10 January 2011 ~ 11 Comments

Thyroid Awareness Month – What Awareness Means To Me, by Heide White-King


This article is kicking off a series of articles from guest writers on what awareness means to them in honour of Thyroid Awareness Month. If anyone would like to contribute their own article on this topic, I would be happy to publish it.

My mother is my inspiration for advocacy. Marilyn Conant, my mother, had breast cancer when I was six and several complications developed. I would make her a can of soup before school and hurry home to make sure she was alive. Just the two of us, she was divorced when I was two. Due to the mastectomy she had had several silicone implants and was one of the unfortunate people to become chronically ill as a result. Mom was a wonderful writer and added her voice to the local papers on her issue and even appeared on the local television to speak about women and men with silicone poisoning. Suffering many autoimmune illnesses, she never complained.

As I developed chronic autoimmune disorders, I felt I too had to be silent, not show my pain. After each surgery or diagnosis, I would try to just fit in. Stress from silence made me withdraw from friends, then family. Celiac disease brought me the awareness to be my own advocate. Restaurants would regularly say, “it’s all right we have white bread” when I told them I was allergic to wheat. It helped to learn the right questions to ask them. As I got braver, I would find a manager and educate them on celiac, often quoting that 60,000 Americans have it and it is not to be dismissed.

My family is plagued with a variety of autoimmune disorders, notably Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and, thanks to my new doctor, it is looking likely that I am finally going to be diagnosed too and put on the hormones my body so desperately needs. My sister-in-law introduced me to a few chronic illness websites. Learning of other people with chronic issues and the similarity to mine made me feel welcome. Their words inspired me to take action.

No longer do I feel ashamed of my health. I am sharing with all who will listen about celiac, autoimmune disorders, and the connections to the small butterfly-shaped thyroid that are just being discovered.

Now I give facts I have learned on chronic illness websites, and explain how people can learn more. Connecting with people who are in desperate need of information and don’t know where to go for help. I feel empowered with every single person I touch. Through communication and education, we create a world of learning and compassion. Now I am an advocate – not for me, but for all of us who suffer.

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