IMAGINE waking up every day after a long night’s sleep feeling even more tired and groggy and, in some instances, experiencing inexplicable body aches. Added to that, you either experience rapid weight loss/gain, find it hard to concentrate and, in some instances, your hair falls out. Overall, you just know something is very wrong.
Now imagine going to see your doctor and get tested but then you’re told that you’re okay. So you go for a second, third, fourth, fifth and even sixth opinion and it’s all the same. By this time, you would think you’re insane, right?
This is the case with today’s FITC, Juelle Cadette.
The young author was made to feel like she’s a hypochondriac until she went to see the right doctor, who finally revealed to her that she was right all along: that she had a troublesome and difficult-to-diagnose disease.
Today, she opens up to The VOICE about it and urges anyone experiencing the same symptoms to get tested because they just might be suffering from the same ailment.
The VOICE: What is thyroid disease and what was your journey towards getting a diagnosis like before getting definitive results?
Cadette: I’ve seen close to six doctors since 2013. Thyroid disease is an invisible disease so even I didn’t take it seriously because at first I felt nothing. I didn’t realise the importance of diet until it really progressed. Over the years, dealing with all the symptoms and reading much more about the disease, I realised that for years I’ve been suffering with thyroid disease or, I guess, pre-thyroid disease, and I was not even aware that all of these things were connected.
I think in many instances the solutions presented were more or less band-aids to the issue. The problem with thyroid disease is that even though you take a test, you can still show up within normal range and the doctor would say you’re okay and that it’s probably stress, etc. But, you know better, you feel something is wrong and it can drive you mad — honestly.
The VOICE: Describe a bad day with thyroid disease.
Cadette: It starts with the fatigue. Many times, you hear someone say that they’re tired and it’s labelled as lazy. But fatigue is a real thing. There are days that I’m so exhausted, even after sleep, I cry to get out of bed. It’s a real struggle. Sometimes there is muscle pain; you stretch and it doesn’t help. If you’re someone who has to be constantly reading and writing, then concentrating can be a big hurdle.
Brain fog is frustrating. I will admit that I don’t suffer with it as much today, thanks to meditation practices, but it was a big issue for me before and on many occasions temporary memory loss. You’d forget names of people you know. Then there is the confidence part. That was hard for me because I’ve always been this very outgoing person. I feel kind of betrayed by thyroid disease and by my body.
The biggest blow to your confidence is dealing with people. Your friends, your family and even people you don’t know can be insensitive. You’d explain you are tired and they say you are lazy. They would see you gain weight and before saying hello, they would blurt out, ‘You really get big!’ or most recently, ‘You’re bigger than your mom!’ I mean, I do see myself before anyone else!
Most people think you are that way because you eat too much. But that isn’t the case. I don’t think anyone wants to be fat. I’ve learnt to be extremely patient. Before, I thought I owed everyone an explanation as to why I look different but slowly that developed into me not wanting to deal with anybody. Until I finally said, this is not you.
Through this experience, I’ve come to hate the word ‘just’. Everybody wants to give you an opinion because you’re just lazy or you just need to eat less or you just need to go out, without realising that this is a real thing. And doing these things doesn’t really work. It’s not until they are in the situation do they know. My day would end and I’m tired. Sometimes I fall asleep at my desk. But when I do try to go to bed, I’m up for hours. Insomnia is a big part of my day
The VOICE: One can imagine that it gets easier. In general, can one live a “normal” life with this ailment?
Cadette: You can. It starts with seeing the right doctor who understands and is thorough. I’m glad to say that I most recently have. The thyroid gland controls every function of the body and dealing with the symptoms of thyroid disease is frustrating. But you can live a normal life and with proper diet; sometimes you do not need medication.
I’m a voracious reader so I try to educate myself on this and through proper diet that takes care of your gut and liver, slowly your body would respond. Through eradicating foods containing gluten, soy, dairy (except goat’s milk or Kefir). You can live normally. Exercise helps but diet is the key to maintaining this.
The VOICE: You also show signs of another troublesome and seemingly unheard of disease, Celiac disease. What is that and what signs are you showing?
Cadette: Yes. Celiac disease is a digestive disorder triggered by gluten, which is found in rye, barley or wheat, and can affect 1 in every 100 people. I’ve experienced extreme gas, abdominal pains, sudden weight loss and especially irritability and mood swings. Also, my blood pressure spikes, the fatigue, heavy and extremely periods, sudden weight gain or inability to gain weight, hair loss, memory loss, suddenly dry skin and a swollen throat.
I thought I cut out gluten without realising that many things like malt, dressings and even the cereal we eat are coated with malt that contains gluten. The trip to the supermarket is a hard one because the variety is limited and when you get gluten-free foods, they are expensive. Also, few restaurants cater to gluten-free customers.
The VOICE: Finally, both thyroid and Celiac disease are seriously underreported and the sensitization efforts are not enough. What would you like to see take place to make people more aware of these diseases?
Cadette: I think too many of our agricultural practices now have led to an increase in auto-immune cases; the increase in stress, too. September is regarded as Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, so this is an opportunity for physicians and health care officials to speak on thyroid cancer, thyroid disease and its symptoms; reduced pricing on testing during that time, if possible and an opportunity to speak on other related autoimmune diseases which I’m sure plague many.
The health of our country is important and it’s sad that such a serious disease isn’t being spoken about like cancer or diabetes. In fact, you can get cancer and diabetes from thyroid disease. It’s important that something more is done.