The Weapons of War
So…I couldn’t get pregnant. Not only could I not get pregnant (and there will be an infertility story so stay tuned), but I was in Peri-menopause. “Peri.” Sounds like a bad date from the 70’s. And…it is a bad date — that never seems to end.
How could that be? No woman in modern family history had ever had trouble getting knocked up. (Charming, I know.) That’s what I was told. Well. I was a trailblazer. I was a reproductive failure…and…even IF I wanted to pursue IVF (and I didn’t) — it wouldn’t work.
So — what do I do next? If I’m not going to get pregnant — then what? My body was changing and I knew that middle age was no joke. So I started to research. And for those that know me — even a little — I am a natural born researcher. I’m a scary researcher. I make spreadsheets, binders with colored tabs and post-its. I deserve a doctorate in research skills.
And the more I read — the more things started to make sense. (Or so I thought.) I started to self-diagnose (not advised). But I was on the road and not getting any intelligent answers — I was fighting for my life and my body and my sanity and I felt like I had as good a chance at identifying the issues as any doctor — none had at that point.
I read — thousands of words. And it was clear that women under high stress over age 30 had a much more complicated time getting pregnant. That was it. My infertility wasn’t hormones — it was work. I knew it. I wasn’t egg-deficient thank you very much. I was STRESSED. INCREDIBLY stressed at work. Traveling 25 days per month across Africa, into Europe and India. I was eating crap. I ate Snickers bars for breakfast at times because it just seemed to make a difference. EXHAUSTED does not begin to describe things. So I had my answer. I am infertile because of stress and sugar. I am a genius.
So my brain said — so — let’s do our due diligence and check our sugar. We don’t want Type 2 and you’re getting fat and that’s bad. Sugar is the root of all of this — yes! Sugar? Yes, sugar. So I went to the lab (I was in a lot of labs) and got blood work. I took my very expensive lab results and headed over to the “best” endocrinologist in Nairobi (where I used to live). And I started to skew conversations around the weight gain, etc. to Type 2. I had a sugar problem. It’s in the family. I took trusty Hormone/Sugar Battle Plan binder (with tabs, thank you very much) and I started to ask questions like, “well…I was told I can’t get pregnant. But I’m wondering — is that a hormone issue or a stress issue or something else?” Is Sugar the root of all evil? More tests. Good news! I didn’t have Type 2 — thankfully — but I was being foolish about stress, lack of sleep and diet. So while the results didn’t say I had Type 2 — I was heading in that direction.
BUT — it also meant that I could not blame diabetes for my symptoms. I was confused and frustrated. Labs said that my hormones were okay. Labs said my sugar was okay.
NO ONE was really, forensically, looking at my Adrenals. LESSON #1.
How do I explain my low egg count/inability to get pregnant and weight gain? Stress, diet and age.
RIGHT! Now I’ve got it. If I just figure out how to reduce stress, change my diet and stop aging — I should be okay.
I started to process the “no children” journey (stay tuned for that story) and started to really focus on hormones. I didn’t feel good. I knew my body enough to know that something was very wrong.
I knew about Menopause. I’d read volumes about Peri and I thought — wait a minute — if it’s not Type 2 and if it’s not stress and diet — do I need to get into hormone replacement therapy? Am I super peri-menopausal and I don’t know it? Peri on the down low? (Was that even a thing?)
I noticed that I had started to gain weight. I’d never had a “gut” before — and I was getting one. My oversized back side was getting bigger. I was getting bigger. And that wasn’t me. If I gained a few pounds, I could lose a few pounds. Not anymore.
So — more research. (And if you’re curious — this part of the journey — from the time where they dropped the bomb about not getting pregnant to the endocrinologist to the research and the this hormone step was about 2 years.) I was traveling, working, tired, and didn’t make it a priority.
NOTE TO SELF — MAKE YOUR BODY A PRIORITY. Got it.
I started to gain more and more. So I went PALEO — you know the diet where you just eat meat and rocks and it’s supposed to solve it all — yeah — it didn’t. I hired a trainer. I worked out like a maniac 6 days a week. Cardio for 45 minutes and weights and lunges and whatever else that damn trainer could throw at me. Did I lose weight? NO. I lost inches. So — that was okay but my weight was a concern. Even my trainer didn’t understand why my weight wasn’t reducing.
I was Pre-Diabetic, remember. So gaining weight and getting abdominal fat — not good. That’s where Type 2 goes to hide and then attack.
BUT I COULD NOT LOSE WEIGHT.
An American doctor — a jewel of a human — told me two things in the same conversation:
- You’re pre-diabetic and you need to control that before you get Type 2.
- Okay- I said — but I work out, eat air, drink water, and I cannot lose a single pound. Nothing.
- Yes, well, the $$$ labs say that your sex hormones are shifting because of middle age so you’ll likely just have to live with being obese for about 10 years.
- 10 years of obesity?
- Yes. And he said this, my people, with a straight face.
- So — let me just summarize — you want me to not get Type 2 BUT you also think I’ll be obese for 10 years. How do I avoid Type 2 as an obese person?
- And then I said something like — you’re a goddamn idiot. Your white coat doesn’t make you smart. And I left.
I kept reading and searching.
Taking vitamins (and I’ll address supplements in another story).
Eating healthy (or so I thought).
And so I said- okay — this has to be hormones. Can’t get pregnant. Gaining weight I cannot lose. Not sleeping so great like I used to. Periods started to be hit and miss — no longer like clockwork. Hot flashes come and go. Sex drive comes and go. My vagina no longer talks to me — it needs a bottle of Sliquid (highly recommend) to make sex enjoyable. My mind is fuzzy. My memory is crap. My mood is not wonderful.
MUST BE HORMONES — specifically Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone — THE TRIO. Must be.
I MUST REPLACE THE HORMONES!
But then. I read a book — about a Dr./Nurse couple in San Francisco who discovered that a lot of women pursue hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) when they really had a THYROID PROBLEM. So — it’s not hormones -it’s thyroid, maybe. RRRRRRRRight.
Right. Okay. I’m still traveling like a maniac. Things are more stressful than I can ever write here. Still living in Kenya. Okay. It’s a thyroid problem. Back to the doctor. Let’s measure this thyroid thing. We did. Results NORMAL.
Hmmmm. BUT — let’s try a small dose of Thyroxine and see if it solves some things -perhaps you’re SUB-CLINICAL (a phrase all women should learn).
Okay — I’ll take the Thyroxine. Was never told that it might cause weight gain. Ever. The “best endocrinologists” in London, Dubai, and Mumbai (I get around) all said- your hormones are fine. Your Thyroid is sub-clinical and this should solve it.
I started taking Thyroxine. Still working out. Still gaining weight.
Wait, what? I’m still gaining weight.
Okay — so I’m treating the sub-clinical thyroid and I’ve gained 20 pounds so far. So from 165 pounds to 185 pounds over 2 years. That’s a lot of weight — I’m 5’4″. I do not need to gain more weight. But I could not stop it.
I stopped being a carnivore and went vegan.That’s the answer! Morally I felt great — amazing — my conscience clear. However, (and I honestly don’t need to hear from the vegans — you do you and I’ll do me) eating vegan didn’t cure anything either. Juicing pure veggies and eating clean didn’t help.
I gained more weight.
I didn’t think it was possible to ever weight 195 pounds ever again. I weighed that much when I first moved to Kenya in 2008. I had just gone off all of my “mental health” prescriptions for bipolar disorder and Lithium was one of those medications. I gained the Lithium 50 — and walked it off in Kenya. The Lithium 50 was back.
Throughout all of this — I was seeing doctors around the world. Paying for lab results. Telling everyone I saw — something is wrong. This is not my body. I’m eating lettuce and lentils and gaining weight. I work out 5 days a week. I drink 3 litres of water a day. What madness is this?
“Peri is an asshole”.
The toxic sisters — T3 and RT3 (That’s T3 — what your body converts from T4) and Reverse T3 (what your body can create when it doesn’t work well) were like those wretched children in The Shining (REDRUM). EVIL.
That was my mantra.
I was going to assault the hormones. Go full on attack mode. So I decided that it was time to look into BHRT (Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy — medicine based on YOUR hormones). I was ready. I was convinced that if I just got my sex hormones in line — I’d start to lose weight. I’d get my sleep, my body, my memory, my “sharp” self, my happy self back. I’d be ME again.
And I was all in. I flew to Dubai (the closest city that had a compounding pharmacy) and I met with an “aging specialist” who was also an OB/GYN. From Russia. (That part doesn’t matter but I fire her later and so it somehow seems like I need to mention she’s Russian. My story — not yours.)
More blood tests. $2,000US. Fine. At that point, I’d do whatever it took to lose weight which was hovering somewhere around 190–195 pounds. The gym was no longer fun — it was pointless. My periods were more and more random. I wasn’t sleeping. I was having some hot flashes BUT the Thyroxine seemed to manage that (which was a wrinkle NO ONE could explain). Thyroxine makes your brain foggy — so does a loss of sex hormones — but everyone wanted to blame the Thyroxine. Okay, let’s blame Thyroxine.
So — let’s review. I’d gained 30 pounds that I could not lose. I went from eating meat to not eating any animal products. I worked out like a maniac — on a mission. No weight loss whatsoever. My periods were hit and miss. Hot flashes were starting. I slept with a fan blowing on me while my lover shivered under a comforter. My hot flashes always started on my back and I went from 98.6 to THERMONUCLEAR in 15 seconds and then a pool of sweat. Charming. Very sexy. And what about sex? Well — I certainly wanted to have sex — and even when I didn’t necessarily feel like it was the most important thing -I had it anyway. Something told me to get over myself and have regular sex. Suzanne Somers said so, too. (Oh, yes, I read her books.)
Weight gain and Peri symptoms and a threat of Type 2.
HORMONES IN MY SIGHTS!
Enter Madame Russia — the Dr. in Dubai whose name I will not use because I don’t want to give her any PR — (I fire her later).
Madame Russia — she reviews all of my tests and she says: You’re Pre-Diabetic (I was very worried), you’re slightly peri-menopausal (slightly?) and we can fix this — all of it. Really?
Can you do anything about this pesky Fibroid?
OH — Wrinkle!
You have a fibroid? Yes. And it hurts.
How long have you had it?
“When they start to hurt, they need to come out.”
Okay — so — you can solve my hormone issues, you can cure the thyroid mess, my weight gain will be brought under control, Peri and his crappy symptoms will be diminished and you can solve the ever-increasing pain in my lower left groin.
The blood tests were completed and the compounding pharmacy got to work. I picked up my very own bio-identical (B)HRT (creams and pills) and I was ready — ready for a new day. The surgery would wait — I would get my hormones balanced, my weight under control, my symptoms relieved and I would be renewed!
I was READY. Ecstatic for the changes to come.
Just about two years from the point where I was told I would never be pregnant, I would be obese for 10 years, I was pre-Diabetic, about $25,000.00US in doctors, labs, airfares, etc. later, I had my answers.
What I could not know then and what I do know now is that I had been horrible mis-diagnosed — no one was looking at cortisol, adrenals, and DHEA. No one was looking deep at the BIG PICTURE. The full 360.
They were all obsessed with my weight, Type 2 looming — and they prescribed treatment for those things — they didn’t see all of me. They treated a fat person.
The next two years would be about BHRT failures, Thyroid failures, Type 2 failures, diet failures, doctor failures, surgery failures, and coming very close to the end of my rope.
The weapons weren’t working.