MY THYROID STORY, by Ali Jagger
Hello. I am delighted to be able to share my story with you on Dear Thyroid® – the tale of how one person can really make a difference, speak out and hopefully change the views of the medical profession in their own small way – and how glad am I that I did! I have met some inspirational people along the way and it just shows what you can do when you feel passionately about something in life and want to make a change!!
Ten years ago I nearly died in A & E as a result of a misdiagnosed underactive thyroid gland and the resulting heavy periods I endured, which meant I was admitted by hospital emergency services having lost five out of my eight pints of blood. Over the next few days I had a blood transfusion and finally a diagnosis was found – hypothyroidism. By then I was 20 stone (280 pounds) and very, very poorly – over the previous year, I had been told by my GP to lose weight and exercise more. One time, when I was in his surgery complaining about yet more unexplained weight gain, he told me “You know you really aren’t doing yourself any favors looking like that!” – Charming! So, just by having an uneducated GP who thought I was overeating, I ended up in a very sorry state indeed.
Once diagnosed, I lived in a “thyroid fog” for a few more months as thyroxine was gradually introduced and increased to 250 mcgs. Even when on the highest dose, I knew I didn’t feel right and decided to see a private specialist – with the best will in the world, my new GP was sympathetic but each appointment with him only lasted a maximum of ten minutes – and I needed a good hour talking to someone who had studied this condition to make sure I wasn’t going mad!
I found Dr. Arthur, a consultant based in Liverpool, and went into his Saturday surgery armed with three sheets of A4 paper all typed up with my symptoms and concerns – I had no memory at all at this point! Everything I told him about he agreed with and reassured me that this was entirely normal for someone suffering from an underactive thyroid. He was the first person who told me I would get better, which made me cry with relief. Even though I was on thyroxine, I still couldn’t really concentrate or focus on tasks for too long. It was a half life at the best of times, plus I was still 20 stone (280 pounds) so moving around was tiring too. He told me to return to my new GP and ask to try T3 to complement the T4 I was taking “but you’ll have a fight on your hands” he told me!
I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t wrong – my GP told me I didn’t need T3 and my thyroid would convert T4 for me so off I went back to Dr. Arthur who told me to insist on a trial of this! Eventually the GP backed down and I was finally allowed to get my hands on T3. Two weeks after taking this, my step-mum told me “I think we’re getting Ali back”. My focus was returning and I was generally feeling more optimistic about the future.
Over the next few years I struggled to lose my thyroid weight at about a stone (14 pounds) a year – it was slow, tough progress and I often fell off the wagon and ate too much as when you’re 17 stone (238 pounds) losing half a stone (7 pounds) can often just feel like a drop in the ocean when the overall goal is so huge and you start thinking what’s the point!
I was a size 10 (US size 6) before I got ill, but I continued to try to stay focused and I used to promise myself that when I got back to my original weight I would write my story, sell it to a national newspaper and make sure people knew what had happened to me so it hopefully never happened again to anyone else! I knew from working in TV that newspapers love visuals and a dramatic “before” and “after” picture would be what would get me into print. So, nine years later – the day I got back to the weight I was before I fell ill – I got up at 5 am and wrote my story! Two newspapers were interested – The Guardian and the Daily Mail – but I went with the Mail, mainly because it had the greater readership. The goal was to get the message out to the maximum number of people. Then, on the day it went into the Mail, I went into overdrive calling TV stations asking if they’d like me on as a guest. I called the UK’s ITV1’s This Morning program and the producer who answered said “gosh, I’ve just been reading about you in the Daily Mail” … so I was booked there and then – cheeky but I was on a mission!
The experience on This Morning was great. I had been warned by the producer in advance that they didn’t want the item to sound like a witch hunt against GPs – damn, I thought. Anyway I agreed. However, I knew that the program was indeed live, so once I got my bottom on that sofa I could say what I wanted! But I need not have worried – as soon as I met their resident doctor Chris Steele in make-up, he told me “Ali, I’m going to come down on GPs really hard today as I feel so strongly about all this”. I was amazed and, true to his word, Dr. Chris did say on air that many GPs are wrongly focusing on blood test results rather than LISTENING to patients. I love that man! There were over 400 calls to the show straight after the interview and my appearance was repeated again only last Friday as so many viewers called in asking to see it again – amazing! Personally I got over 200 e-mails from viewers via my website and I tried over the next few months to personally speak to everyone who had got in touch.
Ali and Dr. Chris
Dr. Chris contacted me again a few weeks after the program saying “We’ve upset a lot of GPs by talking about all this – well tough!” I was really loving the fact that we were ruffling a few feathers in the medical profession on behalf of those still suffering.
Over the next few months, the e-mails continued to come in and I heard heart-breaking stories from people still being ignored by doctors or dismissed as over-eaters (like I was!) Two poor women had even had unnecessary hysterectomies (like I was threatened with and one poor girl was only 25!) I was careful not to give advice but just let people know what had worked for me and got me back to health. Sometimes people just wanted to talk to someone who had been there and I was happy to be that person – I always said I never wanted anyone to feel as desperately alone as I did during my darkest days!
Many people wanted to know how I had lost 10 stone (140 pounds) and yes, it was tough but I did start researching all about excellent nutrition and have spoken to many in the medical profession about this.
The following is taken from the World Health Organization, states that:
“Nutrition is the foundation for health and development. Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, more energy, less illness and better health for people of all ages.”
This really hit a nerve with me as personally, even up until recently, I still found I was getting very tired in the early evening and was often in bed by 8.30 pm. However, I recently discovered Herbalife nutrition products and I now have the energy and vitality levels I had 20 years ago – so they really work for me personally and enable me to continue the work I want to do, helping others get the diagnoses and treatment they deserve.
Finally I thought I would share with you an e-mail from Sarah who told me about her struggle getting the correct diagnosis from her GP just after my This Morning appearance and my suggestion to ask for a trial of T3:
“It was interesting to hear what my doc said last week, considering that only three or four months ago he dismissed my request to consider taking T3 as not necessary. I do hope that I will see some benefit from taking T3 at least on a trial basis. But (and there’s always a “but”) I might not gain much benefit as it seems that I actually have M.E.”
And yesterday I got an e-mail from the same lady:
“Well Ali – Here’s one success story as a direct result of your TV appearance and our subsequent correspondence. Following a good degree of improvement of my symptoms since taking a low dose of T3 – my GP has acknowledged the fact, agreed to update my ME (CFS) diagnosis as incorrect and doubled my T3 dose. Good times – thanks. I hope I’m one of very many to benefit from your campaign – fully restored health is finally within my grasp.”
It is stories like this that spur me on even more to fight for others who don’t yet have their energy back and make a difference. They in turn can do the same for others when they return to full health – and together we can make a difference!!
What a ride it has been – like a rollercoaster in fact, but I made the decision just to hang on and enjoy the ride! The joy has been the great people I have met along the way; yes unfortunately we do have a fight on our hands to be heard but it’s SO important never to give up! US thyroid guru Mary Shomon has asked me if I would like to be interviewed for her next book and I have now retrained as a Weight Loss and Wellness Coach, helping others with their weight loss, energy and vitality levels which I absolutely love – they do say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I think that’s definitely true in my case!
To view Ali’s appearance on This Morning and read the Daily Mail article, as well as several other articles and Ali’s personal approaches to health and wellness, check out her website.
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