Hope Warrior- Nicole

Cheers to another Hope Warrior Wednesday! This week our featured warrior is Nicole. Nicole is a sweet mom, wife and fellow spoonie who shares her faith and hope on her blog and instagram posts. Make sure to stop by and tell her hello, and find some delicious recipes on her website! 🙂 Thank you, Nicole!

What chronic condition or illness are you currently battling?

When I was 24 I was diagnosed with endometriosis.  However at the time my doc didn’t explain how it’s an autoimmune disease or how to help support my body.  So life went on and I lived in blissful ignorance.  At age 31 I started to feel my health crashing. I was drained in every aspect of the word, and had every single thyroid symptom in the book (at the time I didn’t realize they were thyroid symptoms).  I would cry to my husband, desperate to get back to normal and be the mom and wife I wanted to be.  Finally in my struggle to try to lose weight, I stumbled across Paleo.  Through the reading of blogs and listening to podcasts for how to live the paleo lifestyle, I kept hearing about Hashimotos.  I had every symptom!  I went in for my routine annual and begged my doctor to test my thyroid. Initially she only tested my TSH.  I persisted because it came back “normal”.  So she tested my antibodies and they came back slightly above the (again) “normal” range.  Thankfully this threw a red flag to her because she sent me in for a thyroid ultrasound. The results came back that I had multiple modules on my thyroid and it was enlarged.  She referred me to an endocrinologist.  This was truly the turning point in my health journey.  He did a biopsy of the nodules to rule out cancer, which thankfully it was negative for, but I received the diagnosis of Hashimotos.

Just recently I’ve been working on getting my hormones healthier and through this research I’ve discovered that I more than likely also have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).  Though I can’t say for certain until I get the diagnosis from the doctor.

What do you remember most about the day you were diagnosed? Looking back, if you could tell yourself one thing about the diagnosis you were about to receive, what would it be?

I vividly remember the day I received the Hashimotos diagnosis.  Since I’d been learning about this disease the last few months I knew the negative connection between gluten and the thyroid.  I asked the doctor ways I could reverse Hashis and how to go about changing my diet for this.  I will never forget what he said in reply as he laughed at me… “No. No. Food has no impact on health.  The plan will be to let your thyroid die, then we put you on thyroid meds for the rest of your life.”  I sat there stunned.  I turned to my husband who seemed to have the same reaction as me. I shut down.  It seemed to me like I was one of those people in a movie where others are talking to them but the voices are muffled and they aren’t listening.  They zone out.  That’s exactly how I felt.  My husband and the doctor talked a bit more, though I have no clue what about.  We left and I drove home following my husband since he’d come straight from work.  I didn’t make it far before I had to pull over because I lost it.  I cried so violently that I couldn’t see the road.  I was so scared and had no idea what this meant for my future.  I knew the stats.  By Gods grace I regained my composure and drove the long drive home.  That very night I gave up gluten for good and became my own warrior.  Eased into Paleo and never looked back.

If I could go back and give myself some advice, I’d say “Trust your instincts!  You know your body well, listen to it on this journey!  Pray!!  Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for your whole family, because THEY NEED YOU TOO!”

What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?

Whew! lol Where do I start?!  Since I fired my endocrinologist that day, I was going in blind and had to figure this out on my own.  The one thing I can say is that I am forever grateful to those that came before me and shared their story because through them I was able to find quality research to guide me.  There were a few supplements that it seems every hashis patient needs…selenium, zinc, a high quality multivitamin, vitamin D, and a B complex (especially because I have MTHFR).  I’ve also added in and taken out countless others over the last three years.  Currently I am taking naturethroid at a very low dose (subscribed by my PCP who practices a more functional med way).  I also take vitamin C, magnesium, strong probiotics that I rotate every few months, glutathione, and vitex for hormones.

A few of the lifestyle things I practice and enjoy are epsom salt baths (magnesium), yoga, lifting weights, and dry skin brushing.  I overhauled every body, makeup, and house cleaning product in our home as well since all of those can be massive endocrine disrupters.

The biggest proponent in changing my health has hands down been my diet though.  Since switching to Paleo most of my thyroid symptoms dissipated in less than three months.  I still get occasional flares from stress, accidental gluten exposure at restaurants and even traveling (but it brings me too much joy to stop traveling!).

You have some great creative recipes and food photos on your Instagram and blog. What inspired you to share what you have learned about food with others?

I initially learned about hashis through Instagram after finding Paleo bloggers who had it.  So I was inspired to share my journey as well in the hopes of paying it forward and helping others the way I was helped.  Eventually I started a blog which was more so about my emotions on what was going on than recipes.  As I started to get my happy back, I began to feel inspired to share my recipes on their too.  Instagram has been such a gift to me on this journey. I’ve made friendships with so many incredible warriors and learned so much about living a healthy lifestyle.

What are some of your other favorite things to do?

(favorite books, music, podcasts, hobbies, activities etc)

Oh goodness, there is so much!  I think my husband is sick of hearing me say “I was listening to this podcast and learned…”  I LOVE podcasts so much because I can work and learn at the same time.  If I’m not listening to podcasts then I have music playing.

I live in Michigan so in the summer I love to stand up paddle board, jet ski and go for walks with my family.  I have gained an intense love for gardening this year and am often seen chasing my 5 chickens away from my tomato plants.

I love to travel and have a mile long bucket list of places I want to see around the world.

I really enjoy lifting weights, doing yoga, and reading books of all kinds!

What is something you have accomplished that you are most proud of?

Being a mom is by far my proudest achievement.  Nothing can compare to it. I have two daughters, ages 8 and 11, and would gladly welcome many more if God wills it.

Who inspires you?

So many people on Instagram I see doing such amazing things to help others and fight for their own health all at the same time. They inspire me beyond belief.

In life as a whole, I am immensely inspired by Saints and the lives they lived.

What are some of your coping mechanisms for dealing with stress?

Pray. Pray. Pray. It is my ultimate defense against stress.  I can always tell when I haven’t spent enough time with God. My world seems darker and little things bother me that normally wouldn’t.  Another thing I practice is deep breathing (inhale and the stomach fills like a balloon, exhale and bring the belly button in to the spine).  Last but definitely not least is hugs from husband. Melts the blues away

What has been the best thing that has happened so far that would not have happened if you did not have your chronic illness?

My motto is “everything happens for a reason”.  Even with as hard as living with an autoimmune disease can be, I truly believe it’s been a blessing in disguise.  It’s made me overhaul my diet, my home and evaluate my priorities in life.  It’s a gift I give to my family at every meal, every breath of clean air in our home, and sip of filtered water they take.  More than anything I want to set them up for a lifetime of health.  Children’s bodies are fragile and it saddens me to see the way parents feed their children in our generation.  It will affect them for the rest of their life.

What keeps you hopeful?

Ultimately my faith in God is where I receive my hope for all things.  It’s also found in the joy of little things. A gloriously colorful sunset, a butterfly that floats in out of nowhere, a vegetable that I grew and prepared for dinner, and cuddles with my family all bring glimpses of hope that this world is really a beautiful place and joy can be found anywhere despite any difficulty.

Do you have a favorite saying, quote, mantra or song that you turn to when you need to flip your mood around?

Besides the quote “Everything happens for a reason”, I cling to the Bible verse “For nothing will be impossible for God.” Luke 1:37

My song addiction lately is Lauren Daigle “O’Lord”

Okay, time for rapid fire this or that:

 

Chocolate or Vanilla? Can I say both? Lol!  I looove good quality chocolate but also love vanilla in all things.

 

Coffee or tea? Hot coffee (black, decaf (Swiss water process, organic), with collagen peptides).  Cold iced tea.  

Hot or cold? I loathe being cold.  

Sweet or sour? Sour 

Dog or cat? I used to believe I was a cat person, and although I love our cat, my dog (golden retriever) holds a special place in my heart. 

Running or walking? Walking!!  I am so NOT a runner!

Road trip vacation or resort vacation? Resort all the way.  My husband has spoiled me with some really amazing trips.

Day at the beach or day hiking in the woods? Hiking in the woods (as long as there’s no ticks UGH!). But I do love the beach! 

Android or iPhone? iPhone all the way

Sunshine or rainy day? Sunny days

Dinner out at a restaurant or a nice home cooked meal? Since I do all the cooking, (and love it!) home-cooked meal but it’s nice to have a day off now and then too.

Doing the dishes or doing laundry? Laundry is less painful

Comedy or horror? Comedies forever.  If I’m watching a horror film it’s because I’m being tortured.

Fiction or nonfiction? 75% of the time I’m nonfiction. 25% fiction.

Cake or pie? Apple pie

Fruit or vegetable? Raspberries and lacinato kale 

Sunrise or sunset?  Sunset. But I’m an early bird lol 

Final question:

You’re in the waiting room about to leave after a follow up visit with your doctor. Someone else is in the waiting room and they were just diagnosed with a chronic disease. They catch your eye and then ask you “How do I get through this?” 

What do you say?

Faith.  Hope in God.  Even if you’re not a Christian, He exists and loves you more than you could ever fathom and He can use this trial to bring you closer to Him. You just have to allow Him to.  Even in my darkest times when I felt like I would never get better, when I was struck with anxiety, depression, anger, and only the tiniest shred of hope, God was always there.  It was me who had left, not Him.  God is good. So I had to learn to stop focusing on the bad and focus on the good in all things.  Whenever I’d be zeroed in on all the negative, I never felt happy. When I stopped doing that and would try to find joy in even the small things that’s when I started to get better.

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