I felt like I was dying...

no really, at 26 I felt like my body was falling apart. Even though I had some answers, and knew I had a thyroid condition, my body was dysfunctional and I felt at my worst.

I've put in endless hours of research, going through tests, questioning professionals that are experts in their specialization, trial and error on my own body, learning everything I can about how my body works and what it needs, and putting in the work to take steps forward every day.

"Unseen struggles often make us feel the most isolated or the most strong. Regardless, they make us resilient."

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MIK'S STORY

In case it's helpful to you in your own journey, here's what I've walked through in more detail!
I started having digestive issues and bouts of fatigue and brain fog in college, end of 2010. Over the next four years, the digestive issues got worse. My stomach couldn't handle many foods I was eating, but I only had bad bathroom experiences at this time, thankfully no general pain yet.

In October of 2015, I was at my yearly gynecologist appointment and I distinctly remember the moment she told me something looked wrong with my neck. She had just finished the exam and I had sat up on the end of the table. She turned around and looked at me and said, you know, your neck looks really swollen, especially compared to the rest of your body. I'm going to suggest you go see this doctor to get it checked out to see if it is anything. As she was talking she wrote down a name and number on a business card, and handed it to me. I clearly remember looking up at her in that moment and being so caught off guard, yet slightly relieved, and in a huge fog.
In that moment, it was as if I suddenly realized how bad I had been feeling. It had snuck up on me, I realized I had been feeling anxious and depressed, fatigued and weak. Which had not previously ever been things I had dealt with. So I took the card from her, still in my lost and fogged state, I slowly got up, changed, and went to my car.

I called Stan first, then called the surgeon/doctor she recommended to me. I got an appointment fairly quickly. Stan came with me, I laid back on the table, and this surgeon, who I would come to really love, began an ultrasound on my thyroid. It was the most uncomfortable feeling. It was swollen and the pressure from something pushing down on it on all sides, let alone it being on my neck, felt so strange. She stopped the machine, cleaned my neck, and told me that she was diagnosing me with Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism - an autoimmune disease of the thyroid. Thankfully, I did not have any nodules or cancer. She told me that there were ways I could try to help it heal through natural means, but that she believed surgery could be helpful for me in a few years if none of that worked for me. My thyroid was swollen, hard and angry. It had progressed to such an extent that going to natural means might not be fully effective in my case. Still lost, overwhelmed, confused, and exhausted, I told her I would think about it and went to work.

I called Stan and asked him to call Dr. K (my surgeon/doctor) to confirm a few things for me. A few minutes later, she called me herself, and expressed the sweetest concern for me. She asked if there was anything she could answer for me and that she was there to help with those things, but I told her, with tears welling up in my eyes for no other reason other than feeling entirely overwhelmed, that I was having trouble processing all my thoughts and questions, and it was much easier for me then to have Stan relay them for me for now.

In the next several months, I saw my endocrinologist regularly and began a thyroid medicine schedule (started on Synthroid), I also began researching, found some helpful people and tools on social media, and started some supplement protocols after visiting some naturopaths. I started to feel somewhat better, a little more clear. I was still having the panic attacks that started for me in 2015, usually caused for me by a combination of exhaustion and emotional things. Thankfully, my depression had gone away when I quit the job I was in that demanded perfection and was emotionally traumatic (although I did learn amazing things there!), and went to a design firm that was more healthy in terms of expectations from fallible humans ;).

I started to go gluten free, at the recommendation of every doctor I spoke with. I did pretty well, but still had gluten at times, which if you're gluten intolerant or have celiac, you know there's no such thing as mostly gf! I was really struggling with wanting/needing some comfort food when I was feeling bad physically. I've always been a foodie, so it was difficult giving up many of the things I used to love and enjoy without pain earlier on in my life.

In 2018, I discovered I had necrotic tissue in my jaw from a wisdom tooth surgery my junior year of college. One of the four I had removed did not heal properly. I learned a lot in that time about how important mouth health is to the overall body! Stan drove me up to Dallas to have it cleaned out and a stem cell plug put in to help it heal properly. Let me tell you, with just laughing gas, that drilling and scraping was the weirdest feeling. Made my toes curl, but I'm thankful I typically do well with dentistry things, it was the blood draw for the stem cell plug that was more freaky to me! I also started to feel some bigger headaches, specifically what I can best describe as "brain pain" inside my skull, that was always in one spot. They were few and far between, and always when something really emotionally painful happened. Otherwise, I was doing okay, able to do most things I always did, but had a few bouts in the year of feeling awful for a few days at a time, I was gaining and losing about 10lbs every month. It would almost alternate months.

My neck was getting so swollen, and was so uncomfortable, I asked my endocrinologist about it. She sat back in her chair, looked at me, felt around, said she wasn't sure and referred me to an ENT. *Thankfully* Stan went with me to the ENT appointment shortly after. Just a warning this is going to make you angry ;). The nurse did their thing, Stan sat on a chair to the side and I was perched up on the table. The door opens, in walks a tall caucasian man dressed in a white coat looking at a clipboard. He's already talking, quite loudly actually, and says, "okay so we have a swollen neck." He turns behind him and drops the clipboard on the counter, still not making eye contact. Then briskly walks over to me with arms extended. He all but jams his hands into my very swollen and uncomfortable neck, making me jolt back. Remember, it barely felt like I could breathe to begin with - did not help to have someone pressing quite hard on it. I remember thinking, why in the world has this guy not even asked what's going on or what I'm feeling? He turns to Stan and said we need to do an endoscopy to see what's going on in her throat. I immediately said, it's not my throat that's swollen, it's my neck, like the outside. He looks at me and says, "You're neck isn't swollen, it's internal. You need an endoscopy to see what's going on." I asked him what that entailed and if he would be doing it himself. He explained the process to me and then said I'm going to step out for a moment, and you can discuss. I looked at Stan and as soon as the door shut, I said, "there's no way I'm letting that man put a scope up my nose and down my throat. He hurt my neck just pressing on it and giving me no warning." Stan agreed and equally as thrown off by this guy as I was. But that's not even the worst part. Dr. Z walks back in and says, okay what is it gonna be? I said I didn't want to do it today and pressed again about my neck being swollen, visibly swollen. He looked at Stan and spoke something is still in my head clear as day, he said, "There's nothing wrong with her, her neck isn't swollen, *picks up clipboard where I checked of anxiousness on the symptom list*, she has anxiety and she's making it up." Stan about leapt out of his chair he was so angry. (If you know Stan, you know he never ever gets angry. He's a peacemaker and always calm. I nearly hit the ceiling. I wish we had spoken up in that moment, if it had happened today, I definitely would have, but we were both in shock, and still so early on in this journey.

Later on, I went back to my endocrinologist. She asked me if we found out what was going on with my neck, and I told her how awfully he treated me. She looked at me and just tilted her head sideways and said okay. This response, combined with not-even 15 minute appointments where she did the same tests and only looked at my numbers, got her fired from my team :). He was clearly a colleague, and they were not putting patient care first. You know when you speak to a doctor who isn't in it for the people, and they make you feel like your experience and what your feeling in your body isn't real? It's the actual worst, and can make you feel like you're going crazy. But here's the thing, they're not in your body, you are!! Doctors, you need to listen. Good doctors, I know you already do and we love you for it :).

Around this time, I was starting to find a good team of doctors. I had my family practitioner, who specializes in thyroid conditions, a nutritionist who focuses more on overall health and root causes, and my surgeon. I had fired my endocrinologist, and my family practitioner was doing my labs and monitoring my hormones and thyroid levels.

I was starting to feel so bad. Stan was at work and a friend asked how I was doing. When he told her, she said that's not okay, have her call this doctor I used to work for, he'll get her in right away. I remember thinking it was a ray of hope and I was excited because of his reputation and her experience, but I was still weary of getting too hopeful due to past experiences. We walked into the appointment, and after he asked me to explain how I was feeling, he looked me straight in the eye, leaned forward in his chair, and said, "This is unacceptable. You shouldn't have to be feeling this way. You're 26." I nearly became a puddle on the floor. Tears came in a sudden burst in my eyes, walls came crashing down, my heart released and softened. I felt seen for the first time. A doctor finally saw my pain, and understood it even though he wasn't walking through it himself. He went on to describe things and make recommendations relating back to how I was feeling, and he did it in a way that made it seem like he knew exactly what was going on, without making me feel like he was putting words in my mouth. I was sitting there saying "yes, exactly!" so many times. We walked out and I cried in the car. I told Stan I finally felt some relief and like we had a plan.


By mid 2019, my neck was getting more and more swollen, and making it difficult to hug people, swallow, breathe and talk at times. I remember it being so uncomfortable. In September, in a very distinct moment, I was driving and about to pull into our neighborhood, when I felt the left side of my body from my shoulder down go almost numb, more like it was not getting any circulation but it was past the pins and needles feeling. Since that moment, my body went haywire. I still don't know if that event was responsible, or just a response to something else going on. By this time, my "brain pain" had increased and would occur in the same area for any emotional things, along with some deeper critical thinking activities. My digestion wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either. I was feeling more muscle pain and fatigue. So I made an appointment with my doctors individually, they spoke to each other after and compared notes and opinions on a care plan for how we would proceed, (an actual miracle -  I have the most amazing team of doctors and it's all God's doing). They told me they recommended surgery to remove my entire thyroid. They both are not pro-surgery for this sort of thing, but in my case, it was so far gone and was wreaking havoc on my body. I was all over the place, a constant moving target - and like an onion, we couldn't peel back the layers beneath until we got that first one to be steady. And then the craziest thing happened. Dr. L (my nutritionist) asked me if I had a surgeon in mind already, and I said I did, then he said great, and I would also recommend Dr. K, she's the one I recommend all of my patients to even if they're not local, from all over the country. She's the best. I couldn't believe it. She was the same surgeon who diagnosed me, who had shown me such kindness, had checked me yearly for nodules, and treated me with gentleness and respect. What a God-moment!

I was terrified, but I called Dr. K and made the appointment to discuss surgery. She did another ultrasound and agreed that surgery was appropriate, if not even necessary, for me. We went over the risks and that she would need to keep me overnight to monitor for internal bleeding (which many thyroid surgeons do not do). She explained to me that I could have vocal chord stretching, which would cause me to not be able to speak well for a few months, and also that there was a possibility of my parathyroid glands not coming back after they're removed from my thyroid, meaning that I would need to be on calcium supplements for the rest of my life or go into cardiac arrest. Very comforting. But we knew we would be surrounded in prayer and would take the risk. We scheduled the appointment for early January 2020 and she recommended a hospital nearby that was her favorite to operate in and excellent in patient care.

The night before my surgery, I went to a worship night at our church. Stan and a bunch of our close friends work at our church, so everyone had already been praying, but that night so many of our loved ones and pastors came to lay hands on me and pray for the surgery. I felt such a calm and peace, and felt God confirming this was the right path to take. He was making it so easy for me after it had been so difficult and confusing, and I knew it was right. I felt peace.
I showed up at the hospital with my family and got the paperwork started. A sweet mentor was already there and prayed for us again -  I could not believe the kindness. Then Dr. K walked out and said my insurance company said it didn't need authorization before surgery - their office sent all the info even though our insurance said they didn't need it - but now they were saying they did, and somehow were having issues. There was a whole big thing here, but what I loved and thought was quite hilarious was how upset Dr K. got. We heard her telling a peer down the hallway how messed up it was and how there's this young lady waiting for a necessary procedure and is all ready for it and mentally prepared and the insurance company didn't have their stuff together.
SO I went to the worship night again that night, got more prayer, met friends at the hospital in the morning, we prayed again. 
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They got me ready, I asked the anesthesiologist for a little "cocktail" before they get started to help me relax, and all I remember are the big round lights in the operating room. It was black for a while, then I came to. Heard the sound of footsteps and nurses talking, monitors beeping. I felt someone next to me at a computer, then my attention went to the throbbing pain in my neck. I made a face, eyes still closed, and barely awake. The nurse told me I had just gotten out of surgery, and asked if I was okay. I said my neck hurts. And she offered me a cough drop. A little bit later, they brought me up to the recovery room where they told me my family was waiting for me. I remember the bumps on the ride up, the elevator dinging, the breeze on my face of people walking by. Then felt a sigh of relief come from my family as they wheeled me into the room. I still couldn't open my eyes at this point, but I could feel their energy and heard them talking with the nurse staff and Dr. K. My parents left for a bit and Stan sat beside me. 
He leaned up against the side of my bed and said he was so happy I was okay. I was feeling a little more myself by this point, so I turned my head toward the sound of his voice and stuck out my cough drop. That made him laugh pretty hard, considering it was so random. I opened my eyes a bit later and started to wake up. Some friends came in and out to check on us and the nurse staff was so kind. The hospital was brand new and so nice, my dad was calling it "Surgery by Marriott". Thankfully, Stan had a pretty comfy chair to sleep on that night. Although the poor guy didn't sleep because he was so worried. I was breathing really shallowly from the narcotics, so at times he would wake up to make sure I was still breathing. I felt so much love from him during this whole experience. It was a level deeper than I had seen from him before, mostly because neither of us had been in a situation like that up until this point! But it was really sweet. And he took great care of me in the weeks that followed as I recovered.
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MIK'S JOURNEY

MIK'S JOURNEY

In the summer of 2020, my body started rejecting anything that wasn't a fresh fruit or vegetable. All it wanted was water and fresh, whole foods. I would gag anytime I smelled or tried to eat something else! And no, I wasn't pregnant, my body just keeps me on my toes like that ;).

This was right in the middle of me being really sick with my autoimmune and health issues. So I wasn't surprised, but honestly it was kind of nice my body was naturally craving these things because I was needing to work toward changing to a whole food, plant based diet anyway! It helps eliminate inflammation in the gut amongst lots of other things!

Now, because of how my body works, I do not eat gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and many spices my body's not loving right now. I focus on eating intuitively, and I eat a lot of food! I love food! Remember, every body is different. We all have different needs. This is what works best for me! But I do believe that all of us can benefit from eating whole food, plant based diets :)

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Why eat whole, plant based food?

Beach Dweller. Adventurer. Interior Designer. Creative.

Usually somewhere on a beach, petting a dog, munching on some popcorn, and making dumb jokes.

Jesus, my family and friends are most important to my heart. I'm a helper/peacemaker/achiever on the enneagram and will be your friend for life.

I love animals, exploring new places, learning new things, belly laughs, binging good tv shows, and tasty food ;) I'm a big fan of sharks and ocean conservation. I think in another life I would be a marine biologist!

In 2015, I discovered I have an autoimmune called Hashimoto's, which eventually led to surgery years later, more sickness, more learning and then a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a TBI (brain injury) and a hyperactive nervous system. 2020 was a year of feeling awful, but pushing to learn all I could about what was going on in my body. In March of 2021, I started to take a turn for the better, and the healing process finally began. I'm still walking in healing, having grace for my body and mind, resting, and being mindful of living as calmly and peacefully as I can.

My health issues aren't who I am, but they have taught me patience, deepened my compassion for others, and gave me a passion for wellness. I'm an advocate now for taking care of the mind, body and spirit, and slowing down from crazy busy schedules :)

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In the summer of 2020, my body started rejecting anything that wasn't a fresh fruit or vegetable. All it wanted was water and fresh, whole foods. I would gag anytime I smelled or tried to eat something else! And no, I wasn't pregnant, my body just keeps me on my toes like that ;).

This was right in the middle of me being really sick with my autoimmune and health issues. So I wasn't surprised, but honestly it was kind of nice my body was naturally craving these things because I was needing to work toward changing to a whole food, plant based diet anyway! It helps eliminate inflammation in the gut amongst lots of other things!

Now, because of how my body works, I do not eat gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and many spices my body's not loving right now. I focus on eating intuitively, and I eat a lot of food! I love food! Remember, every body is different. We all have different needs. This is what works best for me! But I do believe that all of us can benefit from eating whole food, plant based diets :)

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STAN'S JOURNEY

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