ups-downs-autoimmuneFebruary was less than a stellar month for me over here. I thought I owed it to my readers to give a little update about what’s been going on. Long post alert and personal information in here. ­čśë

As many of you know, I have had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis since 2006 when I first received the diagnosis, but suffered from symptoms before the official diagnosis. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition where your own body’s immune system mounts an attack on the tissue of its own body, in this case the thyroid gland is the lucky winner. As a result of this attack, your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormone on its own. This is not a good situation to be in because every system in your body relies on this hormone to do its job. In addition to being hypothyroid, or under active thyroid, a person knows they have Hashimoto’s because of an increased level of thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Mine were in the 900 range when I was first diagnosed. A normal range is less than 35.

Thousands of people are walking around with autoimmune diseases and/or thyroid issues, and suffering from countless symptoms. It’s nothing you can see on the outside though, so autoimmune diseases are sometimes referred to as hidden or invisible┬ádiseases. A few of these that you may have heard of are Celiac Disease (gut) Psoriasis (skin), Multiple Sclerosis (brain), Lupus (multiple systems), Crohn’s disease (bowel), and Endometriosis (uterus). There are hundreds. Let’s get one thing clear, there’s nothing invisible about these to the person who carries around one, sometimes two or three autoimmune conditions. Some of these awesome symptoms can be fatigue, sensitivity to cold, weight gain or inability to lose weight, leaky gut, food allergies, nutrient deficiency, depression, and anxiety, just to name a few.

When I was first diagnosed, I clearly remember the doctor saying that “This thyroid condition is┬áno big deal. You just have to take medication for the rest of your life.” At the time, I didn’t think to question my doctor at all, and started taking the medication, which in my case was thyroid hormone replacement. Funny thing is, well not so funny as I look back now, is that my symptoms never really went away. There was always something lingering, and I rarely felt quite right. But you trick yourself into thinking that this is your “new normal” and make excuses because you want to believe you feel a little better, but if you really track your symptoms, moods, and pain, you quickly realize that most of the time you feel less than optimal and not that great.

This disease is why I have poured every ounce of my heart and soul into learning about real food nutrition and lifestyle interventions for autoimmune diseases. I have read numerous books, articles, joined Facebook groups, gone to talks, etc. When I first experienced drastic changes by eliminating foods that I learned I was sensitive to, I felt like a different person. I have been on this journey of natural healing for eight years now, and while I have vastly been able to improve my gastrointestinal issues, when I started to experience joint pain throughout my body at age 38 I became very concerned. I have been experiencing unpredictable bouts of pain in various joints all over my body, consistently for four years. I have also been reporting this to any doctor that would listen. One said to me in August of 2016, “oh, your joints just flare in the summer because you’re more active. That’s what I’m going to say is the cause of your joint pain.” (as I look on in disbelief)

Food, stress, exercise and lifestyle all played a role in my life throughout this time, but it seemed like no matter what I was doing there was joint pain, or something else like fatigue or bloating or seasonal depression, or a combination of everything all at once.

A┬álittle over a month ago now, in the middle of January 2017,┬áthe joint pain CHANGED. It moved and settled into my hands, across all the knuckles of both hands, and became red and swollen. I held my hands up in front of my husband and said, “hmmm, that doesn’t look normal.” After a few days I started to get concerned (that sounds like I was calm, I wasn’t calm, I was really freaking out) because the pain increased and the swelling remained constant. I made appointment to see my PCP for February 1st.

You don’t realize how much you use your hands until you can’t use them anymore. Everything I tried to do hurt. I couldn’t hold the soap, I couldn’t pull up my pants, opening the refrigerator hurt, opening a jar or water bottle was hard, I couldn’t tie my shoes, and worst of all I couldn’t do these things for my children either. There were lots of tears┬áduring this time because all I could see pass through my mind was a handicapped version of myself not able to do all the things with my children. It was not good.

The doctor ran several blood tests, one key test that was the elephant in the room, was the Rheumatoid Factor test. I logged into my┬ápatient portal account on the evening of February 1st because I wanted to see the results. You see, after all of these years with one autoimmune disease, I knew the likelihood of getting another one was possible, but I didn’t want it to be true. Despite all of my “hard work” and nutrition changes, I knew it was still possible, especially if I had an elevated amount of inflammation in my body.

Another thing I have gotten good at is reading blood test results. I have learned to analyze them, compare them to what is “normal” according to a doctor, and advocate for tests because there are so many things about me that do not feel “normal.” But remember what I said earlier about this being an invisible disease? Doctors basically think you are crazy when you come back to them with “normal” blood test results and say, but no really, I’m yawning like I could go to sleep at 3:00 int he afternoon (after sleeping the night before for 8-9 hours), yes I really have had that much joint pain the past month. I had one lovely doctor say to me, “it’s all just part of getting older dear” as she belittled me throughout the entire appointment and did not read one word of my twenty page document detailing my medical history year by year.

At this point in the game, as I descried to my PCP, I do not feel cared for by the “healthcare” system. I have done so much research, endless amounts of information gathering, have been to countless practitioners, and still I am here in this place of inflammation with yet another autoimmune disease, this time it may have already done damage to my joints. It was confirmed that I do have Rheumatoid Arthritis. As the rheumatologist said, “this is not the worst diagnosis you could receive.” She is correct in some ways. I do not have cancer. I am not going to die. But I may have permanent joint damage. And I have been reporting this to doctor for FOUR YEARS! To say I feel not cared for is mild, it is an understatement.

Just in this past week, after three sessions of acupuncture, changing my diet even more, and confiding in some extremely smart friends and nutritionists, I will not let Rheumatoid Arthritis get the best of me. I have adopted this “new normal” and know that I can do anything I put my mind to. I will continue to learn and heal, and hopefully help others on their autoimmunity journeys, because my friends as I have experienced first hand, it can be a very lonely place. There are a lot of unknowns, but what I know for today is that I’m going to try to eliminate my pain without medication. As my father would have said, “Jen, it’s all just a test.” 🙌

Here’s to much health and happiness in your life, and to me kicking the you know what out of Rheumatoid Arthritis!

💚┬áJenny

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