put on 15 pounds in 1 ½ weeks while I was reducing my caloric intake AND exercising excessively! No matter what I’ve done, the weight continues to pile on)
-Swelling of the face (my nose is twice its normal size)
-Ringing in your ears or Tinnitus (There are lots of caused of ear ringing, so I am unsure if my thyroid issues caused it or not. I’ll probably never really know, but I wish the ringing would stop!)
-Difficulty sleeping (what is sleeping through the night??)
-Cold hands and feet (I live in Phoenix yet my hands and feet feel like ice cubes…all the time)
-Joint and muscle pain (I hurt ALL the time)
-Depression (Well, of course I’m upset…no one would listen!)
-Brain fog (thankfully, I’ve been functioning okay)
If I had a dollar for every time, I mentioned these symptoms, I wouldn’t have to worry about my medical bills! Not one person considered the possibility that I had thyroid issues (even when I told them that thyroid problems run in my family) simply because the “bell rang” aka my tests were normal. Well, when you look at MY history, my thyroid has been getting worse, but it still falls in the normal category. Everyone missed it except for me.
The point I am making here is twofold:
- Trust your gut! You know when something is wrong. Don’t settle for pat answers or a lazy diagnosis. Keep pursuing it until you A) Feel better B) Get the proper diagnosis, care and treatment.
- Don’t accept being miserable because menopause probably isn’t the cause. Yes, it can create problems BUT I’m learning that upwards of 60% of women actually have thyroid issues but don’t get the help they need due to being told “It’s menopause. Deal with it.” Tragic!
If you are doing the right things yet not getting/seeing results with your fatigue, weight gain, or hair loss, seek out an endocrinologist who is willing to have a discussion. They are difficult to find but exist. Our system, unfortunately fosters quick fixes and cheap resolutions. Providers aren’t bad people but caught in a rat race they will never win. Stand your ground and voice your concerns. Feeling tired all the time isn’t normal, and we aren’t doomed to be obese when as we age when we live an active lifestyle. I encourage you to be brave enough to seek solutions. Know this: it isn’t in your head, and you aren’t alone! I wish you good luck and hope you, too, can be healthier and happier!
PS I’ve started treatment. My energy is slowly improving. Now, I pray the weight starts to come off and my hair grows back! Once I get my thyroid back in balance, I will seek alternative, natural options to maintain. Stay tuned for the update.
When our health is compromised, it is very easy to get discouraged. Find some hope and inspiration in my booklet Conquering Chronic Pain.