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Georgina’s Story: I knew my autoimmune time would come

I am a mum of three and a doctor of 20 years (now working as a GP in acute medicine and as a thyroid specialist) and this is my #thyroidstory

My mum has Hashimoto’s, my gran had autoimmune hyperparathyroidism , I knew my autoimmune time would come.

And it did…. After my 3rd pregnancy I was tired, and I mean tired like I could sleep anywhere any time. At that time I had 3 kids under 5, a full time working teacher husband and a career of my own as a GP.  What did I expect?  And this was, understandably, what I was told. So I lived like this for about 3 years.  Gradually my periods got worse, I had PMT to a debilitating extent, and they became much heavier. My tiredness continued, I put on weight and my resilience to stress diminished.  At this point I was under more stress than normal. Which came first, the diminishing thyroid function leading to decreased ability to cope with stress, or the stress lead to diminishing thyroid function? Who knows… 

I started seeing an acupuncturist who suggested I test my thyroid function and there it was,  I had Hashimoto’s with antibodies through the roof.  I remember that moment – feeling scared that I had a chronic illness that would affect the rest of my life, but also relief that I wasn’t making anything up. Unfortunately though,  I didn’t have a TSH that was considered at a “treatable level”.  

And this is where my thyroid journey, #thyroidawareness started.  It took a while – and a huge pile of literature –  to persuade my GP that some levothyroxine would be helpful but I did manage to get some and started to feel better. 

Then I hit a lull about a year later.  Stress even worse than previously and my thyroid function, despite treatment was looking worse. So I started to research. 

What I found out is that sometimes with simple supplementation only, you can boost conversion of T4 into the active T3 hormone, and I am lucky enough that for the moment I have managed to get my Hashimoto’s under control in this way – I take Selenium, zinc and Vit D every day. 

I started to share this simple wisdom with my patients. One became naturally pregnant after 2 years of infertility, one was “cured” in her words of her OCD and another of her tinnitus.  As a private GP I  had many American patients who were on NDT (natural desiccated thyroid ). I remember being taught at medical school that this was an old fashioned, outdated treatment, yet these patients swore by it. So I started to research again and this time I started to attend webinars and conferences on thyroid issues to help my patients even further. I soon got a loyal following of thyroid patients in and around Bristol who loved the fact that I understood how they felt. 

In October 2020 I opened my own private thyroid clinic and within 6 months have been astonished, and slightly horrified, by hearing the same story over and over again.  

In my opinion the trouble with hypothyroidism is it gives such vague symptoms, like depression and fatigue and decreased stress resilience which makes it very difficult to tease out what is going on.  It is often a huge tangle of issues.  Look at me, I was stressed, probably a bit depressed and incredibly tired due to having 3 young children and a career, so in actual fact it probably was a combination of all of the above –  plus thyroid.

I am lucky that I have managed to control my thyroid for the moment and I have the ability to filter the useful and less useful information out there on the internet.  I also understand through working in acute medicine that the NHS does not have the capacity to manage thyroid issues in the ways I can privately. But because of this I want to help people, who like me felt they were not being helped, listened to or understood.  I know my thyroid journey has only really just begun, and every day I learn more nuggets of information for myself and my patients.  Although it wasn’t the easiest of starts to my thyroid story, I am now forever grateful to it.

First published in the Fahmidan journal

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