Monthly Archives: September 2015
Hair loss. Check. Fatigue. Check. Weight gain. Check!
All the signs pointed to a thyroid issue. According to Google I was dealing with hypothyroidism. I called my mom that day to vent about feeling so tired and not my usual self. This had gone beyond the usual stressful week or month. It had been such a long struggle that I was starting to feel depressed. My mom said, “It must be your thyroid! You need to go to the doctor.” I struggled with symptoms for almost a year before I finally went to a specialist to get my thyroid checked. Thyroid issues run in my family so I wasn’t in disbelief that this could be the case. After running several blood tests and doing a full-body wellness assessment with a specialist it was confirmed. “You have Hashimoto’s.” My facial expression must have been priceless. All I could think of was, “What is that and is it serious?!” The doctor informed me that Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid. The treatment was to manage the condition and that it wasn’t curable. My lifestyle would drastically have to change or else I could be at risk for other health issues. I was relieved on one hand to finally know what was wrong and why I felt the way I did. On the other hand, I was scared about the management of such a mysterious condition with no known cause or cure.
Stress? Oh stress. Yes. I feel like this word has always been a part of my life. I’ve worked hard as long as I could remember. In the past four years I had completed a postdoctoral fellowship, started a new job, moved out of state and back, started my own business, got married, and bought a house. Stressed? Who me?! The doctor’s first order was to stress less. Every time I experienced stress my immune system would start attacking my body. It was stress that triggered this disease and it was stressing less that was going to change my life. The more I researched Hashimoto’s I found that it is a condition that impacts mostly women. In fact, women are seven times more likely than men to get it. I also learned that it impacts your hormones on a serious level causing everything from painful periods to infertility. I felt as if my life had changed for a reason. Was this the universe telling me to slow down and relax? Whatever the message I was hearing it loud and clear. My plan was to take control of this condition and to make positive changes that would improve my mental and physical health.
Most thyroid conditions require careful diet and exercise. I chose to go on the Autoimmune Paleo-Protocol, which required eliminating foods that could irritate the gut and cause inflammation activating the immune response. Goodbye gluten, grains, sugars, nuts, seeds….. and many other yummy and delicious foods. I also started doing acupuncture, mind-body medicine, yoga, meditation, and relaxing self-care including massages, visits to the beach, leisure reading (non-work related), and adopting a dog. Every day is a process and I must remember that attitude is everything. I have really benefited from the support of other women. It’s amazing to hear about other women’s stories with thyroid conditions. I feel supported and validated. I was recently in a group for business development and opened up about my struggles with Hashimoto’s. It turned out that three of the six members were dealing with it in different stages! My mission is to talk about it and to help spread awareness about the importance of thyroid health. I am so thrilled that Words, Wine, and Women have teamed up with ThyCA: Thyroid Cancer Survivor’s Association. It is an opportunity to get the word out there to check your thyroid and educate yourself about thyroid conditions that affect women.
Written by Dr. Shannon Chavez
I’m sure that is what many people thought (or even said) when Viola Davis made her acceptance speech at the 67th Prime-time Emmy Awards this past Sunday night as she walked away as the first African-American woman to win the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
What started all of this?
Was it Halle Berry in 2002, who is still the only black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress, who mentioned “…every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance tonight because this door has been opened” during her acceptance speech?
Or was it Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech earlier this year that demanded “wage equality once and for all” and now Voila Davis’ proclamation that “[t]he only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
Or is it simply the other countless speeches, articles and studies written each and every year about the lack of roles and opportunities for women in Hollywood.
But to Halle, Patricia and Viola, you won? Isn’t that enough? When you stand to accept an award, must every woman make some political statement about the plight of Hollywood and opportunities for women in this country?
The orchestra conductor need not worry about the length of this answer because it is short and sweet – yes.
The question is not “how dare she make these types of statements at such prestigious occasions?” The real question is “how can she not?”
How can she not when only 31% of speaking roles in films are given to women and only 23% of protagonists in film are women. And behind the camera on the tip top floors of the high rise buildings in the C-suites, film studio heads are 94% white and 100% percent male while television network and studio heads are 96% white and 71% male, as reported by the 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report.
I’m sure Viola Davis would have preferred to stand in front of the Emmy audience and simply thank her family and friends for all of their support. I can only imagine how Patricia Arquette’s mind must have been racing as she walked up the stairs to accept her Academy Award asking herself over and over again if she would truly speak the words written on the note in her hand. But they did and they spoke for all of us, not Black women or Hispanic women or Asian women – women period. That is no small feat.
It is a complicated issue for which right now we are only armed with a simple solution: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and we won’t stop, we can’t stop until the playing field is leveled.
As happy as I am for Viola Davis’ award at the Emmys (and I am ecstatic), I am equally disturbed that in 2015 we are still experiencing these types of “firsts”. And for the millions of dollars we hear that actors are receiving everyday for numerous roles to know that the woman who is possibly standing right next to them in the movie/television promotion poster doesn’t make the same wage is mind-blowing.
So thank you Halle Berry, Viola Davis, Regina King, Patricia Arquette, Meryl Streep, Dame Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Kerry Washington, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Mindy Kaling, Geena Davis and many many others for having the courage to use “your time to shine” for us. Ladies, continue to squeak that wheel until, as Harriet Tubman stated, “we all can cross that ‘line’”.
“Doesn’t everyone?” was my response to the nurse practitioner after she ran her three fingers down the front of my throat, asked me to swallow and said, “I feel something.” To be 100% accurate, my response was, “Oh, my Adam’s Apple? Doesn’t everyone have one?” To which she replied, “Not women.”¹
In an instant, I went from the busy “self-centered” (“self-absorbed” is probably more accurate) carefree life of a 26-year-old MBA student who just applied to law school to a completely confused and frightened kid calling to make an appointment with a surgeon so I could get this “neck lump” checked out.
My mother and I sat in the surgeon’s office as the doctor explained that I potentially had a thyroid issue and he would need to take a needle – a long thin needle and remove fluid from the lump in my neck in order to truly assess the situation. What resulted from that fine-needle aspiration biopsy as the discovery that the one side of my thyroid gland was enlarged and definitely needed to be removed.
Oh but there was more…
There was also the possibility that my thyroid gland was cancerous and would need to be removed in its entirety; however, we wouldn’t and couldn’t know for certain until I was on the operating table. I sat there dazed as my mother asked, “Will she still be able to have children?” and other questions that if my brain was working maybe I could have asked but the words, “thyroid cancer” was the only thing I could hear.
My mother and I left the doctor’s appointment separately as she had met me there and she asked me if I was okay as I got into my car. Of course, I told her yes but “HELL NO” was what was really going on in my head. Is there cancer in my body? Will I need chemotherapy? Radiation? Will my hair fall out? Will I be able to finish graduate school? Go to law school? I had lost my father to lung cancer five years earlier so his experience, my devastation due to losing him was my only point of reference at this point. I thought of my family. I couldn’t imagine what my mother was thinking and feeling. I had no idea how I was going to tell my brother and sister.
And then my main questions hit me, “What in the hell is a THYROID and how in the hell did mine get CANCER?”
What resulted from that doctor’s appointment was a surgery, a cancer diagnosis, the complete removal of my thyroid gland, a 25+ lb. weight gain, over 2 years of constant doctor’s appointments, body scans, radioactive iodine treatments and a lifetime of management and I’ll be honest “worry”….never-ending concern and worry about reoccurrence, the effectiveness of drug regime and my future.
But I was blessed. I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer, which accounts for 90% of the diagnoses and the cancerous cells tend to grow very slowly. I also consider it a blessing that I learned how precious life is at such a young age.
But like so many others, at one time in my life, I considered and actually told people that thyroid cancer was “the good cancer” to have. I shake my head now as I type this thinking how crazy I must have sounded. No cancer is good cancer. That is why they call it “cancer.”
That’s one of the reasons why I and Words, Wine and Women are so honored to be working with
ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association. Even though I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer many years ago (how many is not important – a true lady never reveals her age), ThyCa has helped me so learn so much about living as a thyroid cancer survivor and the latest research regarding thyroid cancer.
Now I’m dedicated to is helping spread the word about thyroid cancer awareness, encouraging people to “get your neck check” and if you have been recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer or are living as a survivor, know that you are not in this fight alone.
In order to show your support for ThyCa and dispel the myths about Thyroid Cancer, use the hashtag #TruthAboutTC today! For more information about thyroid cancer and early detection, visit www.thyca.org.
¹Women actually do have Adam’s Apples; however, due to the normal higher percentage of body fat of women, a female’s Adam’s Apple is normally unseen.