The Good Fight – Part 4

The Early Warnings

The body is one heck of a complex interconnected machine.  Think about it. After God made man, He looked at us and He said ‘very good’. Everything else was good but man was ‘very good.’ God built a system with checks and balances, safeguards and warning mechanisms to let us know when things go awry.  Your hair will fall off when you are stressed. Your throat will parch when you are dehydrated. Your eyes will give different discolorations depending on what is happening inside your body. Your urine color gives indications. Different headaches are telling signs of different issues. God is a master builder.

3 years earlier, I noticed that my hair in the middle section of my head was falling out. I was born with hair like a lion’s mane. Thick, long, healthy. Over the years, I began to develop auto-immune conditions.  The dermatologist called it a ‘degenerative follicular disorder’ caused by use of chemical relaxers, coupled with stress. He recommended no braids, no harsh combing, and a scalp cream. The first line of action was to ditch hair relaxers. For health reasons, I went natural. My hair grew steady and healthy but you could tell that the middle part was still struggling.

2014, my ovarian function had also shut down from the use of hormonal IUD. I had used the non-hormonal one for 5 years but the bleeding was unbearable. On switching to the hormonal IUD, two things happened. I plunged into cyclical depression every winter. From November to February, my body would go into severe mood swings. I would have no energy, no motivation. Sometimes, I would just sit at home for days doing nothing, including showering. It was that bad. I had a way of masking it so not a lot of folks knew. Not even my husband.  Then my period stopped flowing totally. I complained to my former ob-gyn but she felt that the IUD was not the reason for the signs and symptoms. She did not think it was the cause since millions of other women, in her words, did ‘perfectly fine’ on the Mirena. Um, I am not millions of other women. My body is not similar to that of the next woman.

Fast forward to August 2016. I had just had a good meal of ‘7 souls moin-moin’. Moin-moin is a bean tamale. 7-souls means it is stuffed with other goodies (boiled eggs, shrimp, tuna, corn-beef, etc). Right after I had finished eating, I begin to experience terrible acid reflux. I had never refluxed before, not even in pregnancy. I ate bean products regularly as part of my diet. This was very unusual.

The acid reflux was bad. It was so bad I felt it in my ears and the roof of my mouth. The burning sensation went as far as my nostrils. At first, I was self-medicating and trying to treat it with antacids. After 2 weeks, it continued to worsen. At that point, I visited my primary care doctor. He prescribed Nexium (which was later denied by my insurance). He then switched to Pantoprazole. I took it for 30 days. It gave some form of relief. My doctor also wanted to be sure all was well within so he ordered blood work. From the blood work, It was discovered that my thyroid was over-active.

Further tests showed that I had developed Graves Diseases, another auto-immune disorder.  It felt like my body was shutting down. The endocrinologist had two options; kill my thyroid and put me on synthetic thyroid for life or try an anti-thyroid med to see if my thyroid and pituitary glands will respond to normal function. Endocrinology has always been fascinating to me. No offence to endo doctors but they seem so quick to destroy the glands and put you on synthetic meds for life. I chose the latter option. He started me on a low dose of Methimazole.

After 30 days of acid reflux medication, I took a break. A week into my break, I was taking the anti-thyroid medication. I am not sure if it triggered the reflux but it came back more severe; with a vengeance. My vocal chords were being affected. I could no longer minister in the choir. I had to take a break. Based on my senior pastor’s recommendation, I pressed my primary care doctor to test for H.pyroli. The test came back positive and I was put on triple therapy for 14 days. It was an intense therapy of two anti-biotics, and a protonic; 8 tablets a day, including the anti-thyroid medication. For me, 9 tablets a day was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was not the medication guzzling type. The highest I took was Tylenol for headache. 9 tablets a day did not sit right with me.

I was not happy with the way my primary care doctor was treating my case. I had to constantly call and press for results before they were released. I had to remind him to send my prescription order. I pressed for an endoscopy just to be sure that all well in my GI tract. Why would he just take pleasure in prescribing more drugs and not get to the root cause?  He would not give me a referral to a gastroenterologist either. I fired him too after almost 15 years of trusting him with my care. There was no love lost. If my doctor could not go the extra mile to ensure that I was safe and comfortable, it was time to cut ties.

I fired my old ob-gyn, and saw a new ob-gyn too. I just wanted to be sure that my reproductive health was okay and intact. This was how I became Dr. N’s patient. She gave me a clean bill of health in October 2016. My pap smear came back negative, the pelvic exam was good, every test you could think of showed me as a healthy woman. She even mentioned that I could keep the Mirena for an extra 2 years. 

I continued to treat the acid reflux and the Graves. By early January 2017, my thyroid began to respond, but according to the endocrinologist, my pituitary gland was still ‘sleeping’. I had to continue taking the anti-thyroid meds until the pituitary gland corrected itself.

I woke up every morning not comfortable with my situation. What triggered these conditions? How did I get here? 9 pills a day for 2 weeks? The possibility of my thyroid being ablated and taking synthetic thyroid medications for the rest of my life loomed. I was only 35 years old. Why was my health suddenly failing me? Was I that stressed? The past ten years had been tough in my marriage. It had been one challenge after the other; short term immigration separation, job losses, narrow home loss, financial crunch, marital strains, name it! However, the Lord delivered from them all. Was my body reeling from the stress and emotional trauma?