Living With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Many of the people in my life don’t know this about me, but for 32 years I have been living with Vitiligo, a chronic skin condition that has caused the pigments in my skin to disappear.  When the symptoms first started I was still in high school. I was 17, looking good, and it scared the egotistical side of me.  It looked awful to me to see these patches of white showing up where once I was tan, but now these many years later I just look like I have really pale skin and freckles.  They aren’t sure of the cause of this disease and there isn’t a cure.  However, it seems that Hashimoto’s and diabetes tends to occur with people that have vitiligo.

That is where my story begins, I have been living with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for 30 years.  At first I developed thyroid problems immediately after I had my first son in 1986.  I had developed preeclampsia towards the end of my pregnancy and after he was born I found it difficult to loose the pregnancy weight I gained with him; before he turned six weeks old my doctor was prescribing thyroid medication. I was diagnosed as having hypothyroidism.

That began my seesaw life of thyroid medications.  At one point I was having blood taken just about every month to monitor my thyroid levels. The veins in my arms are permanently scarred.  (More about this in a moment.)

Less than two years later, when I tried to get pregnant again I was told by my doctor that it would be impossible for that to happen.  I had to tell my doctor that I was pregnant and it took 3 different pregnancy tests for one to turn positive but somehow during that pregnancy my thyroid levels leveled out and I was taken off my thyroid medication.  However, during that pregnancy I gained 50 pounds and staying off thyroid medication was very short lived, I didn’t even get to leave the hospital in 1988 after having my second son before I was in full blown hypothyroidism again.

Let me tell you it is not fun to be going through this disease while on active duty when your looks, weight, health etc are front and center in everything you do.  I spent the remainder of my time while I was active duty on a weight waiver.  I had so many people wanting to get me out of the service because I didn’t fit their idea of what a person my height should be.  It was a struggle at times, but just about the time I was ready to give up the fight, that person would be transferred or I would be and my life would be easier again for a while.

In 1992, the doctors found a solid nodule on my left thyroid gland.  This was in a time before biopsies were possible and due to the solid nodule there was a  possibility that I might have thyroid cancer, it was only a 5% possibility, but like I said there was no way to biopsy at the time so I made the decision to have that side of my thyroid removed as a preventative measure.  I don’t know how they do the surgery now in 2016, but at that time they said they would have to cut my carotid artery to get to it easier.  After I woke up I found out that during the surgery they found nodules on the right side as well, so they took out the whole thyroid. My memory is vague from my hospital stay, so to this day I don’t remember if they really did cut my carotid or not or if they actually had to cut both of them.  I also never did find out if that solid nodule was cancerous as a biopsy was never completed.  It was at this point simply through palpitating my thyroid that I was diagnosed with Hashimotos.

By the time I left active duty service in 1995, in less than 10 years after the first diagnosis, I had been on 32 different doses of thyroid medication.  My weight was slowly creeping up there where it was becoming obvious that I was overweight and I definitely didn’t meet my weight standards.  All I can say is thank God for the weight waivers.  They let me stay on active duty a whole lot longer than would have been possible without them.

My first waiver was right after my son was born in 1988, that waiver was for 3 months, it was just long enough to let me loose the 50+ pounds of weight that I needed to loose. (50 pounds in 3 months isn’t easy)  I had weekly weigh ins, and the week before the waiver expired I was still 3 pounds over weight. Without the waiver, they would have started my exit papers way before that.  Thanks to ex-lax, diet pills and extreme exercising and dieting I was able to lose those 3 extra pounds just in the nick of time, literally.  My next waiver turned out to be a permanent one without an expiration date, but it had to be renewed periodically to ensure that everything that was going wrong with my body were accounted for.  When I left active duty after 11 years, I was a good 50 pounds heavier than the ultimate goal for a 5ft tall person.  By that time I could do extreme exercise along with extreme diets and gain weight.  The total lack of a thyroid really messed me up in my ability to control my weight.  By that time dieting felt useless.

After leaving active duty, and becoming medically retired and a disabled vet, I tried hard to loose weight and tried to keep from gaining any more weight, and I did some really stupid diet plans.  I messed myself up more on diet pills and fen-phen in those years than I thought possible and still the weight kept coming on.  Then came the day that I just gave up.  If exercise and extreme dieting weren’t going to work to get me skinny, why do it.  In the last 20 years my weight ballooned up there to dangerous levels, I gained over 100 pound during these years.  I became prediabetic, I developed arthritis and degenerative disk disease, I started having dental problems, I developed sleep apnea, my thyroid related depression would rear it’s ugly head from time to time (more often than I care to admit), and other medical issues were occurring as well.

I would beg and plead with God to please take this weight off me. But I, ME, I didn’t do anything about it.  I had given up watching what I ate, I didn’t care how big I got, it didn’t matter to me that my body was falling apart and I was contributing to the destruction.  Until I read the verse about my body being a temple for the thousandth time. “1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) – 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  It was like a lightening bolt went through me, I was not honoring God with my body.

In October 2015 I started becoming proactive about my weight again.  I had a life change not a diet change.  With my husbands help I started watching what I was eating, and eating more of what I should be and a whole lot less of what I shouldn’t be.  I started staying away from the potatoes, the white flour stuff, the cakes and candies, and stuff that isn’t good for you.  And slowly, I have started taking off those extra pounds.  As of this morning I have lost about 35 pounds since October 29th.  I felt great being able to say during the holidays that I lost weight instead of gaining it.  Even with the change of life plan we are on, we were able to have a really delicious Thanksgiving and Christmas meal.  And when those occasions arise where the food plan isn’t possible, I no longer punish myself for falling off the diet wagon, since it isn’t a diet, we just start over the next day.  I love the fact that my clothes are starting to fall off me, that means that my honoring God and treating my body as a temple is working.  Do I wish the weight loss would be faster, heck ya, but it took me 20 years to put it on, with God’s help it will take me a lot less time to take it off.

I will always have Hashimoto’s.  There is no cure for it either.  I have never heard of a successful thyroid transplant, but then with the way the medical field is constantly changing who knows, that might be a possibility in the future. However, when searching for thyroid transplants, I learned that a medical research company has “successfully transplanted functional 3D printed thyroid glands into live mice”. Who knows, but maybe, just maybe this transplant is closer than we all think possible.

Now you know a little bit more about me.  I have one of those hidden diseases.  The kind where you can’t always judge a book by its cover.  The person I see in the mirror is probably not the person you see when you look at me.  I have those rose colored glasses on that let me see me as fully whole, fully healthy, and fully beautiful.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ghostmmnc
    Mar 16, 2016 @ 08:56:39

    I sure will, and thank you for your service in the Air Force, Charlene!



  2. ghostmmnc
    Mar 16, 2016 @ 06:21:40

    I’m glad all is getting back on track for you, and that you continue to be positive. I’ve been taking thyroid meds for years, so I can emphasize with you there. You were in the Service? What branch? My husband is retired Army. … Many blessings to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person


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