did i ever tell you about the time i had cancer?
(***DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. The following are my own opinions and not to be taken as medical advice. To do so is at your own risk. Please consult your medical practitioner. ***)
If you read my "About" story, you know I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid cancer a few years ago. I fully admit, as far as cancer goes, I got off easy. But it ain't all fun and games, either and I’ve had a lot of people turn to me lately after having a similar diagnosis, and failed recovery, to ask for help. This post is a culmination of suggestions and recommendations over the past few years.
Since having my thyroid removed, my hands and feet are ALWAYS cold; my sleep is even more jacked up than it ever was; and, managing my weight is pretty much impossible.
So, what’s the deal with the rise of thyroid cancers and dysfunction? Great question! The problem is, no one in the medical or science communities can agree on any one answer. After 1000s of hours of research trying to figure out “What the hell happened to me?” – I’ve come up with the following.
Thyroid dysfunction, including cancer (and most cancers, for that matter) is about 95% environmental (what we do to/put into our bodies) and only 5% genetics. The thyroid is the train conductor of the endocrine system, which is kind of a big deal. What that means is... you're going to feel like utter crap for a while without it, even with meds (esp if you are prescribed Synthroid, more on that later) if you don't change some lifestyle things.
Unfortunately, doctors don't have time to do any of the massive research on the science that's out there. They’re too busy filling their schedules just to get paid and to placate the insurance companies. Plus, Big Pharma makes it easy for them NOT to. They just don't know enough, so they just prescribe their patient a pill.
If you've been diagnosed with Hashimoto's, Thyroid cancer, or any other endocrine dysfunction and told nothing more than "take this pill forever," you need a new doctor. A functional one. Google it. I'll wait...
My first biopsy was "inconclusive" because the 2 tumors were too small. YAY!
But less than 2 years later, I had 5 tumors that were all growing rapidly.
The science was out there, but my doctor didn't read it, and I didn't know how to read it. But it's everywhere now! And it proves that had my doctor read even ONE STUDY about gluten and thyroid-related dysfunction, he would have at least suggested that I avoid it and I might have fully recovered. In the least, I might not have spent 2 years in a weight loss program telling me that bread and carbs are less 'points,' so I could stuff my face with them - all the while my body was progressing to multiple malignant tumors and needing a full thyroidectomy.
(Thankfully, I had an AMAZING surgeon, and, with proper post-op care, I have almost no scar today!)
It sounds harsh, but I don't mean it to be. Its reality. We have NOT evolved to eat the things that are on the shelves at the grocery store. Evolution doesn’t work that fast, and it sure doesn’t work that easily.
If you have been diagnosed with or suspect you might have any thyroid disfunction, some of the non-negotiables should be (in order of importance):
NO Wheat/Gluten/Soy. Never. Not on the weekend, not at holidays, not "just a nibble." Never. Every exposure – even the tiniest ones - causes the junctions in your gut lining to leak and takes about 4-16 weeks to heal, depending on the rest of your health. They are enemies of the thyroid and endocrine system and will only lengthen recovery time and worsen symptoms. (all hope is not lost... there are TONS of gluten-free substitutes on the market – but that’s a post for a different day.)
Get rid of any personal care products (soap, lotion, deodorant, shampoo, makeup, etc.) with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), parabens, phthalates, petroleum or petroleum by-products. Download the free Think Dirty or Skin Deep apps to scan products for toxicity levels. Check out the Environmental Working Group's website, too.
Request that your medical provider prescribe Tirosint and NOT Synthroid (or the generic version). The makers of Synthroid order supplies from the lowest bidder at the time they need them and cannot guarantee they are gluten free. Which is what every thyroid patient needs. At the very least, the fillers are cellulose and you don't need that, either. Tirosint is liquid T4 in a gelcap. Nothing else. You may need to actually demand this because it’s not as cheap (DUH!) as Synthroid and does not have a generic, but there were clear results in about 3 weeks after my switch. (extremities weren't as cold; I could sleep for more than 2 hours at a time; digestion regulated, etc.)
Walk. Walk a lot, at a leisurely pace, as often as you can. I realize you probably have ZERO energy for this, but it’s really important. It will eventually help you have more energy. If you can only do 5 minutes, then do 5 minutes. Maybe tomorrow, or next week, you can try for 6 minutes. But do what you can, as often as you can, but at a pace no greater than mall walking. After a while (and the endocrine system takes A LONG time to adjust to changes), you can introduce weightlifting for bone health and high intensity intervals, but you never need to do any type sustained cardio. This just teaches your body that you’re always in a panic, raises your cortisol level and brings you back to square one.
There is a lot more, but this will probably already have you crying and saying that you’re not going to do any of it. I get it. I didn't want to either. I thought it was the end of the world to never have bread again. But when I was cold all the time, wasn't sleeping more than 45-90 minutes at a time and I couldn't get out of bed because I felt like a run-over sack of potatoes, I started to make some changes. Five years later, I'm living as close to my old "normal" as I can remember. And when I want it... I make gluten free bread.
If you want to reach out directly, you are more than welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org. I do offer coaching. I start where you are. Together, we start with small changes and work up.
When you want to do your own research, and I HIGHLY recommend everyone does their own research, pubmed.gov is the place to start for the raw science.
In the meantime, please treat yourself kindly and be well.