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I Fired My Doctor Today for the Good of My Thyroid Health

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I fired my doctor today.

I’m still in shock as I type those words as this decision was not one I made lightly. It was, however, made out of necessity for my own health, well-being and happiness.

I’ve been with the same doctor for almost 20 years. She’s seen me through many of my life’s biggest and even most difficult moments, from the pre-cancerous cells found on my cervix in my early 20s to the birth of two babies in my 30s. She’s been through a sensory processing disorder diagnosis with my son and an alopecia diagnosis with my daughter. To say we’ve been through a lot together is not an exaggeration.

My doctor is one of those doctors you don’t come across very often in family practice. She is kind, gentle and truly cares about her patients as human beings. She is the type of woman I would want as a friend. But what I finally came to realize today is that I do not need another friend. What I need is a doctor who will listen to me, advocate on my behalf and most importantly, not give up on me. And in that very important role, my doctor has been failing me.

It all started eight years ago after the birth of my first child. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disease where your body attacks your thyroid gland causing hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. My doctor explained this was a common disease among women and wrote me a prescription for a common drug used to treat hypothyroidism, explaining that once we found the right dosage I would feel like my old self again. I would soon find out, however, that things would not be that easy.

For me, the symptoms of this new illness didn’t come hard and fast. Instead, they developed over the years and came in stages. At first, I was overcome by debilitating fatigue. It was a tiredness so intense that it is truly hard to articulate in words. I would sleep for hours upon hours but it was never enough. I felt like a walking zombie – unable of being present or participatory in my own life. My doctor attributed this exhaustion to the lack of sleep that might accompany a new mom or perhaps even some type of postpartum depression. The only problem with that was our baby had been sleeping through the night since he was 10 weeks old. I was actually getting more sleep as a new mom than I ever had before and was incredibly content in my new role. I should have felt rested. And I should have fought back harder for my own health.

Then came the brain fog. This included memory loss and an inability to express my thoughts clearly and articulately. I would constantly fumble over words or even worse, completely lose my train of thought mid-sentence. As a communications professional, this has been the one symptom that has had the most impact on my life. It is an expectation in my field of work to be an excellent verbal communicator. But suddenly that piece of me where I had always excelled had just vanished like a puff of smoke. I remember relaying these concerns to my doctor, often in tears from the overwhelming frustration I felt. She would tell me this is just a normal part of getting older. But it certainly didn’t feel normal to me at 29 and it still doesn’t at 35. I should have felt as sharp and articulate as I had always been. And I should have fought back harder for my own health.

As the years continued, so did the symptoms ranging from somewhat minor things like an extreme sensitivity to cold or having dry skin, nails and hair to more noticeable things like the inability to lose weight and a short temper. With each new symptom, I became more and more determined to do something about this disease that was slowly changing me into a person I no longer recognized. As a logical person, I began doing my own research into Hashimoto’s. I read countless books on the topic, joined online support groups to learn what worked for others and what didn’t and even started to follow various medical journals to see what new information was coming out of current studies. Over the years, I would bring these learnings to my doctor using facts, figures and evidence to back up my ideas. I would talk to her about trying different kinds of vitamins or even implementing a specific diet that had worked for others. I would suggest a new medication to try out or different blood work to check. But each time, I would leave her office feeling more and more frustrated from her unwillingness to listen to me and try new things.

I should have known this wasn’t going to change. And I should have fought back harder for my own health.

But today was different. Today my doctor didn’t just refuse to listen to my suggestions or make excuses for how I was feeling. Today she said she needed to level with me. She told me she believed that the treatment we had been doing for the past eight years – the treatment that was not working – is the right course of action and the best that can possibly be done for me. That maybe I will just have to learn how to live with this disease and its debilitating symptoms and move on from this notion that I can feel like my old self again.

I knew then and there that her and I had finally come to an impasse because I refuse to believe that this is it for me. In order to get healthy and feel like myself again, I have to find a doctor who is willing to listen to me, to try new things with me and to not give up on me. I left the doctor’s office today in tears, feeling a flurry of emotions. I felt sad that this relationship had run its course, but I also felt incredibly empowered by this decision, even if it was a long time coming. I am finally fighting back and my journey to feeling like myself again starts today.

Getty Image by andrei_r

Originally published: April 2, 2018
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