Living With Addison’s Disease & Hashimoto's Thyroiditis - Brianna's Story
Wow! Where do I start? I am beyond blown away by Brianna’s story, and to be honest, reading it brought me to tears. I met Brianna because she had entered one of my giveaways and commented on the post about having Addison’s disease and how helpful the Healthy Life Planner would be for her. Immediately I messaged her asking if she would be open to sharing her story on my blog. I had personally never heard about Addison’s disease and wanted to learn more about it.
After reading Brianna’s story and learning more about Addison’s disease, I applaud her internal power and strength that helps her persevere. As you will read below, Bri mentions how she gets a lot of her strength from her faith in God. Sometimes really all you can do when life gets difficult is to trust in God, the universe, or whatever you believe in. I admire Brianna and I am so confident that her life’s challenges will result in being able to help so many other people get through tough times. Brianna is only 20 years old and has already gone through so much, and continues to live a very challenging life. I truly felt impacted reading her story and I am sure it will leave a mark on you too.
Tell me a bit about yourself:
My name is Brianna. I grew up on a little island called Trinidad. My family are missionaries, so church and ministry has been my life and joy. Outdoors is where I feel at home, and I've always loved activity.
What is the name of your condition?
I have Addison’s disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis
At what age were you diagnosed, and how did you handle getting the news?
I was diagnosed with Hashimotos at 11 years old. I struggled for 8 years with fatigue and a boatload of other symptoms before getting diagnosed with Addison’s disease at 18 years old. At first I was happy to have a name to my symptoms. Although the treatment helped some symptoms, I soon realized diagnoses were just the beginning of a really hard journey.
Tell us a bit about your condition and how it has affected your life.
Addison’s disease is a rare autoimmune disease usually diagnosed after 90% of your adrenal gland has been damaged by your immune system. The adrenal glands are small bean size glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Adrenal glands are responsible for producing three different hormones:
*Corticosteroids – Deal with physical or emotional stress. Maintain adequate energy supply and blood sugar levels.
*Mineralocorticoids – Regulate salt and water levels.
*Androgens – male sex hormones.
Every day with this disease, you need to be aware of stressors, dehydration, and how you feel. Because cortisol is the stress hormone, any stress – good or bad, must be watched to see if you need more medication. With special attention to any sickness, or big emotional disturbance, they can catch one off guard and send them into an adrenal crisis. An adrenal crisis is life threatening and a very painful way to die. Since cortisol is needed for life and used for many body functions, an inadequate amount will start shutting your body down. If not treated quickly, this will end in a coma and death.
A difficult part of living with Addision’s disease is that you have no way of checking your cortisol levels day to day. It's a constant guessing game of how much replacement to take and when. It's like a diabetic who has no way of checking their blood sugar and guessing replacement every day. Also, because of how rare the disease is, if one goes to an ER with an adrenal crisis there is no guarantee that one will receive treatment. This has resulted in death and other permanent consequences. Addison’s disease is a spectrum disease and the outcome is different for many. Some start replacement therapy and live a normal life. Others struggle for a while before finding stability, while others are never able to recover. I seem to fall in the second category, and still haven't gained my ability to lead a normal life.
How has living with your illness made you a stronger person?
Though I would give this illness up in a heartbeat, I do see some good has come from it. Through this illness and the complications I've had, it has given me the opportunity to guide and support others going through the same thing.
What have you learned from living with your illness?
A lot of medical knowledge I wish I didn’t know, lol. I learned that I know my body best and to always check everything my doctor does. I learned to rely on Jesus for my strength and guidance. That I could live my life in fear of everything killing me, or I can live my life trusting in God.
Did living with your condition inspire you to start a blog or a business?
I have an Instagram account called @Adrenalinsufficiencyadventures where I give information, awareness, and support. Also in my research into endocrine disease, I learned about endocrine disruptors and how harmful common beauty products are. This lead me to a company that is working on making beauty safe for everyone through their products and by advocating for better safety laws
Tell us about your business and where people can find you.
@cleanbeautyforlife is my Instagram account where I talk about the company and how to find safer products.
How will the Healthy Life Planner help you manage your illness in 2021?
Life with Addison’s disease is complicated and one must always be on top of their symptoms. This planner is perfect to help me do just that. Also, it's a great way to find new stressors and low cortisol symptoms. Not to mention the crazy amount of doctor appointments to keep track of and everything you need to tell your doctor.
Do you have any words of advice for others going through the same thing as you?
Have grace with yourself and your body. It’s a whole new language you have to learn and you will make mistakes. Things usually get worse before they get better. Check out NADF for guidelines and a good endocrinologist list. Find a good endocrinologist because most have no idea how to treat this disease and will torture you with their closed minded treatment. Look into the circadian rhythm dosing and find a support group. So much more I could add, but I'll leave it at this. You are not alone. You are not lazy and you will get through this.
Is there anything else you would like to add or say?
If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me. Looking back on my journey there was so much I wish I had known that would have saved me much heartache. I do not want that for anyone else, and it's one of the reasons I have my @Adrenalinsufficiencyadventures account.
I am seriously so taken back by Brianna and can not imagine having to live my life with Addison's Disease. Brianna to me is the definition of an invisible illness warrior!
Please make sure to leave a comment below and share your thoughts and let us know if you learned anything new.