So the question is always how to begin. I could begin at the beginning, but at the time I didn't know what the beginning was. Or what, for that matter, was I beginning. Instead I will begin in the middle, because it was in the middle when everything started or so I thought.
On October 15th, 2010 I woke up for work without an alarm clock. It wasn’t unusual for me to wake on my own; I have woken without an alarm clock for many years, even though I always set one, just in case. On that particular morning I woke at 4:45 am, at least 2 hours earlier than usual. My morning routine generally began with showering, blow drying my hair, grabbing a piece of fruit and running off to my acupuncture office. That wasn't always my routine mind you. But as years went on, I found it more and more difficult to get my paperwork done as well as see all of my patients in the course of an eight hour day. Thus my answer to this problem was to extend my day on both ends and quickly grabbing something here or there for breakfast or lunch.
As I said, I woke that day at 4:45am. I was startled me out of my sleep by an unusual pounding in my chest and a strong continual swishing sound in my ears, much like that of my horse swatting flies with his tail,. Alarmed and extremely anxious, I sat up in bed and assessed my surroundings. My husband, Anthony lay next to me quietly sleeping. The room was dark, so it was not yet time to get up. The dog was lightly snoring so as far as I could tell there were not any outside noises that could have startled me and, I did not have a nightmare. I took a quick look at the clock. 4:45 am. "OK" I thought, "I have almost 2 hours to get some sleep" so I lay back down. As I settled in under the soft covers, the sound of the movement of the sheets around my body momentarily drowned out the loud swishing noise in my ears. Once in a comfortable sleeping position, the pounding started in my chest all over again. Then the swishing in my ears began, both at a very quick pace. I took a few breaths, shook my head as if to shoo the sound away and realized that sleep was not happening. I decided to get up and got ready for work.
I worked a full day then came home had dinner. Later that night I drifted off to sleep around 11pm only to wake at 3am. The sound of my heartbeat in my ears had returned with a vengeance. OK, I know I had been working a lot the last...12 years, missing yoga class, always promising myself that I would start meditating, relaxing or take a vacation…tomorrow. What better time could there be to start doing something for myself like meditating, but at 3am? So I followed my breath, in and out, deep and rhythmic....lub dump, lub dump, lub dump went my heart. The swishing became louder and louder in my ears. Stronger and stronger in my chest until it felt as it would explode! I was at my wits end and decided to retreat to the most relaxing place on earth....my rocking chair.
For 14 nights I started out in bed, only to find myself in an absolutely anxious state within 30 minutes. Moving to the living room with my pillow and blanket wrapped around me I curled up in my rocking chair hoping for some rest. The rhythmic rocking of the chair and squeaking of the wood as well as my upright position seemed to drown out the sounds within my head and beating within my chest. I wasn't able to truly "sleep" but at least I was more peaceful all the while wondering why I could not calm myself down.
Anxiety stricken, I told my husband I needed to find a doctor who could talk me off the ledge. I needed a professional to tell me that I had been working too hard the past 12 years as a fire fighter and acupuncture student, then as a fire fighter Acupuncture Physician and finally running my own full time holistic health clinic. I needed someone in a white lab coat to give me permission to take it easy, work less, and take a vacation! What I got instead completely rocked my world!
As I sat on the exam table across from the Osteopathic Doctor (D.O.) I had found in the yellow pages. (Dr. K had the same last name as the orthopedic that took care of my pelvic fracture 2 1/2 years prior, so he seemed like a decent choice). Once in the exam room I explained how I really didn't know why I was there because I was certain that I would never take an anti-anxiety pill or anything else he might prescribe to calm me down. I told him that I tend to work too much and that my heart rate has been 100-110 for the past 2 weeks causing me to be completely unable to sleep. He looked up from his clipboard, over the tops of his crooked glasses and said "Do you think it has anything to do with that big goiter on your neck"?
"Goiter"! I replied. "What goiter? I don't have a goiter"!!!!! "Darling" the doctor replied, "you've got a goiter". He led me to a mirror and palpated my throat in front of it, outlining a huge and protruding thickness of my neck. My heart sunk as I desperately tried to come up with a reason for this lump (literally and figuratively) in my throat. The next hour was filled with blood tests, ultrasound and tears as I called my husband to inform him that it wasn't stress that was keeping me awake at night, it was much more serious.
Dr. K had the results the next morning (he only did a T3, T4 and TSH) when he called to tell me I had a hyperthyroid. Since he did not perform an antibody test, he was unable to diagnose the actual reason for my over active thyroid. Was it Grave's disease? Hashimoto’s? Thyroiditis? Nodular goiter? What exactly was causing my thyroid to enlarge?
I asked Dr. K what the course of action was. His explanation was almost as casual as if I were making an appointment to get my legs waxed. "Oh, it’s simple. You take a radioactive iodine pill, stay away from pregnant women and children for 5 days and then, after your thyroid dies you take the prescription drug synthroid for the rest of your life".
SIMPLE!? This did not sound SIMPLE to me, it sounded barbaric! Why on earth would I want to take a pill that causes me to be so toxic and radioactive that I have to stay away from pregnant women and children and that would KILL a body part? This is crazy! Was there no other way? I see 20 patients a day in my acupuncture office and inevitably one or two each week are on synthroid and still suffer from thyroid symptoms including weight gain and fatigue. This was not an answer for me and I told Dr. K that I wanted to find another way.
“So what is plan B”? I asked “There IS no plan B" he told me. “This is your only hope”. “But why did I get this? What caused hyperthyriodism? If we find the cause, won't we find the cure"? I asked
After all, that is what I have told my patients for the past 9 years in my acupuncture practice. If we search for the cause of your illness and find it, then we can reverse (dare I say cure) the illness! This is what every practitioner of natural medicine believes. I decided to leave allopathic medicine behind, once again, and search for a natural way to heal my thyroid. But first, I still needed allopathic technology to find out what I was actually trying to heal.
Dr. G was the medical doctor I had met when I was a Miami Dade Fire Fighter (I was a Miami Dade Fire Fighter for 14 years prior to becoming an Acupuncture Physician). I contacted Dr. G and was seen immediately. After a 2 hour conversation, Dr. G sent me to QUEST Labs armed with a dozen prescriptions for every blood test known to man! 21 vials of blood were drawn that day and after a few days Dr. G called me with the results. I had over 5 times the antibodies for Hashimoto's disease and even more antibodies for Grave's disease. My body was on the attack....of itself!
Hashimoto's and Graves are described by Western Medicine as "autoimmune" diseases. In essence, the body -for some unknown reason- is attacking itself. This is why doctors just look to kill the subject being attacked thus halting the process. But that doesn't really make sense, does it? I mean, if we don't know (or for that matter care) why the body has decided to turn on itself, and we kill or remove that part it is turning on, how do we know that this rogue body will not "turn" on another poor unsuspecting gland, tissue or organ in the future? The answer is that we don't know. And, often times, it does start “attacking” another part of the body! There are many individuals who have fought Grave's disease by killing the thyroid, only to be diagnosed years later with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus. So why would I want to just address the symptom and not the cause?
The truth is that Western Medicine rarely cares about the cause, unless of course they can spend billions of dollars studying the allusive genome.(This is a technique used to distract the public from their role in the disease process and thus their ability to reverse it). Otherwise is just cut, radiate, drug, chemo and move along until the side effects of these processes catch up with the patient and then of course, do it all again! No, not me! I vowed to find another way.
Dr. G seemed to think she had another way (although she was not completely sure). She had a theory that all of the deficiencies in my blood WERE the cause of my body going rogue. If we could just balance out all of the nutrient abnormalities, then my body could heal. This sounded good although there was no explaination as to why I had so many nutritional deficiencies. After all, I prided myself in my extensive knowledge of diet and nutrition.
Dr. G practiced what is known as "functional medicine" which looks at the body as a whole (go figure) and takes into consideration that illness is caused by deficiencies of nutrients as well as genetics. Again, this sounded good to me at the time. So Dr. G prescribed a beta blocker to slow down my heart rate (symptom control) and a massive amount of supplements and protein powder from METAGENIX along with some dietary recommendations such as pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts. I followed everything she prescribed to a T swallowing dozens of pills a day. But I felt I needed something more.
Stress had played a huge role in my life. I guess I am somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to taking care of my patients and all others in my life for that matter. As I said, I was a Fire Fighter with Miami Dade for 14 years and one of the first women Fire Fighters in Deerfield Beach, Florida before that. I had worked full time while I went to school to earn my Master's degree in acupuncture, then worked both jobs for 2 years until 2004 when I retired from the fire department to be a full time acupuncture physician. I found myself working longer and longer hours and taking less time off. While I felt that the plan to use supplements to get rid of my thyroid problem was a good one, it would not allow me to deal with the stress.
The only way to do that, I felt, was to remove myself from some of my stressors including my beloved acupuncture practice. I decided to travel to Patagonia, Arizona and check myself into The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center for 2 weeks. A longtime fan of Dr. Gabriel Cousens and his book Conscious Eating and documentary film Simply Raw, was all I needed to choose my path of healing....body, mind and spirit. There I could eat clean, organic raw food, get reacquainted with nature and meditate, meditate, meditate. Although my office manager felt I was taking a "vacation", I knew removing me from my environment was the only way to completely heal.
I was feeling worse and worse. The Beta Blockers were not working, I was having massive amounts of anxiety, night sweats, hot flushes and even experienced body odor for the first time since becoming vegan. It was now November 2010, nearly 4 weeks since my symptoms started and I was finally on an airplane to Arizona. I arrived in Phoenix to spend the night at my brother and sister in law's house before making the 3 hour drive into the desert. When I awoke in my family's guest room the next morning, I felt as if I had the flu. My body was hot and achy all over. I was very fatigued and my eyes were swollen. The thought of the long, 3 hour drive alone was completely unappealing, but I knew I had to do it.
Arriving at the Tree of Life that afternoon was a huge relief. The GPS did its job, even though I no longer had a phone signal. The staff was friendly and welcoming as they checked me in, gave me a tour and told me what the next day and a half would be like. That night would be my last meal for 24 hours. The next morning would start the blood and saliva testing to help determine what protocol I would be following. I would also be meeting with the Naturopathic Doctor (ND) after the testing and then be allowed to eat a full meal at dinner. I made my way to my "home" for the next 3 weeks, unpacked my things and then carried my laptop to the cafe area where I could grab wi fi and skipe my husband. I was feeling very weary with the flu-like symptoms lingering, but a feeling of calm had come over me knowing that I was in a place with people who spoke my language. These people did not want me to radiate and kill my thyroid any more than I wanted to. They trusted in the healing power of the body and good nutrition. They believed that mother earth was able to provide all I needed to heal. I was in the right place at the right time and the next 3 weeks were going to prove all of the medical doctors wrong,
After a nice chat with my husband I went to dinner- a wonderful array of raw dishes from soup to nuts! Both guests and staff were kind, pleasant, and eager to share their stories. After finishing dinner and a huge, fresh, green vegetable drink, I said my good nights and headed up the hill to my room. It was stark with no TV, telephone or turn down service, but I wasn't there for the frills, I was there for the miracles.
I had a restless sleep that night and woke the next morning around 5am. I was instructed to skip breakfast so that I could begin testing first thing in the morning. As I drove my rental car down to the foot of the hill to thee clinic I felt light headed. Once in the clinic, the nurse started with a saliva test to be followed with my first fasting blood test. I felt extremely weak, not because I had fasted all night, who hasn't done that- but because the anxiety and jitteriness would not allow my body to rest. I felt tired and wired at the same time and I just couldn't get my heart to calm down. After the saliva test and first blood test, I was given an apple and instructed to take 15 minutes to eat it.
My next blood test would not be for 90 minutes, so I was allowed to go back to my room or wait in the patient lounge. The lounge was just a few steps away and was warmed by a large picture window with the Arizona sun streaming through. I curled up in the corner of a small couch and waited to be called. I was cold and hot at the same time. I thought I was possibly catching a cold or flu, but no sore throat although my voice was becoming quite hoarse. I must have dozed off when the nurse came in to bring me back for the next blood test.
I felt nauseated as she drew my blood and then handed me a large glass of water with spirulina in it. I was instructed to drink the entire glass and return in an hour for my next blood test. If I thought I was nauseous before, the deep greenness of the spirulina really put me over the edge. But I didn't lose my cookies. I kept it all down! Again, I returned to lie on the sofa, feeling worse and worse as if my body were unable to move. Several more times, the nurse returned and several more blood draws were made. I was finally done around 2 pm and was allowed to go to the dining area for lunch. I was not really hungry and just grabbed some fruit and returned to my room. I had an appointment at 4pm to see the naturopath so I thought I would rest until then. But I was unable to completely rest. My heart beat was swishing in my ears again. I took a Beta Blocker and watched the clock, waiting for something to change.
At 3:45 I drove down the hill to the clinic and returned to the couch, curling up in the corner. By 4:00 the Naturopathic doctor walked in and escorted me to her office. We sat in this cozy, warm office with Native American art and crafts all around. The doctor was caring and concerned asking everything from what was going on with my health to what I did for a living. She wanted to know about my work hours as well as my play time. She asked about stress and how I lived my life; work ethic and relationships. This was not a typical doctor visit; this was more like, how I treated my patients. I found myself breaking down in tears, unable to control my emotions. I thought it was because I finally had a medical professional listening to me instead of me listening to others. As we spoke, my heart pounded stronger and stronger in my chest and ears. It was an emotional time. What I didn't know was that it was the start of something very, very bad.
After the doctor calmed me down, we discussed the program and how I could get my body back to optimal health. Step number one: join her and the other guests in the temple for the evening meditation. I went back to my room, showered and changed clothes (I had become very hot and sweaty during the testing process and consultation) and drove halfway down the hill to the temple.
The temple was a round adobe style building with a peaked roof and wooden door. As I walked up the gravel walkway and approached the door I noticed several pairs of flip flops, shoes and sneakers outside. I slid off my sandals and added them to the pile, and then walked inside. The single room temple was dimly lit and I had to let my eyes adjust before I found a place to sit. Pillows were scattered about the floor around a small center fire pit and everyone sat cross legged on them. As my eyes focused, one of the staff began to chant and the meditation began. The room was quite except for the crackle of the fire in the center of the room and my heart pounding in my chest and ears. The chants of OM continued as the room seemed to get warmer and warmer and I became more and more uncomfortable and agitated by my pounding heart and increasing body heat. Everyone sat still and quite as I squirmed in my seat trying to get comfortable, trying not to panic. But the panic became stronger and stronger and when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and was about to stand up, the chimes were rung and the meditation was over.
I was the first one out of the temple and in my car. Dinner was about to be served in the cantina but all I could think about was getting something cold to drink. I don’t drink soda, but the fever that was growing inside my body along with the nausea from my abdomen to my throat had me craving a big icy glass of ginger ale. Unfortunately all I could get from the cantina was a green vegetable juice. I took the juice in a “to-go” cup and went back to my room. I had filled the shelf alongside my bed with supplements that Dr. G had recommended as well as my prescription of beta blockers. I sat down on the edge of my bed with my green juice and began swallowing pills, hoping to calm my body down. But, as the minutes ticked by, my symptoms became worse. I was incredibly agitated and panicked; my whole body was shaking uncontrollably. In an attempt to triage myself, I took out my cell phone and opened up the stop watch application, placed my fingers on the pounding pulse in my neck and started to count. After 60 seconds, my heart rate was 132 just sitting there! I was sweating profusely now and no matter how much I drank I was still thirsty and had cotton mouth. I needed help but there was no one around. Looking out my front door I could see that the other rooms were dark so I assumed that everyone was still having dinner down the hillside in the cantina. There were no phones in the rooms and my cell phone had no signal in the hills of Arizona. The only call I could make was to 9-1-1.
I dialed. For a moment I felt better or at least at ease. There was a voice on the other end who said that they could help. All I had to do was “sit tight”. When the volunteer rescue crew arrived they took out the EKG and pulse oximeter and confirmed that my heart rate was now 142. My body temperature was 103 and blood pressure was climbing as high as 130/84 which was very high for me. I was in a thyroid storm. The volunteer crew advised the county rescue crew by radio what they had and that the incoming crew would have to transport me to St Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson, nearly 90 minutes away.
The county crew wasted no time starting an IV and putting me in the back of the rescue truck. 45 minutes into the ride I was finally able to get a cell phone signal and called my husband in Florida. It was midnight at home and he was sleeping. When he answered the phone, I wanted to be sure not to scare him so the first words out of my mouth were “everything is alright, but I am on my way to the hospital”. We spoke for a few minutes as he gathered information about my condition and the hospital that we were headed to and promised to fly out to Tucson first thing in the morning. I hung up the phone telling him not to worry; all the while I was in a full out panic!
The next 6 days were the most treacherous days of my life. I had been in the hospital once before for 4 days due to a pelvic fracture and all I could say is, I would take 10 pelvic fractures over a thyroid storm any day. It took 2 different thyroid medications, beta blockers, steroids, ibuprophen, two hospitals and 6 days to calm the storm enough to allow me to go home. I had lost 11 pounds in 6 days, my skin was dry, my hair was brittle and falling out and although I had lost a significant amount of weight (I was only 118lbs before the thyroid storm) my face was extremely swollen with severe edema around my eyes. I was so incredibly weak that my husband had to get a wheel chair to transport me to and from the airplane. I was now on 30mg of Methimazol each day. This powerful drug artificially subdued my symptoms but, at a price. The hope was that the end of the thyroid storm would be the end of my problems, but that is not how the thyroid and Grave’s Disease works.
Upon arriving home I went from the airport directly to my Acupuncture Physician’s office, Dr. F. He prepared an herbal formula that would help to calm down my thyroid and all of the “internal heat” that was burning up my “yin”. This process was far more natural than western medicine and followed Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. I remained on the medication that the hospital gave me and trusted that the herbs would not interfere with the Methimazol that the doctor prescribed. Dr. F said that I would soon become hypo-thyroid, which concerned me. I wanted my thyroid to function normally not too fast or too slow. Anthony took me home and ran out to pick up dinner. Soon after I went to bed, hoping that the next day would be better.
Although my thyroid storm was “under control”, my symptoms were not gone. That first night at home was not much better than the nights before I had traveled to The Tree of Life. I was awoken around 1 am to sweats and a rapid heartbeat. It was only 90 beats per minute but it terrified me. I went to the living room and tried to sleep on the sofa. By 6:30 that morning I had had enough and slipped out of the house to the Cleveland Clinic Emergency Room. They followed the usual procedures and drew my blood only to find my thyroid numbers through the roof (which was no surprise). They wanted to admit me, but I had been there and done that and I wasn’t going to lie in a hospital bed again. I got on the phone from the ER and called the Cleveland Clinic appointment line. I wished I had this much luck when buying a lotto ticket….there was a cancelation for the 4pm appointment and I actually got in! Maybe my luck was turning!
Cleveland Clinic has a reputation for being on the cutting edge of medical technology. This was my chance to see a doctor who was not the same old cookie cutter prescription writer. I was excited to meet this man.
As Anthony and I sat in the exam room, I felt hopeful that Dr. D would give us the good news that we were looking for….that there were other options to radiating my thyroid. He entered the room in a long white lab coat and clipboard under his arm with a kind smile. He extended his had to me and then Anthony and sat down in the desk chair and opened my file. He had copies of that morning’s blood work and copies of previous tests that I had given to the nurse. He then proceeded to explain that my thyroid was working overtime and that the dose of Methimazol that I was on was appropriate. He advised me to use the beta blockers to slow the heart rate so that I can be comfortable and that periodic blood tests would enable him to lower my medication accordingly until I can be taken off of them, probably in about 18 months. Then, the clincher….Once off the medication for 7 days, they could then proceed to radiate my thyroid. “Holy crap! Are we here again”, I thought?
“But Dr. D….Isn’t there another way”? I begged. Sadly the answer was no. While there are some rare occasions that patients symptoms will go away permanently following an 18 month course of Methimazole, there was no indication, based on my labs, that I would be one of those patients. This was a significant and serious case of Grave’s Disease.
I returned home extremely disappointed, upset and scared. I thought Cleveland Clinic was the best. I thought they had new and innovative ways to treat illness rather than the antiquated search and destroy method. I plopped on the sofa and laid there for the next 4 weeks.
I was down but not out. In those 4 weeks, between visits from friends and family, I began to do research. Amazon is an amazing place to get books both paper and KINDLE versions. I purchased every book I could find on the thyroid, hyperthyroidism, Grave’s Disease and natural medicine. I referenced and cross referenced through the internet using every search engine I could find. I ordered supplements through my office, purchased them at the health food store and resumed seeing Dr.F and Dr. G. There was some kind of appointment whether it was for acupuncture, herbs, cranial sacral therapy, chiropractic, blood tests or MD appointments-even in a greatly weakened state, I was on the go, trying to get better and keep my thyroid. Even though I had been vegan for 18 years, someone convinced me that I needed more protein, so I even began eating eggs!
But nothing was working. My eyes continued to swell, I still had bouts of rapid heartbeat, I was weak, skinny and my goiter continued to grow! The drug allowed me to function albeit at a slow pace, but the thyroid problem itself, did not go away. Blood tests showed the thyroid suppressive quality of Methimazole, but I was not healing my body. I returned to work in the beginning of December, just 2 days a week. I felt like a hypocrite and a failure. Why would anyone want to see me for medical advice when I could not even cure myself? Yes, I knew it was a lot to expect me to “cure” Grave’s disease, but I still thought if I was worth my weight as a natural medicine physician, I should be able to do it.
I was feeling stronger when an old patient of mine invited me to lunch. It had been a while since I socialized and I thought lunch out sounded like a good idea. Little did I know, it was the greatest idea of my life!
Francesca was a patient that originally came to me with some digestive issues. She improved with acupuncture, herbs and homeopathy. Years later she returned with a severe and acute onset of rheumatoid arthritis. She was deathly afraid of going on the chemotherapy drug Methatrexate (with good reason) which is standard protocol for RA, and wanted to conquer this horrible disease naturally. So she came back to my office for some help. I had her make serious nutritional changes, become a vegan, have weekly acupuncture treatments, infrared sauna, herbs and homeopathic injections. Within 6 months her blood work was normal. This day in mid-February 2011, Francesca and I decided to have lunch at Greenwave Café, a small local raw food school and restaurant. When you are in the natural medicine world, the circle is tight and everyone knows everyone. Raoul Vallie was a Dade County Fire Fighter 15 years before I was. He left several years before I got hired for personal reasons including health. I left to help others as an acupuncture physician. He and I met soon after he and his wife opened Greenwave Cafe. It was an obvious choice for lunch for Francesca and me.
As we sat down at the counter to order our lunch, Raoul walked in the front door. Like a celebrity, everyone wants to say hello to Raoul as he walks by. They clamor to ask health and dietary questions, hoping that he will impart wonderful words of wisdom, hope and inspiration. Raoul reversed high blood pressure, excess weight and prostate cancer with raw food and thus has his finger on the pulse of the raw food and natural health movement. When he finally made it behind the counter, Francesca and I were eating our salad. Raoul took a double take and realized it was me sitting opposite him. His face went from a broad, white teeth smile to a somber look. He held out his hands to grab mine and said “Rosanne, I heard you were ill. Tell me what is going on”. I explained the whole story while he listened intently. Finally, when I was finished, he reached under the counter, pulled out a brochure and said “You have to call this man….NOW”! I finished lunch, got in my car and made the call.
The first opening that Dr. M had was 2 months away (March 2011). I had already scheduled several phone consultations with natural medicine “experts” in Arizona and California as well as an in office appointment in Michigan at the beginning of May. I was not letting anything stand in my way of getting better and keeping my thyroid. But call after call left me more sad and disappointed. The night before I was to drive 3 hours to see Dr. M, I consulted with a doctor in California for 50 minutes. After giving his secretary my credit card number and authorizing a $250 charge, I was told that I was the most complicated case of Grave’s disease and Hashimotto’s that he had seen and that there are protocols that I could research (on my own) on the internet that used the medication that I was already on, in a different way. I was millimeters away from canceling my appointment with Dr. M the next day. I felt hopeless and weak. I was losing the fight in me. The fight that had drove me at the age of 26and only 113lbs to become a firefighter; the fight that allowed me to leave the fire department after 15 years of service and strike out on my own to become an acupuncture Physician. The fight in me was fading.
The next morning we got dressed and headed out for our 3 hour ride to the west coast of Florida. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly staff in an informal and relaxed setting. They were extremely organized, handing me paperwork and a 3 ring binder to read while others packaged bottles of herbs for shipment to who-knows where. The smiles were authentic and made me feel safe. They offered us a raw food snack bar and asked us to have a seat. Moments later we were escorted into a large office lined with bookshelves filled with hundreds of books (many of which I had in my library!) and a large unusual desk adorned in colorful plastic fruit! Behind the desk stood a white haired man whose hair and smile reminded me of Colonel Sanders. He extended his hand to me then Anthony and offered us a seat.” So nice to meet you” he said as he flipped through my medical history form. “So what brings you to the West Coast” he asked. As I went through my story, he listened intently until I was completely finished. It was hard to hold back the tears from months of suffering with rapid heartbeat, hot flashes, swelling of my eyes and enormous amounts of anxiety and irritability followed by disappointment after disappointment.
“I understand” Dr. M said. “This has been a hard time for you”. But as he flipped through the medical history fomsr I filled out he shook his head back and forth. I braced myself for more bad news.
“Is this it”? He asked. “Yes” I replied in a shaky voice. “This is all that is going on”? He asked again. “I HAVE GRAVE’S DISEASE”! I blurted in a somewhat aggravated tone. For God sake, did he not listen to my pain and suffering? This IS A BIG DEAL!
“Oh, that’s easy then” he replied with a huge white smile. “Easy? How is this easy when every specialist from California to Arizona to University of Miami to Cleveland Clinic is telling me that it is EXTREMELY complicated”? I asked. “Well my dear, I know you are an Acupuncture Physician, but would you mind terribly if I tell you how the body works”? Dr. M asked in his kind Southern drawl. “Sure” I replied and sat back to listen to the most profound yet simplistic explanation of how the body works, how I got sick and how I can recover and KEEP my thyroid.
Dr. M explained how the lymphatic system is the key to optimal function of all cells and how an alkaline diet along with the right herbs is the only way to get the body functioning the way God and nature intended! He explained how the body can never be balanced by using isolates (isolated nutrients such as vitamins and minerals), and that if you had malabsorption (which most of us do) then you are not absorbing all of the pills you are taking anyway. By the end of the consultation, my husband was asking if he could do the “program” along with me. “Of course you can” Dr. M replied with an air of excitement!
Dr. M took a photograph of my eyes (called iridology) and then Anthony’s. He briefly described what he saw and how that impacted his decision of what herbs to prescribe for each of us. He explained how diet is the key to the success of the detoxification and rejuvenation program and asked us to commit to 12 weeks. We did not hesitate. This was the first and only doctor to give me hope to keep my thyroid and reverse this illness and I grabbed on to it like a life boat on the Titanic!
I loved what this doctor was saying. It resonated with everything I believe in and what I share with my patients. Suddenly I forgot about my illness and began thinking of my patients and all of the people I could help. I wanted to learn more about what Dr. M did and how I could do the same thing with my patients. As luck would have it, Dr. M would be teaching a 40 hour class approximately one month from my visit with him. There was no doubt where I was going to be in a month…In Dr. M’s class, in the front row!
Once back home Anthony and I went to the local health food grocery store and stocked up on lots of fresh organic fruit and vegetables. The next morning our day began with a fresh fruit smoothies filled with oranges, pineapple, berries and mango….mmmmm! Next we mixed our liquid herbs into some of the smoothie and drank them down followed by some herbal capsules. Later in the day I brewed some special herbal tea. Snacks consisted of fruit and fresh fruit or vegetable juices. Lunch and dinner were either a fruit salad or a vegetable salad or steamed vegetables with avocado or sweet potato. It was simple, healthy and hearty. There were no limitations on the amount of food I could eat and I found that I was rarely hungry. Suddenly my energy levels began to increase and I knew I was on the right track (although there was still a level of fear in my head).
One week into the cleanse I had a scheduled appointment with my endocrinologist. I had made a conscious decision not share anything with him about the program I was on. After all, I was only 7 days into it and although I had a crazy notion that my thyroid was already shrinking, I did not want to make a fool of myself and tell him I had the cure for Grave’s disease. Dr. D asked me the usual questions, looked at my blood work (which had him worried since my white blood cell count was low-1 week later they were back to normal-quite possibly a temporary result of detox) and then stood up to examine and palpate my thyroid. As he stood next to me and placed his fingers on my throat, I held my breath. His fingers moved across the skin that covered my thyroid slowly and then faster, back and forth. Finally Dr. D stopped, stepped back and looked at me and said “Well, it seems your thyroid is smaller”. “Are you sure” I asked, with a slight grin on my face. “Yes, I am sure” he replied, “I examine your thyroid every 3 or 4 weeks, I know when it is changing”. I left it alone. Again, I did not want to boast only to be disappointed down the road. But the news that my thyroid was smaller was BIG! My thyroid had continued to grow even while taking the Methimazole. Now, just one week into the detoxification it was already smaller. Dr. D asked me to lower my dose of Methimazole and make an appointment in 4 weeks, and I left with a smile and sense of calm.
As the weeks went on, detoxification symptoms crept in. My skin was breaking out with acne on my face and strange, itchy red welts on my legs. I was extremely tired at times, nauseated, headaches and body aches. Dr. M explained that detox symptoms would come up. He said that old injuries could start hurting again and symptoms of past illness could arise as well as new aches, pains and discomforts. All of this was part of the body clearing out the lymphatic system, organs and tissues. My body was doing spring cleaning! I added another day to my work schedule so now I was up to 3 days a week. I started to visit my horse more often at the barn and although not myself yet, I felt I was definitely on my way. I continually felt my neck and looked in the mirror. The goiter was becoming visibly smaller now almost by the day! Four weeks went by and I was due to see Dr. D, my endocrinologist, when his office called to reschedule my appointment. They said I would have to wait 11 more weeks before I could see my doctor! That would be a total of 15 weeks since my last appointment and 16 weeks since I began the detoxification. How was I supposed to know if my thyroid was actually smaller? Well there were always blood tests. Dr. D gave me several prescriptions for thyroid panels.
Over the next 11 weeks I took about 4 blood tests. As Dr. D received the results I would get a phone call or email instructing me to lower my medication dosage. Since I had attended Dr. M’s extensive 40 hour training I was now not only choosing my own herbs for continued detoxification; I was now beginning to treat my patients with this wonderful herbal program and amazing nutritional plan. Every day was an amazing healing journey and I finally felt blessed to have this thyroid disease! I purchased an iridology camera which gave me an even deeper more profound look into my patients’ bodies. As much as I love acupuncture, I felt that I was given a new tool to treat patients more effectively than ever before.
I was pushing through every day both physically and emotionally. There were days that some symptoms would creep in like rapid heart rate or insomnia and I would fear the return of a thyroid storm. But then the symptoms would subside and progress would be made.
Finally, week 16 of my detoxification came along with my appointment to the endocrinologist office. I had now been off of Methimazole for 3 weeks and had taken a blood test the day before my appointment. As I walked into Cleveland Clinic alone that day, I was feeling overwhelmed and humbled. All of these doctors, nurses and scientist spend years of their lives studying and practicing chemical based medicine. “Who am I to think I can compete with their knowledge and ability?” I thought to myself. Suddenly, I doubted my progress. Why? I am not sure. Maybe it was fear; maybe it was the desire to not be arrogant or too sure of myself. After all, I have a very complicated case according to top doctors in their field. My heart began to race and I wondered if it were my thyroid. When Dr. D’s nurse stepped through the waiting room door and called my name, a feeling of calm came over me. Dr. D’s nurse had seen me every time I came to Cleveland Clinic. He was a big, body builder type with a teddy bear personality. He gave me a big hug and told me I was looking really good. We walked to the exam room and he took my vitals. “Everything looks good” he said. We chatted a bit until Dr. D walked in.
Dr. D is from South America. He is a very serious man with a kindness about him. As with most doctors, he is often stoic and hard to read. As the nurse stepped out of the room, Dr. D looked over the top of his reading glasses at me and asked “You are off of Methimazole”? “Yes,” I responded with a slightly shaky voice “for the past 3 weeks”. “Your blood tests are normal”! he said with a very large grin; “What did you do”?
A huge sigh of relief came from my chest. “Oh doc, you don’t want to know the answer to that”! “Actually, I do” he replied.
For the next few minutes I told Dr. D everything I had done over the past 16 weeks from herbs (which I brought some sample bottles of) to diet. He didn’t say a word, he just listened. Then he stood up and asked permission to palpate my thyroid. It was practically normal! Only a slight discrepancy from left to right (the left side was always bigger). He stepped back with a look of amazement on his face. Then he caught himself and drew his smile into a more serious expression.
“Well…” he started; “you know what you did is not considered scientific medicine. It has not been part of a double-blind, placebo controlled study”.
“Doc” I replied, “I know the herbs and organic fruit and vegetables I ate were not part of a double blind study, but I have a question for you. Did you want me to get well”? “Of course I did” he replied. “So did I” but I wasn’t finished. “Did you want to radiate my thyroid”? “Yes”. Dr. D confirmed. “I didn’t” I asserted. “Do you have to radiate my thyroid’? A rhetorical question, but I felt it necessary to ask. “No” he said with a smile. “Then let’s just say the Methimazole fixed my thyroid and call it a day”. I was hoping that we could part friends. “Rosanne” he said, “I cannot say that the food you ate or the herbs you took helped your thyroid. What I can say is that your case was so severe that I never thought you would go into remission”.
I held my hand up and prompted him for a high five! “Doc,” I said, “I believe that what we should take away from this experience is teamwork. I would not be alive today if it were not for emergency medicine and the ability of drugs to get my symptoms under control. That is what allowed me time to use herbs, food and detoxification to help my body heal. For your part in the process, I thank you”.
It came from my heart and it was true. Ignoring all of my symptoms that led up to the thyroid storm caused me to rely upon western medicine to pull me out of the throws of tachycardia and all of the things that went along with a thyroid storm. In hind sight, had I paid attention to the symptoms that spanned a year before the thyroid storm occurred, I would have used acupuncture and natural medicine to correct and avoid such a horrific situation and debilitating disease. But the truth is I didn’t pay attention. For all the analyzing and detective work I do for my patients; for all the health education and nutritional advice; for all of the alternatives I suggest to toxins in the home and work place; for all of the advice I give my patients (especially women in their 30’s and 40’s) on pacing themselves and lowering their stress levels, I ignored practically everything I stand for. It was for good reason, or so I thought. I was (and continue to be) extremely dedicated to my patients, each and every one of them. But there has come a time that I finally realized that if self-care is not the number 1 priority, I cannot be useful to anyone in my life.
So today, nearly 1 year after beginning the detoxification process, I am happy and healthy….truly! My thyroid levels are normal and I am not on medication. As a matter of fact, even my Graves antibody level is COMPLETELY NORMAL! Something I was told could never happen. I continue to eat very, very clean fruit and vegetables with some sweet potato and occasional brown rice, seeds and nuts and I rotate on and off herbal formulas every few weeks. I plan to stick to this routine for a total of one year. It is not difficult. In fact, it is quite easy. When I look at my choices: kill my thyroid and take a synthetic drug for the rest of my life or eat fruit and vegetables and take amazing herbs created by God and nature and keep my thyroid, well, the choice was easy.
What also became very clear and easy to see is the purpose in me getting Grave’s disease. Yes, I said purpose. I think we can all agree that the most cliché saying in the world is “everything happens for a reason”. How many times have you heard that phrase when you have just broken up with the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with, or when you lost your job, or your beloved pet died and thought about how much you wanted to slap the person that uttered those words to you? Well, I am one of those people who always said “everything happens for a reason”…until my thyroid storm. I have to say, I wanted absolutely no part of this disease or its lessons. The anxiety, hospital stay, weight loss, numerous doctor visits and all the other physical issues that go along with it, made me very reluctant to believe there was a purpose in any of it. But once I began to heal and understand that the body never, ever does anything wrong (and if we do right by it, we can prevent illness and heal disease), I realized that there was an amazing purpose in my illness and subsequent cure.
Today I continue to practice acupuncture, iridology and nutritional therapy. I prescribe Chinese and western herbs and have 2 massage therapists, a chiropractor, a yoga therapist and a psychotherapist in my office so that I can help my patients in the most appropriate way for their body, mind and soul. But I must say the most incredible, natural and effective way in which I can help my patients is by using the detoxification and rejuvenation process that I used myself to cure an incurable disease. I see patients with obesity, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, infertility, cancer, autoimmune disorders and many other ailments and they all benefit greatly from this process. I continue to treat patients, educate families and lecture to the community on how to reverse disease and heal the body and I feel blessed each and every day that I am able to do it.
11 years ago, when I was getting ready to open my acupuncture practice, the only name that kept coming into my brain was Partners in Healing, because I believe that my practice is about a partnership between the patient and the practitioner. Today as I write this story, the only title that keeps coming to mind is TRUE HEALING, because that is exactly what this story is about. The true healing ability of the body, mind and spirit!
Peace, blessings and true health to all of you!