Monday, January 10, 2011

Set for Self-Destruct

My recent thyroid surgery couldn't have gone any better. It was uncomplicated, over quickly, and has been relatively easy to recover from. While I was relieved to hear the word "benign" in reference to my now absent nodule, I was less please to learn it was autoimmune in nature.

Be definition, an autoimmune disorder is when your body develops an over-reactive response to things normally present in your own body. In other words, your own immune system sees your body as the enemy and goes on the attack. Talk about self-loathing behavior.

Currently, it appears that my immune system is having trouble accepting the presence of pigment in my skin, leaving me with vitiligo. I have large patches of de-pigmented "lesions" all over my body, and quite noticeably on my hands. These lesions do not tan, but will viciously burn, meaning that any time spent in the sun is fraught with stress. My skin actually stings the moment I am in the warm sun for more than just a few moments. People look at me, wipe their hands after touching me (strangers, not my friends), and I can see them wondering why I look like a calico cat. When I can, I explain, when I can't I try not to notice.

Curiously, it was the vitiligo that led me to discover my most recent self-sabotage. When researching the latest advances on vitiligo, I found out that only recently have doctors begun to believe that this has an autoimmune facet to it. The article then went on to say that if you suffer from vitiligo, you may suffer from other autoimmune disorders. A glance at the list of warning symptoms led me to have my thyroid function tested, and viola! I was indeed hypothyroid, with a large nodule, which was unclear in testing. Upon removal I got confirmation that my second autoimmune disorder had been found.

It is supremely disconcerting to know that your own immune system is out to get you. It is like hosting a self-destruct button that activates spontaneously on its own I wonder what it will take a dislike to next, what hapless part of me is in for the next attack. Up until now it has been relatively benign (there's that word again). What if it goes totally rogue and goes after an internal organ, my blood vessels, my eyes, my joints? As it is, there is a lingering question about whether the severe anemia I suffered last year might not be yet another autoimmune issue- seriously, my blood?

So how do you treat autoimmune disorders? Well, lucky me. Right now the treatments are worse than what I am living with, so the only treatment for me is healthier living and stress management. How is easy is that, right? Healthy living and stress management, huh? Well, it could be easier to live more healthy when I am not stressed about what my autoimmune system is plotting as its next target.

So here I am, set to self-destruct with no way of knowing what the countdown clock is set for. What a joy. Stupid autoimmune system doesn't know who it messed with though. Frequently I find the easiest way to deal with my stresses is more fight than flight. So I guess for stress management I am about to embark on a journey to identify my options and take on my own self-loathing, punishing autoimmune system.

I'd kick and cry but what good would it do? Time to get to work, hoping that by the end of the year I have found a way to stop the progression right where it is.

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