Category: health

Well, I guess a name change is in order

So, if you know why my blog is now titled One Quarter of the Way to Menopause, then you know that I have been enjoying tampon free days now for like nearly 5 months– until this past weekend.  So, I guess now I will have to call this blog one year until menopause since I just reset that clock.  In some ways it was a relief, since it feels like I have been having PMS for at least 5 weeks.  If I had become any more bloated, I was going to have to purchase some maternity clothing.

Now, when you think that your period is gone for good, don’t get too awfully excited, because apparently if it comes back, you might feel like you should have been building an ark.  So, now I am 5 days into this unexpected period from hell which also came along with a sore throat and an impending blue moon during the first week of back to school.  Isn’t that special?

I backed off the hormone creams at least for the week in case they confounded my body and caused this flood.  I am 3 weeks into them and here is what I have:

  • I have slept better
  • I started my period again
  • I have experienced increased libido
  • I have not lost any weight
  • I have been walking and running 5-10 miles a week
  • I have actually gained 4 pounds
  • I am continually bloated to the point of distraction and despair [wtf]
  • I have been calmer and less lethal mood-wise
  • my hair shed has decreased
  • I have experienced a shoe crisis
  • I am a tiny bit less scattered
  • I do not have significantly more energy

I am also now taking the vitamin D mega dose, a multi vitamin with probiotics, saw palmetto [that’s a whole other story], cinnamon with chromium picolinate, and Diflucan

I am about to abort the Diflucan because it might be what has made me feel like total &*^( this week and made my throat feel like I swallowed razors [that stuff is freaking toxic].

I have not begun the LDN yet, which again, is a whole other narrative which I will tackle when I am not exhausted.

I am about to finish this cup of Holy Basil tea and go to bed.

Interesting Results

So, I got my labs back a week or so ago and everything was normal except for very low vitamin D, some individual low thyroid scores, way high thyroid antibodies, high triglycerides, and bad blood sugars.

So, I’ll start with those bad blood sugars since they concern me the most.  I have had a fasting glucose of 100 before.  I have had HbA1C’s of up to 5.9, but today I had an FBG of 99 and an HbA1C of 6 and I am a believer now-  it’s official… I am pre-diabetic.  I had a doctor tell me that a few years ago and I scoffed at him and that diagnosis, but it hit home today and I accepted it for the gift that it is.  So, even before speaking to my new hormone guru, I knew what needed to be done.  I have a plan; and it is to kick that bitch’s ass before she gets into my house.  Step one:  I downloaded a bunch of books onto my Nook about reversing diabetes and keeping blood sugar stable with diet and exercise.  Step two:  I started exercising like I should have been exercising all along.  My first weekly goal was to walk/jog 10 miles and I beat that goal with 2 days to spare.  Step 3:  increase veggies and fruits and decrease high GI foods and eliminate as much sugar as possible.  I have been trying to have protein at every meal and cut out sweets, but apparently sugar is my drug of choice and it is not easy.  I especially love sugar when it teams up with bad fat and white flour, like it does in donuts, but I am working on it.

So, yesterday, my appt day arrived where I got to drive 90 minutes to Greensboro and talk to this new holistic provider.  Once again, she is a Nurse Practitioner [pretty much the same thing or better than a PA and much more useful than most doctors] who specializes in gynecology and endocrinology.  She was trained out west and she is very much a healthy approach, clean living over a prescription provider.  She does sell supplements in her practice, but she is not a charlatan.  She is very quick and well-read and knowledgeable about what she treats.  She did not try to sell me anything, she assessed my labs with laser precision and gave me a diet and some prescriptions for supplements and natural preparations to take away.

I thought she was going to tell me to decrease my thyroid because my TSH was so low, but she didn’t!  She stressed the insignificance of this value, especially in relation to the individual thyroid values like Free T4 and T3 and said since those were low I could actually increase my Armour.  I have been on natural thyroid for at least 15 years and my life is worth living because of it- no exaggeration.  I was a mess on Synthroid.  I have said it to many:  it was like I was existing in this flat, gray world that suddenly burst into color like in the Wizard of Oz when I started on natural thyroid replacement.  I do self-titrate some, but have been afraid to ramp it up much to prevent going hyperthyroid.  It is also important to note that I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is the type of hypothyroidism that is autoimmune in nature and usually runs in families along the maternal line.  My body literally views my thyroid gland as a foreign and unwanted presence and is doing its level best to annihilate it.  Tammy commented that my antibody titers were the highest she has seen and asked if I grew up next to a toxic river.  So, given the level of my antibodies combined with a low Free T4 and T3, she said feel free to go crazy on the Armour.  I currently take 2 grains a day, one in the morning and one in the evening and sometimes titrate down to one in the morning and 1/2 in the evening.  So, I was ecstatic when Tammy said I could increase Armour.  I could take 2 in the morning and 1 in the evening or up to 4 grains a day with scores like mine.  Hot damn, maybe I can lose some lbs now, since clearly, I struggle to lose weight even when I am restricting calories now.   So, that was the first good news.

Next good news:  Tammy did not lecture me concerning my bad sugar scores.  She pointed them out and suggested that I begin by doing a yeast free diet for a few weeks to rest my adrenals and to rid myself of sugar/yeast which apparently causes all kinds of ill effects:  bloating, fatigue, mental fog, digestive issues, etc…  She also suggested that gluten free might the way to go from now on since many people with hypothyroidism are gluten intolerant and at the very least it would help with my blood sugar issues and overall general health.  I knew this and we discussed the book Wheat Belly which talks about the genetic mutations in wheat nowadays that makes it much higher in gluten and much more damaging to anyone with celiac disease or allergies or intolerances.

Next good news/bad news:  my vitamin D levels were bottomed out to the extent that it looks like I might be genetically predisposed to this malady.  I was like, “okay, what does low D cause?”  She said:  impaired sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity [oh noooo], increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer”.. basically all kinds of heinous things.  So, she prescribed 10,000 IU’s that I am to take 2x a week.  So, the bad news is that I have low D but the good news is that after treatment, I may utilize sugar and become less insulin resistant.  That is great because insulin provides keys to my cells so that sugar can go into the cells and be used and not stored in my liver and turned into fat when the keys don’t fit.

We finally got around to talking about my female hormones, which is why I was there, and Tammy agreed that I am a quarter of the way to menopause, well into almost halfway [which means I will need to change the blog name again soon].  My estrogen is still good [yay], but my progesterone and testosterone are low and so she suggested prescribing bioidentical creams of each for me to get some hormonal balance in this area.  I suggested that she put them into the same cream, but she said that this would not work because testosterone is energizing and so it needed to be applied in the morning.  Progesterone is sedating and should be applied at night before bedtime.  I sort of balked at the testosterone, because I was thinking I already have less hair in places I want it and more hair in places I don’t, but she said that is due more to imbalance that a predominance of one, and shared that testosterone deficiency causes lowered libido, brain fog, depression, low energy, fatigue, and belly fat.  She said she can look at a man and tell if his testosterone is low by looking at his belly.  So, with that, I was in.    These creams must be compounded so she faxed them to the local pharmacy that has those capabilities.

Finally, she suggested that with antibody levels as high as mine and the fact that my thyroid is autoimmune in nature, which makes me more susceptible to other autoimmune disorders like MS, diabetes, and ALS [eeekk], that I might like to try the off label usage of a drug called Naltrexone.  This is an opiate blocker that is prescribed in higher doses for heroin addicts and alcoholics, but in lower doses has shown promise in strengthening the immune system and assisting in lowering antibodies and reducing symptoms in MS and other autoimmune diseases.  I agreed to research it and possibly give it a try.  I have the prescription and I think I am going to give it a shot since the side effects are low and it could help in a number of ways.  The main side effect is increased or vivid dreaming, and that along with the testosterone cream I am applying at night might prove exciting.  If you are interested in researching this yourself, google low dose Naltrexone or LDN along with your personal autoimmune disorder keyword.

Ten reasons why I feel crappy today

Bean wants to know why I feel badly today and when I went to bring my son lunch money at work and he asked me to sit with him while he ate so we could talk and catch up, he asked:  “why do you look so sad?”  I really could not give him an answer.  The answer I gave Bean was ‘nothing specific,’ but really ‘nothing yet everything’ felt more appropriate.

So, I am writing to see if I can discover the answer.  I guess I could hang it on the menopausal coat rack, but that is becoming farcical at this point.

So, here goes.  First to define how I feel.  I feel lethargic and like I could cry if I had enough energy to put into it.  I feel tense in my shoulders and warm and yucky.  I feel unattractive and kind of sad.  I have no one reason, but I do have many.  Here are some:

1.  There are no clean bath towels in my house.  I am not sure where they all are– perhaps the same place as all of the teaspoons.

2.  My uterine prolapse has been bothering me the last few days, randomly and I am not sure why- so I have a physical heaviness in my pelvic region that makes me paranoid and causes me to google disorders and treatments.  I find myself making hypotheses like “having a tipped uterus makes one more likely to suffer from the “cele sisters.”

3. I spent over an hour today googling yoga positions that help with retroverted uterus or prolapse, but didn’t do any of them.

4.  My to do list– it is endless and I don’t seem to be making great progress lately.

5.  I have gray roots that are approximately 3/4 of an inch and they stress me greatly.  I am sick to death of coloring my hair.

6.  I am not eating well.  When I say that I am not eating well, don’t get the wrong idea.  There seems to never be a time where I don’t eat enough; I am not eating the right things.  Last night I skipped supper and then ordered Hershey breadsticks from Pizza Hut to eat at 10:36 pm.

7. I worry about the mildewy smell in my house.  My dehumidifier fills up very quickly and when my air comes on it smells mildewy.  I picture black mold in my crawl space and/or venting.

8.  I miss Bean.  The on and off nature of our relationship is unsettling and makes me feel unbalanced all the time.

9.  I feel like I should be doing so many things and yet I am compelled to do none today.

10.  Bean wants me to meet them to go hiking, but that requires a shower and me fixing my hair, and I am lacking energy and a towel.

Just Do It comes to mind just now, so I will.  I will just make myself take a shower using a pool towel and go and meet Bean and the little beans for a hike.  I will take the advice I give everyone else all the time and choose a positive space to occupy for at least part of this day.

9 vials of blood– 8.5 mil each

That’s how much blood was ordered drawn by my new menopause specialist, Tammy Worrell of Triad Integrative Wellness Center.  I found Tammy, who is a registered NP and not a doctor [not a big fan of doctors, myself], using an Internet search of women’s holistic care and natural hormone treatment in my area.  Of course, she is not a network provider for the state health plan of NC- of which I am a member- and so I have to pay her $150 per visit charge out-of-pocket and then file myself [for record of payment only], since BC/BS will pay 60% only after I meet a ridiculous $1300 deductible.  I had my first visit over the phone where I was asked many questions about my health history and my goals for the visit[s] to come.

My stated goals were:

1. to check hormone levels and obtain access to bioidentical hormone treatment if warranted

2. to have all of my thyroid levels checked and make sure that I am receiving optimal dosing of natural thyroid [I have Hashimoto’s Disease]

I told her of the issues I was having that I am attributing to menopause/perimenopause:  dizziness, eye dryness and irritation, wild mood swings, headaches, sleep issues, fatigue, loss of muscle strength, spaciness/mental fog… all of these could be related to thyroid or other issues just as easily, but it’s kind of nice to have one hat rack to hang them all on.

Tammy asks that you pay her a $100 deposit each time you make an appt in order to guarantee you will keep that appointment or cancel it in a timely manner [which seems counterproductive for women suffering from mental fog and memory issues].  She also asks that you sign an agreement that you will not file frivolous malpractice claims against her.  I went ahead and signed since I don’t make a habit of doing this, and feel like if I was going to take the time to file a claim against a health provider, it would not be a frivolous act and would be based on some serious misconduct.  However, both of these unusual requests make being Tammy’s new patient a little anxiety provoking.

Tammy stood out and was someone I might want to seek out for treatment because she is open to bioidentical and natural hormone treatment and provides treatment in a holistic manner [meaning the whole person mind/body/spirit].  I have been dealing with hypothyroidism for almost 20 years and have a great understanding of this condition and the way it affects me and needs to be treated.  In my experience, most general practitioners, gynecologists, and unfortunately even specialists in endocrine disorders, do not have an intricate or extensive knowledge about thyroid disease and how Hashimoto’s is unique in cause, symptoms, and treatment needs.  It is very disappointing to have a book/Internet knowledge about a condition that appears to exceed that of the person you are trusting to treat you.

I showed up at LabCorp on Monday morning bright and early ready to leave my blood when I was asked to sign a waiver and hand over a credit card stating that if my $3,469 worth of lab work was found non-covered then I would be responsible for payment on that card.  Wow, just wow.  I said, “hold on,” and called my provider to make sure that this lab work would be covered even though ordered by an out of network provider.  And… whew, yes… so, we proceeded.

Waiting for lab work now and about to make an appt to go in and discuss the results.  This summer has been hot as hell on earth and new occasional episodes of personal warmth [I cannot call them full-fledged hot flashes because I don’t feel like I might die during them, just very warm] make it even hotter.  I have never been so ready for fall before August!

I escape by reading about hiking the Appalachian Trail [but that’s another blog entry] since I am currently plowing through AT thru-hike memoirs and enjoying each hike vicariously.  Currently, I am on day 28 of 46 Days:  Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail.

Content Alert

So, today I changed the name of this blog to “One Quarter of the Way to Menopause.”  Oh, and since you read the word menopause in the last sentence and since it is a key word in the new title of my blog, you are likely to encounter talk here now about periods, hormones, hot flashes, and other things some men [& some women or young people] might be uncomfortable reading about or at the very least, uninterested in reading about.  So, here is your warning to leave now if you don’t want to hear about the last time I had a period. I understand that I am narrowing the focus of this blog pretty sharply and that is entirely okay with me.  I am writing in order to help navigate this new territory I seem to have stumbled into, and if you are stumbling round the same territory, you might be somebody I’d like to share information with.

One symptom of this new phase is that when I become tired, I literally cannot keep my eyes open, so I am about to have to go and sleep, but first I will explain how I came to decide I am one-quarter of the way to menopause.  It has been about 2 1/2 months since my last period, I think.  I have an app on my phone that could tell me exactly, but about 2-3 months seems about right.  According to what I have read lately, menopause is actually a state that is achieved after a woman has had one straight year with no periods, so I figure I could very well be one-quarter of the way there right now.  After I mark that one year point, I will be considered post-menopausal, which seems really unfair since I won’t get to spend much time being menopausal.  I have apparently been peri-menopausal for quite some time, but things kicked it up a notch here lately.  A sneak peek of some of the new symptoms I will write about when I can again keep my eyes open:  dry, red, tired eyes, dizziness, loss of muscle strength, irritability that can lead to occasional to frequent irrational anger/rage, fatigue, night-time tiredness that can literally result in eyes slamming shut for the night and not wanting to open right away in the morning, or random occasional insomnia, and fuzzy thinking that has made me forget the rest of the new symptoms.  So, if you are a woman some place between ages 40 and 59- welcome.  Let me hear from you.