It took me a while to get over my last doctor’s appointment. I was completely flustered, questioning myself and my reality. “Did that really just happen?” “Am I crazy?” No I’m not, and yes that really did. If you’re lost, go back and read my last post.
Now that over a month has past, some things stand out in my mind. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my endocrinologist didn’t order a test to detect thyroid antibodies when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. On the ultrasound my entire thyroid was red (read HELLA inflamed), so maybe that was enough evidence. But I had read a ton of personal accounts about people periodically testing their thyroid antibodies to track how their Hashimoto’s was going. I also read that women with elevated thyroid hormones were more likely to miscarry, so I wanted to know where I stood. The endocrinologist said that one in three people have positive thyroid antibodies, and that Kaiser doesn’t measure them at a numerical level, just positive or negative. She basically made me feel like it was barely worth her time to even put the order for the test through the computer. I felt defeated, like the whole system is against me, and I wasn't about to stand for that.
I know what its like to be a provider and work with patients who are not motivated to make changes in their lives in order to feel better or manage their disease. There is no magic pill I could give a patient that would make them lose the weight or learn how to read a nutrition label. It takes effort and commitment. That is the difference, these doctors ONLY want to give me pills. And, despite completely changing my life, (including not eating a drop of gluten for 3 months!) I’m somehow not the patient who you’re going to support by ordering complete lab work so she can continue to make good choices for her health. Mmhmm.
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I got my results back. My endocrinologist sent me a message saying that my TSH, T4 and T3 were right where they should be, thyroid antibodies were NEGATIVE, but I could still have Hashimoto’s. And then she gave me a prescription for Levothyroxine and Cytomel, to take instead of the one pill which appears to be working JUST FINE. I was pretty much on the floor after that.
There’s a lot to unpack in that one little message. The one thing that I thought I could pretty much count on to be positive was my thyroid antibody test. That was how I was able to understand what was going on in my body. My immune system was causing inflammation in my thyroid, and that made it so my thyroid couldn’t do its job. But no? That’s not what’s happening? I felt like someone pulled the rug out from under me. I googled “Hashimoto’s negative antibodies” and turns out there are a subset of people who have Hashimoto’s without having positive thyroid antibodies. The article said that this was likely the early state of the disease, and a milder form. Now, that really pissed me off. Because what I was experiencing was anything but mild. I literally had symptoms from head to toe. Western medicine, you really aren’t seeing me.
Then I read this article about a Canadian woman named Miriam Toews who grew up Mennonite, and then went on to become a famous writer who, no doubt, wrote about how whack it is to be Mennonite. But in a nice, Canadian kind of way. She writes about fundamentalism, the “culture of control”, and the subjugation of women. It started to remind me of healthcare, and my experiences on both sides of the curtain, as provider and now patient. Toews talked about the backlash she faced within the Mennonite community, and how she just wanted people to open their eyes and think, “maybe she is really talking about the hypocrisy of the intolerance, the oppressiveness, particularly for girls and women, the emphasis on shame and guilt and punishment”.
I couldn’t believe how true this statement felt for me. The emphasis that the endocrinologist put on my mental health, as if that was the cause of my thyroid symptoms, brought up deep feelings of shame. Instead of embracing a protocol that has my thyroid hormones in check and me feeling better, I got punished with two more pills to take. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Hashimoto’s is a disease that disproportionately affects women, and women have been historically dismissed and labeled ‘hysterical’ by doctors when it comes to diseases that don’t meet the eye.
One thing that almost 10 years in healthcare taught me is that when it comes to real health, the answer is always grey, never black or white. The doc who can’t be bothered to learn, listen and believe what their patient is saying is just upholding the status quo of the command and control culture in Western medicine. I get it. Because I’ve been there. Doesn’t make it right.
The last part of the quote from Toews really got me. She said, “We all have a right to fight in life”. It made me feel like I’m on the right path, because I’m still fighting. Fighting for my health. In a time when making cauliflower rice is an act of defiance, I give you cauliflower fried rice and pork stir fry.
Cauliflower Fried Rice and Pork Stir Fry
Makes 4 servings
For the fried rice:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1.5 cups frozen peas (if tolerated)
3 green onions
4 tablespoons duck fat (or solid fat of choice)
3 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 tablespoon dried kelp flakes
For stir fry:
3 cloves garlic
1 pound ground pork
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
4-6 cups stir fry greens of choice (baby kale, spinach, cabbage, chard, bok choy, etc)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (I used trumpet and oyster, yum)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 green onions
1. Heat large saute pan or wok over medium high heat. Add fat of choice. Use food processor to chop cauliflower into small rice like pieces, add to pan.
2. Use food processor to chop carrots, add carrots and peas to pan.
3. Stir in coconut aminos and kelp.
4. Continue to stir periodically, allow to cook ~15 minutes or until cauliflower has softened. Add salt to taste. Top with sliced green onions.
5. For stir fry:
6. Use food processor to chop onion and garlic.
7. Heat large saute pan or wok over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, season with salt. Let cook, stirring frequently until onions start to caramelize. Add ground pork, cook until browned.
8. Season with fish sauce.
9. Add in mushrooms, saute until browned. Add carrots, cook for additional 5 minutes.
10. Add greens, mix in to wilt. Top with green onions.