This seems almost selfish to talk about with everything going on with my dad… it seems trivial in comparison. But, it’s something I’ve really been dealing with alone – and it’s something that will be part of my life until I die. That can be a hard pill to swallow.
A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that I knew I would one day develop.
When I was 16, my doctor noticed a goiter in my neck. (The same doctor who detected my brother’s heart defect and my father’s cancer, Thomas Marshall). The goiter was small, but there. It turned out to be that my thyroid was slightly enlarged, so, every year since I had gotten my thyroid levels tested, and everything was normal-ish until…
This past May, my Thyroid has gotten so large that you can see it when I speak. It presses on my esophagus and wind pipe all the time. It has grown large because it’s trying to fight against the thyroid antibodies that are essentially destroying my thyroid. In this process, my thyroid levels tank and I have to take a prescription which produces this hormone that is essential to the human body, but that I can no longer produce. My thyroid levels are low, and soon I will have to have my thyroid removed completely, making me totally reliant on medication for the rest of my life.
The thyroid plays so many super important functions. Most commonly known, is that it regulates the metabolism (meaning the metabolism of the mitochondria in our cells with produces energy). This means that I am exhausted easily and can sleep long hours and still not feel rested. It also means that my metabolism (the burning of calories) also sucks – hence my recent weight gain. I also suffer from other weird symptoms such as pain and numbness in my arms, and pale skin (despite going on vacation to sunny Mexico). There are also possible symptoms that I have yet to face such as frequent miscarriages and infertility.
I never thought at 22 I would feel so crippled by my own body. An autoimmune disease feels like such betrayal, and has been hard to wrap my head around. I have been quietly trying to process it and understand it these past few months. Mostly I’m scared. I’m afraid of being controlled by something so impactful for my whole life. I’m afraid of never having energy again, and afraid of never being able to look in the mirror and like the person and body that I see. I’m afraid that I will not be able to carry a child, my child, and experience pregnancy and birth – something I’ve never really been crazy about, but have some innate and primal need for. I’m scared, and I guess I hoped that by putting out there, putting it into words would make it not seem so scary.