Kimberley Andrews, Thyroid Thrivers
-59 years young
Lichen Sclerosis and Vitiligo
-Diagnosed in 2013
Everyone would like to know their root cause, including me. But, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I have 4 autoimmune conditions and regardless of where they came from, I’m not going to let them win.
I have Hashimoto’s, Vitiligo, Pernicious Anemia and Lichen Sclerosis (look that one up, it’s no fun).
When I was 2 years old, my Mom divorced my Dad, something about domestic violence but I don’t have any memories. Not too long afterward, I had to have my tonsils out. I had nonstop infections since birth (along with nonstop antibiotics) and in those days, a tonsillectomy is what they did. Hmmmm, extreme stress, massive doses off antibiotics since birth and surgery at the age of 2…….could this be my root cause?
When I was 5, my Dad signed away all his legal rights to me (I hadn’t seen him since the divorce) and my Mom got remarried. Her new husband adopted me and became my “new Dad”. Within months, he was molesting me. Hmmmm, trauma…….could this be my root cause?
Needless to say, my home life wasn’t ideal but there was a bright light. I began taking ballet lessons at the age of 6 and by the time I was 8, I was dancing in the Nutcracker with Oakland Metropolitan Ballet Company. I went on to dance in a total of 8 Nutcracker seasons, Swan Lake, Pas de Quatre, Peter and the Wolf and countless other ballets. Although I loved dancing, ballet dancers lead strenuous lives. I maintained a 4.0 GPA in school and was in class or rehearsals 7 days a week from 3pm, sometimes until 1 or 2am and it was back to school the next morning. The physical endurance of a ballet dancer is unlike any other athlete. Hmmmm, long hours, little sleep, strenuous physical exercise….could this be my root cause?
I got married at 18 and moved to Germany where my new husband was stationed in the Army. Not until I was there, did I come to know that he had become addicted to heroin and seemed to having a drinking problem as well. The good news is I got my BS in Dietetics and Nutrition courtesy of the Army. We struggled through 16 years, had 3 children and a horrific divorce (he was cheating and his girlfriend and I were both pregnant at the same time and we all worked for the same company. Sounds like a soap opera, right?). Hmmmm, pregnant, stress from a tumultuous divorce…..could this be my root cause?
During this pregnancy (#3) I had bronchitis which turned into walking pneumonia for most of the pregnancy along with continuous antibiotics. I had also taken birth control pills for many years and had an IUD inserted only to have it embed itself in my uterine wall and have to be surgically removed. In my 20s I had back to back urinary tract infections that led to surgery but not until after I had taken enough antibiotics to sink a ship. Hmmmm, shall we just add these to the list of potential root causes?
When my daughter was 4, I remarried and had child #4, my 3rd son. During this pregnancy I gained 103lbs. As a Nutritionist (and having had 3 prior pregnancies) I knew something was wrong. I repeatedly spoke to the Dr about it and he told me it was because I was ‘older’ (38) and the pregnancy was more stressful on my body than the first 3 were. I also developed Plantar Fasciitis which lead to over 15 years of cortisone injections every 12 weeks (root cause?). When my son was 9 months old and I had been following WW religiously for 7 months and only lost 6 lbs, I went back to the Dr. This time I packed a little overnight bag and sat in his office and said, “Something is wrong with me and I’m not going home until you find out what it is”. I guess he took me seriously because they drew 23 vials of blood. 3 days later a Nurse called me and said “Honey, we are so sorry. We know what’s wrong, your thyroid isn’t working……at all”. My TSH was in the 800s! I can’t believe I’m not dead. I went back in and they put me on 75 mcg of Levothyroxine and told me I would have to take it for the rest of my life and sent me away.
I went about life and was able to lose about 80 lbs. I still wasn’t feeling right but wrote it off to being 40 with 4 young kids, a full time job and little sleep. Then life really hit hard. My husband passed away. He was only 56 and died of complications from medical conditions caused by Agent Orange that he was exposed to in Vietnam. Now, I was a single Mom (again) with 4 kids this time and suffering from immeasurable grief. I had to keep going so I just didn’t think about how bad I felt and forced myself to make it through each day. Hmmmmm, death, tremendous stress……root cause?
Fast forward to 2 years ago. 3 of my children were living on their own and my youngest graduated HS and was getting ready to start college. Life finally seemed to be easier. Less stress, only 1 at home, some financial security, WOW! The only thing that was really bugging me was the weight that had crept back on. I decided to be diligent and lose it. With all my nutritional knowledge, I couldn’t get a pound off! I went to the gym, wore a body monitor that tracked my sleep, my caloric burn, my activity level and more and just couldn’t lose any weight. I finally got so desperate that I had weight loss surgery and had a lap band installed (foreign object in my body, Hmmmm……root cause?) I lost 20 lbs but couldn’t lose anymore. This is when weird things started to happen. I would have spells where I felt like I was trying to move through water. My limbs felt so heavy that it seemed like I couldn’t lift them. I had dizzy spells and saw spots in front of my eyes. I was sleepy all the time and the 20 lbs I had lost was starting to creep back despite eating 900 calories a day. I had 2 episodes where I had to pull over while driving home from work so I didn’t fall asleep and once I got home, I literally drug myself up the stairs to my bed and slept until the wee hours of the morning (It looked like a movie scene, me on my hands and knees dragging myself up the stairs).
I went to my PCP, he did labs and said “everything is in range”. I went back to the weight loss surgeon, he said “I don’t know what to tell you.”So, I went to a NP who put a testosterone pellet in my butt and then my hair starting falling out. I went to another MD who told me I needed gastric bypass surgery and a sleep study and a psychologist. I was so frustrated, I KNEW something was wrong! I got my PCP to refer me to an Endocrinologist (after much begging) and finally I heard the words I’d been searching for, “You have Hashimoto’s”. Some might think me crazy but, I was so relieved! I finally knew what was wrong. Now that I knew what was wrong I was empowered to do something about it.
My research began and as I learned more about the autoimmune disease I was just diagnosed with, I realized I had 3 others. No one had told me they were autoimmune conditions so it never crossed my mind that they could be connected. Luckily, it was easy for me to figure out how to begin making diet and lifestyle adjustments, ask for the right tests and add the proper supplements. There was no turning back at this point. I was on my way to a quality of life that I had been denied for a long time.
I have been able to successfully put all 4 of my autoimmune conditions in remission (my last TPO antibody test was ‘3’) and I feel like I’m 30 again. I’m losing the weight (almost 60 lbs so far).
The best thing to come of this was it reignited the passion I had for Nutrition years ago, when I got my degree. I decided to go back to school and update my knowledge along with taking some additional private courses. I am proud to say that I am now a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Certified Thyroid Health Coach. I have recently started my own business and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help others. It’s critical to me to make sure anyone that I am fortunate enough to work with, never has to go through so much uncertainty and feel so lost and alone.
How important is your root cause? As long as you know you have one and work on the solution, moving forward is all that matters.
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