|The happy, new me.|
Read Part I here
Read Part II here
It was the beginning of June, about a month ago. I was feeling like a corpse when morning came around. Actually, if I were dead, I wouldn't have felt anything which would have been loads better than how I felt. It was more than fatigue, though. My whole body hurt when I woke up. My joints ached, my head throbbed and my throat felt sore, just like the flu. Every day. It took hours before I could function decently, and by then my day was half-way over.
I knew I couldn't go on like this. I had to get answers and I would not accept another prescription of painkillers.
About six months prior, I was out with Dill's mom, picking up marked-down wrapping paper after Christmas. We got to talking as we females are wont to do, and I told her I hadn't been feeling well. She mentioned she had similar issues, only hers sounded much worse. She had been seeing a more holistic doctor -- Dr. Gregory Allen -- who tested her blood and diagnosed her with a few hormone deficiencies. He was treating her with bioidentical hormone replacement therapies. I had only heard of HRT in reference to menopause so I figured it wasn't for me. But for some reason, my brain filed his name away somewhere for a later day.
That day came in June.
I called Dr. Allen's office in a moment of desperation. A receptionist answered and asked why I wanted to be seen. For the record, I hate this part of making appointments. I sighed and said, "I have some really awful shoulder and neck pain and ... I can't get out of bed in the mornings, I'm tired all the time and I feel like crap."
I figured that was enough information to earn myself an appointment, and it was. But he must be a popular doctor because he couldn't see me for a whole MONTH. I reluctantly told the receptionist the date would work and braced myself for a very long and painful wait.
I have to say, Dill's mom is very good at getting her way, and when she was in the office a few days later, she somehow convinced them to schedule me sooner. Much to my surprise, they had a cancellation -- in three days. I owe her big time for that, because if she hadn't brought it up, I'd actually still be waiting to see the doctor until tomorrow. I've got to figure out how to be gutsy like that. My mom is the same way, too. Doesn't take no for an answer.
My new appointment day came -- June 25. The office was very close to my house and brand new. I filled out my paperwork and the nurse called me back shortly. She took my vitals and then asked me yet again why I was being seen. Now, she was a very nice nurse, very friendly and kind, but I was tired of answering this question. Heck, I was just plain TIRED. So I answered again as politely as I could, trying not to leave out any crucial details.
Dr. Allen came in a few minutes later. I could tell right away he was a caring person. He just looked at me differently, like a real person instead of a face associated with a chart. He spoke to me in a warm, kind tone and asked me what was going on.
I started to tell him about my shoulder and neck pain and then quickly added that I was really tired all the time and didn't feel good. He prodded me gently for more information and I started to elaborate on my symptoms. I could feel my throat tightening up the way it always does when I'm about to lose it. It had been so long since I'd talked openly about this.
He asked me, "Are you stressed?" I replied generically with, "What mom isn't stressed?" and faked a smile. But inside, I was on the brink of tears. I'm not gonna cry! NOT GONNA CRY TODAY! I thought boldly. Then, he looked me right in the eyes and asked again, "Jenna ... do you have a lot of stress?" And ... I lost it. Right there in the doctor's office. Full-on ugly cry. I blubbered about how I shouldn't be stressed; I'm young and I have a good life, but I AM stressed! I lamented how I've seen so many doctors and none of them have answers and I just want to feel normal. He said he could help me, and lots of people came into his office feeling the way I did, and why did I think he had a huge box of tissues right there on the counter? That got me to chuckle a little, and I took a tissue and wiped my eyes.
Dr. Allen told me he likes to treat people's ailments naturally, and I just wanted to hug him. He then listened to my heart, looked in my ears, nose and throat and felt around on my belly like all doctors do, and asked, "Have you ever had cysts on your ovaries?" I started to say no but then I remembered, yes, I DID in fact have ovarian cysts, right before I got married!
That seemed to pique his interest. He pressed a little on my ovaries and asked if it hurt. Yes, it DID hurt. Wasn't it supposed to? No. He had me sit up and touched every muscle currently in spasm on my neck, shoulders and back -- he knew EXACTLY where they were. "Tell-tale muscle spasms related to stress," he told me. So, that's why I was hurting so much? Wow.
Dr. Allen, said although he suspected a few things, he couldn't diagnose and treat me until he had my blood drawn. Wow, what a concept! I then realized I never got a blood panel the first time I was treated for depression. Hmmm. He then told me to come back in a week so we could go over the test results and start treatment.
A week later, I came back prepared for a verdict of, "Everything looks normal; I don't know what to tell you." But that couldn't have been further from the truth: my blood tests indicated a severe deficiency of progesterone and a sluggish thyroid. Symptoms of progesterone shortage include inability to sleep, depression, fatigue, pain (including headaches), mental fogginess and low libido.
Well. That explains ... everything.
After teaching me all about the thyroid and sex hormones, how they work and what happens when they're not in balance, drawing diagrams for me and letting me SEE the numbers from my bloodwork, Dr. Allen prescribed a low dosage of thyroid medication and a progesterone bioidentical. I had to drive all the way to Ahwatukee to get that crazy, rare drug but it was SO worth it. That night, I slept better than I ever had in my life. In the morning, I felt refreshed. It was the weirdest feeling, actually wanting to wake up.
It has been almost two weeks since I started my treatment, and I am overjoyed to tell you all I feel GREAT! I am sleeping well. My pain is almost gone. I am still an anxious, excitable person because that's just who I am, but I feel empowered and know I can handle the stresses of life (this is why I'm potty-training a 2-year-old and not even batting an eye about it). My kids aren't driving me crazy and I'm not experiencing my daily 2:30 pm headache anymore. And I'm way more productive than ever. It's amazing!
But here's the thing, and the real reason I love my doctor: He also prescribed to me a low-glycemic diet and exercise -- practices that will keep me feeling well long-term. Yoga has been perfect for me and I do it about five times a week. As for that junk food, I already eat very well, but it's a little easier to avoid the carbs and sweets when your health and well-being are on the line. So these days, I treat myself and the kids with green smoothies. I avoid simple carbs and try to keep my blood sugar stable. I still indulge once in a while (like last night, when my mom made some DEEE-LICIOUS cupcakes) but I'm a lot more careful about what I put into my body.
Now, I want to thank you all for following my story. I have appreciated all the sympathetic comments, even though it breaks my heart to know so many of you are suffering as I did. I do not wish to convert you or make you think you need to see my doctor, take hormones, etc. Everybody is different and what works for me may not work for you. But if you are suffering, please know that you don't have to! You have a right to feel good! There is an effective treatment for you out there and you can find it. Read, talk, ask questions, listen and seek. If something's not working, quit doing it and do something else. Be open-minded.
And most importantly, you do not have to remain silent. If you need help, ask for it. Don't be embarrassed, because all of us struggle with something or another. Don't pretend like life is fine when it's not. Speak. You never know if the person listening can save you.