Thyroid Advocate

Gurney’s Montauk Retreat with Fern Olivia

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If there is one thing I love about spring, it is that the weather is nice enough to take a day trip out to Eastern Long Island—before the official start of tourist season begins. I usually reserve such excursions for the warmer weather (read: beach season), but when my beloved thyroid guru, Fern Olivia, told me she was going to be in town and was having a weekend retreat at Gurney’s Resort & Spa in Montauk from May 5th – 7th, I knew I needed to keep that weekend open.

Last August, I attended my first of Fern’s Thyroid Yoga Retreats (which was held at a private home in Montauk). It was one of my fondest memories from the summer of 2016. I met so many inspiring women, whom I still keep in touch with and who have become friends. Since then, Fern and her teachings have had a lasting influence on me, and she is someone whom I both admire and respect for the important work she is doing to raise awareness and help those of us suffering with a thyroid condition. Her essential oils and morning thyroid yoga sequence have become daily rituals in my life. Through her event at The Ash Center with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon this past January, she taught me the importance of self-love and has guided me when it comes to nutrition.

Needless to say, I am beyond excited to attend her upcoming event in a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to walking away with even more knowledge about my body and overall health (and making some new friends in the process!).

So, if you find that your schedule allows for a trip out to the beautiful Gurney’s Resort & Spa, or you just need to take some time for yourself and want to be surrounded by incredible women, then join us! The retreat promises to be both restorative and informative with meditation, yoga, and of course, spa time.

You can peruse the schedule of events and register, here. Hope to see you there!

Thyroid Yoga Functional Nutrition Intensive: A Recap

The Ash Center View

This is turning into quite the Wellness Week here on Living in Steil, with the introduction of the Thyroid Yoga Functional Nutrition Intensive earlier and then Heather’s incredible story of surviving mesothelioma. I am excited to give you all a recap of the amazing seminar with Fern Olivia and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon that I went to last Saturday at The Ash Center.

The Ash Center is a tranquil space with breathtaking views, in Midtown Manhattan; although located in a bustling metropolis, it has an oasis-like atmosphere that is conducive to healing. When I first walked through the door I immediately began to feel my energy shift. The stress from the nearly two-hour commute from Long Island dissipated as I made my way to a cozy recliner by the window and began filling out a health questionnaire.

Upon arriving and seeing Fern’s warm smile and meeting Dr. Lyon and the other women who were about to embark on this wellness journey, I knew it was exactly where I should be—where I needed to be.

When I think back to this seminar, words like much-needed, life-changing and game-changer come to mind. I was excited to meet Dr. Lyon and I realized how much I needed to hear her words once I was there. One of the first things that Dr. Lyon said to our group of “wellness warriors” was that secrets keep you sick.

Want to know my secret? I am terrible when it comes to taking care of myself. Eating and proper nutrition have always been a struggle for me, and one which I preferred to avoid for longer than I should have. There, I said it.

Despite knowing better and being a cancer survivor, I buried my head in the sand when it came to food. Why? Because it seemed easier to just laugh it off and continue on my Starbucks diet; I didn’t want to be bothered learning how to eat right; picking up whatever was around on my way home from work was easier; and cooking seemed like a huge chore. Those were all of the lies I told myself to justify my actions. But who was I spiting? No one but myself, as I suffered and my body failed.

But I could no longer ignore how I was feeling—tired, sluggish, irritable—all the time. Of course, I immediately blamed my Synthroid and lack of a thyroid for these symptoms. However, the truth was that it was time to face the music that I was so desperate to tune out. My body was screaming—yelling at the top of its lungs—trying to tell me that despite its best efforts, it could no longer function on the lack of sleep and infrequent eating schedule that I had imposed on it.

When I went to The Ash Center last weekend, I walked in knowing that I had to change my ways—before it was too late. I was aware that I needed to be open, honest, and willing to accept that I would have to learn about nutrition and implement new eating habits.

Fern Olivia and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon

{Fern & Dr. Gabrielle Lyon}

Together, Fern and Dr. Lyon created an inviting atmosphere for each of us to tell our individual stories. I was struck by how in the span of minutes strangers could become survival sisters, as one person’s story was followed by another. At times, I felt my emotions getting the best of me, especially when it seemed like another woman had walked a mile in my shoes.

Ajai by Fern Olivia

{Fern’s incredible Ajai Alchemy line}

Once we shared our stories, Fern guided us on a Thyroid Yoga meditation aimed at recharging our endocrine system. We did breath-work and together chanted “Wahe Guru” before finishing our session. It was the perfect restorative practice to conclude the morning’s activities.

After a brief break for lunch, in which I found my way to BRGR and then a Juice Press (because the healthy smoothie compensates for having a burger for lunch, right?), Dr. Lyon began the next session where she discussed macronutrient recommendations for thyroid and hormonal health.

Dr. Lyon gave an overview of nutrition along with helpful handouts about the Elimination Diet and a food plan. Since my knowledge on nutrition is limited, I took copious notes—and have a lot of reading to do! One of her recommendations was that we eat 30 grams of protein at each meal—or 90 grams a day. My first reaction was, “How on earth am I going to eat 30 grams of protein at each meal?” That seemed like a lot for a girl who typically has coffee and a muffin on the run each morning. And having lunch and dinner in the same day? I tend to eat a late lunch and skip dinner, or skip lunch and have a big dinner—neither of which are healthy ways to eat.

Overall, I was impressed by Dr. Lyon’s entire approach to health and medicine. Over the last few years, I have spent considerable time seeing doctors in the medical community. And while I have found some are worth their weight in gold (like the one who found my thyroid nodule), most times I have walked away from my appointment with more questions than answers. The idea of curing the underlying ailment instead of merely treating the symptoms is a premise I whole heartedly support.

The Ash Center

I certainly found my tribe at The Ash Center and look forward to seeing Dr. Lyon after all of my thyroid testing is complete. I left that day ready to tackle the hard work that was in front of me, but motivated knowing that I had the power to change how I am feeling. With the tools that Fern and Dr. Lyon shared with me, I have already effected some changes. For starters, I make sure to eat three meals a day and I have incorporated both fruits and vegetable into my daily routine. Although I haven’t made it to the magical 30 grams of protein at any meal yet, I have curbed my sweet tooth and cut back on carbohydrates. In addition, I started practicing yoga again and made daily meditation a ritual before bed.

While I may not be able to reverse the damage already done to my body, I can pave the way to a healthier future one meal at a time—and offer myself some self-love by repeating this affirmation: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

Fern Olivia at The Ash Center

A big thank you to Fern Olivia and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon for this transformative day!

Interested in working with Fern? She will be hosting a Pure Yoga – Thyroid Yoga™ Training Immersion on Friday, April 28th, Saturday, April 29th, and Sunday, April 30th.

Here’s some information about the training immersion:

Thyroid Yoga™ artfully infuses wisdom from western and eastern medical perspectives to create a total healing approach, founded by thyroid expert and master teacher, Fern Olivia Langham.

Trained in Biomedical Engineering, now a renowned teacher and speaker on the power of integrative medicine and intuitive self-healing, Fern Olivia has guided retreats, experiences and classes worldwide.

Thyroid Yoga™ has been endorsed by leading medical doctors as a proven way to help restore and realign the energetic and biochemical mechanisms that influence thyroid functioning.

Become a Thyroid Yoga™ certified practitioner today to deepen your own knowledge and gain the confidence to create your own ripple effect of health and healing in our global community.
The benefits of this unique immersion go far beyond “another certification.”

After completion of this training, participants come away equipped with the tools and resources to confidently provide value-added offerings and resources for their clients and students, and have a deep and broad understanding of how the thyroid is supporting using integrative and holistic therapies.

If you want to expand your work in the world and learn from renowned healers at a one-of-a-kind teacher training with a world-class yoga institution, sign up for the Thyroid Yoga™ Training Immersion and Workshop today!

Please contact Fern Olivia at love@thyroid.yoga if you have any questions.

Thyroid Yoga Functional Nutrition Intensive in NYC

Fern Olivia

Happy Friday! Apologies for not sticking to my usual posting schedule this week and last. I promise, moving forward I will be back on my game.

As I mentioned in recent posts, looming thyroid tests have me feeling more like Nervous Nessie than Valiant Vanessa. But I am hoping that an event happening in New York City this weekend with the lovely thyroid guru, Fern Olivia and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon at The Ash Center, will have me feeling better than ever. So, if you are in the New York City area on Saturday, January 28th….and are free from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm…and want to learn more about thyroid health, then register for this event!

When Fern first mentioned this event to me, I knew it would be an amazing opportunity. For starters, I have wanted to meet Dr. Lyon and see The Ash Center for a while. And since I have been feeling all kinds of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion, the timing could not have been better.

The Ash Center focuses on a comprehensive approach to healing and well-being, offering patients treatments tailored to fit their specific health concerns. As someone who is struggling with low energy, rising antithyroglobulin levels, and the possibility of a thyroid cancer recurrence, I am excited to learn from both Fern and Dr. Lyon how to better manage my overall health and find ways to help my body in the absence of a functioning thyroid. I have had little success in working with endocrinologists to help me gain my stamina after my thyroidectomy, so I am hopeful that this half-day intensive workshop will provide me with answers and lead me down a new path.

The day will begin with learning about the thyroid and its function, followed by a meditation led by Fern to boost the endocrine system, and lots of time for Q&A and opportunities to get to know other participants in attendance.

Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@livinginsteil), where I will share the activities as the day unfolds. I will be doing a follow-up post next week with all that I learned from Fern and Dr. Lyon…so stay tuned!

*Image courtesy of Fern Olivia

Thyroid Thursday: Fern Olivia’s Daily Rituals To Improve Thyroid Health

I’m always looking for ways to carve out a little “me” time in my busy schedule. When I came across a post that Fern Olivia wrote about her daily rituals, I knew it was something that I needed to read, and also wanted to share with the readers of this blog. I love how Fern makes taking care of her mind and body a priority, and I hope you find her routine and the products she uses as insightful as I did.

And remember, there is only one more installment of Thyroid Thursday after this week (how is it already the end of September?). Leave those questions in the comments section, and I will devote next week’s final Thyroid Thursday to answering them!

Now, here’s Fern!

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{Photo Credit: Fern Olivia}

Beauty is the healing food I nourish myself with, the sensual alchemy that kisses my skin, the gorgeous friends I choose to enjoy time with, the sacred home I have created, and the healing experiences I treat myself lavishly with every day. Beauty is taking care of myself in the most loving and kindhearted way. I have a big purpose on this planet, and I need to feel my best to give my best — I know that I have to keep up!

Here’s how I do it:

A.M. Ritual

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{Nicole Granato/Moon Deck}

My beauty ritual begins the moment I open my eyes and mentally say a prayer of gratitude. Then, I prepare herbal loose leaf from my friend Nicole Granato — she has an organic hibiscus rose petal tea that is just so beautiful. During my recent visit to Aja Malibu Latigo Canyon, I had the gift of receiving an intimate tour of the property’s biodynamic vegetable and medicinal herb gardens with the beautiful founder, Iannya Magick. As I picked and tasted whole herbs fresh from the earth, I felt reconnected to the beauty of life. Returning home, I have made infusing my tea and lemon water with fresh herbs a daily beauty ritual.

Each morning, I also pick a card from my Moon Deck, a beautiful intuitive oracle set created by my friends Aarona Ganesan and Andrea Keh. It is such a lovely way to connect to intuition through the path of self-love and ritual.

Then it’s a run out my front door, through the sand, into the cool Pacific Ocean. Splashing in the waves invigorates me and stimulates my lymphatic system — and as a bonus, cold water plunges are incredible for immune health. I’ve noticed that I feel significantly more energized when I have my ocean plunge first thing in the morning.

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{Photo Credit: Alicia Panetta}

I cleanse my face and body with manuka honey, coconut sugar, and coconut oil. I apply a healing mask depending on what I feel I need, and massage my face with facial crystals from Benshen. Then, I moisturize with Solar Sun Protect, a skin protectant from my own organic beauty apothecary, Ajai Alchemy, made from all organic essential oils in a base of carrot oil and coconut oil to protect my skin. Living in Los Angeles and traveling frequently to sunny destinations such as Sedona, Hawaii, and the Cayman Islands, I made this to give my skin some extra love as I spend my days practicing and teaching yoga on the beach. I apply Radiance Hair Serum to my hair, which keeps my beach curls wild and sexy without the frizz.

Thyroid Yoga

Sadhana, or daily practice, is a must for me, and it’s a pillar that I talk about in my Thyroid Yoga course. It’s a nonnegotiable holy practice that reminds me that I am worthy before I go out into the world — and yes, that means before I turn on my phone and check email or my Instagram feed.

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{Photo Credit: Alexa Gray Photography}

I start every practice by applying Grace Alchemy, another one of my own creations, to my thyroid gland, tracing the infinity sign horizontally and massaging my lymph nodes — it serves as a luxurious reminder that I am a radiant, beautiful woman and that treating myself with love is very important. Once I have applied my alchemy to my neck, I begin my daily sequence, which I go over in the videos during my course. My practice includes chanting, yoga asana, breathwork, and meditation. Depending on what my day looks like, it could range anywhere from 20 minutes to over two hours!

Often I will kick my practice up a notch and join my teachers Guru Jagat and Harmanjot Kaur at Ra Ma Institute in Venice, and when I’m too lazy to leave my Zen den (because yes, sometimes I’ve stayed out too late), then I can catch the classes streaming on Ra Ma TV.

Superfood Smoothie

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{Moon Juice}

I follow a 12-hour intermittent fast from the time of my last meal the night before until the next day after my sadhana, and I like to keep things light in the morning. I’ve found that works best for my body type and energy levels. To make sure I’m getting enough protein, I add Dana James’ Beauti-Fuel into my morning green smoothie. My go-to is matcha, hemp seeds, a few very generous dashes of cinnamon, a tablespoon of coconut butter, half a frozen banana, and schisandra berry and pearl from Moon Juice. Since my friend Amanda Chantal Bacon mentioned these were her beauty secret weapons, I’ve been hooked ever since.

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{Body + Eden}

I also blend in organic raw probiotic from microbiome expert Body + Eden. This is the ultimate beauty food! Why? Beauty begins in the gut — when we’re not digesting our food properly, we feel puffy, bloated, foggy, our skin breaks out, and we get sick. More potent than a capsule, naturally fermented herbs and superfoods allow for easy assimilation and better absorption of minerals and nutrients while helping your body replenish its beneficial gut bacteria.

If I feel like I need a bit more energy for the day ahead, I top my smoothie with a sprinkle of bee pollen, one of my favorite beauty superfoods.

Midday: Meetings & Turmeric Lattes

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{Fern Olivia, Thyroid Yoga Recipe Book: You Nourish You}

Typically I head out in the late morning or early afternoon to work out of a coffee shop or cafe in Venice — you can find me setting up shop at Butcher’s Daughter or Plant Food and Wine on Abbot Kinney, sipping on green juice and turmeric lattes.

Before I go out, I like to apply makeup that gives me a dewy, natural glow. I use only organic products on my face and body. If I wouldn’t consume it, it’s not going on my sacred skin! My favorite beauty products are W3ll People, Vapor, and Kjaer Weiss. I’m obsessed with CAP Beauty, Net-a-Porter, the apothecary at ABC Carpet & Home, The Detox Market, and Goop, too, as sites to buy from.

Afternoon: Goddess Time

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{Alyson Charles Rockstar Shaman}

One of the pillars of my healing regime is to luxuriously treat myself with loving care. This means getting a massage weekly, acupuncture, facials, and a spa mani and pedi. If I’m feeling extra artistic, I’ll paint my own nails with The Blessed Power Set, a gorgeous five-free set of nail lacquers blessed by Alyson Charles Rockstar Shaman. Or you’ll find me taking a midday pamper session at Olive + June, a beautiful nail spa in Los Angeles.

P.M. Ritual

I feel extremely lucky to be a five-minute bike ride from Erehwon, a chic grocery market stocked with beautiful aisles of only the cleanest and purest sustainable foods. I recently became a member and I’m obsessed — I’m in there every day picking up superfoods and fresh produce. It’s here where I get my daily fix of Elissa’s Thyroid Juice, a beautiful elixir made with dandelion greens, parsley, ginger, and other potent healing ingredients.

I love cooking and preparing my own foods, so much so that I recently became inspired to write a recipe book after serving up foods as chef on one of my recent retreats. I’ve birthed the Thyroid Yoga Recipe Book: You Nourish You, with gorgeous photography and additional recipes featured by Parsley Health founder Dr. Robin Berzin; expert Ayurvedic practitioner Tina Paymaster; plant-based chef and healer Cassandra Bozdak; and I’m very excited to share it with you. It’s all about intuitive eating and intuitive cooking, topics I am so passionate about teaching.

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{Photo Credit: Eve Bregman Photography}

Living on the beach in Venice, I feel called to catch magic hour with a sunset stroll. An evening meditation is a gift I give myself and a much-needed break from my work. I take my massive rose quartz from Sedona with me to the ocean and charge it up in mamma blue. Bubble baths with organic bath salts set me up for a restful beauty sleep. In my bath, you’ll find Pursoma Après Savasana Soak, plus some rose petals from a bouquet I bought myself just because. I light candles, burn sage and incense, and listen to the special bath playlist I created with soothing beats, earth sounds, and sacred sound currents by the talented Aya and Tyler, White Sun, DTO Music, Aykanna, and Mirabai Ceiba.

After a soothing bath, I massage virgin coconut oil all over my body with a few drops of my Grace serum — I love smelling like love when I go to bed! The scent is an aphrodisiac, sexy and so beautiful. It is such a simple pleasure, and I sleep like a baby. Oh, and I have to sleep naked. It feels incredibly liberating and is one of my body-love beauty rituals. Try it; you’ll never want to wear anything to bed again!

As I sleep, I have a mantra playing softly in the background. I play Antarjamee by Ajeet Kaur on repeat — her voice is angelic! I also love the new White Sun II album — it’s next level healing!

*This post was written by Fern Olivia and originally published on mindbodygreen.

Thyroid Thursday: A Guest Post on The Truth About Thyroid Cancer

This week marks the second installment of Thyroid Thursday, a weekly series in September to support Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Today, Fern Olivia describes what’s associated with the increased rates of thyroid disease and cancer…especially amongst women. Remember to leave any thyroid or health-related questions that you would like her to answer in the comments section below. Read on to hear more from Fern!

The Truth About Thyroid Cancer - Fern Olivia

Why are more people, especially women, struggling with thyroid health today? And why is thyroid cancer on the rise?

In 2016, the National Cancer Institute estimated 64,300 new cases of thyroid cancer, which is the eighth most prevalent type of cancer, right above kidney cancer and leukemia. You probably know someone with a thyroid disease or cancer, maybe even a few people. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re part of a ripple effect of empowerment, and this article may change your life.

So please, read on and share this information with everyone who may benefit.

Experts don’t always know what causes each individual case of thyroid cancer, when a malignant tumor or nodule builds up in the thyroid. But like other cancers, we can agree that changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that “happen as you get older.” But what does this even mean? And why are more and more young adults and children being diagnosed with these cancers?

We carry DNA from our biological parents, and these genes may be turned off, especially when we live a clean lifestyle with minimal stress. Oftentimes, however, these genes turn on or become expressed. And from my work with hundreds of clients with thyroid disease and thyroid cancer, I’ve seen a pattern of triggers from a major trauma or life incident, to a cancer onset somewhere else in the body that results in weakening the immune system, and most commonly, major chronic stress on the glandular system and microbiome.

According to Raphael Kellman, M.D., founder of the Kellman Center for Functional and Integrative Medicine, thyroid disease and the microbiome, the bacteria balance within the intestines, are intricately intertwined, and imbalances can set off a cyclical reaction. And until recently, this very important connection has been overlooked.

This may be precisely the reason you may still feel terrible even while being on the thyroid hormone replacement your doctors may have given you. If the microbiome isn’t being healed and strengthened, the thyroid condition may persist and eventually, if the immune and glandular systems have had a recent trauma or the body has been exposed to significant radiation exposure, thyroid cancer cells may turn on.

In functional and integrative medicine, contrary to the Western medicine model, the emphasis is always on healing the gut (intestines) and balancing the colonies of bacteria that live there called the microbiome. Trillions of bacteria live on us and in us with the largest concentration located in the intestine, where 70 percent of our immune system also lives.

In practical terms, when the bacteria that make up our microbiome are healthy and thriving, so are we. Dysbiosis, or imbalances and overgrowth of unfriendly strains of bacteria, can throw things off, contributing to health and immune issues — including cancer.

So, how did the imbalances happen?

Many of us were given antibiotics as children, and oftentimes we weren’t given high strains of probiotics to counter the effect. Overmedicating with antibiotics and antacids destroys microbial populations. Environmental toxins, pesticides, heavy metal exposure, and chemicals in beauty and cleaning supplies also take a major toll, which is the reason I created Ajai Alchemy, a conscious, eco-sustainable beauty brand that actually works to heal your body on a cellular level using pure essential oils and zero chemicals.

Everything we put in and on our bodies can positively or negatively affect our health. Poor diets of sugary foods, refined carbs, GMOs, gluten, pesticides, and chemical additives cause pathogenic strains to flourish. Over time, the gut is weakened and disease manifests within the physical body.

There are two main reasons more people, especially women, are struggling with thyroid health today, and why thyroid disease and thyroid cancer have become more prevalent.

First, our bodies are out of balance. We’re being hit with so many chemicals and toxins that simply didn’t exist generations ago.

Parabens, carcinogens, heavy metals, and GMOs are all bombarding our bodies, and our immune and lymphatic systems can’t keep up!

Then add adrenal fatigue into the mix, which is affecting so many more women today because we have an unbelievable amount of added stress to be wonder women. On top of the chronic stress of always trying to be perfect, our poor eating habits have caught up to us and weakened our digestive system to a point where we see food allergies pop up all over the place. Years of oral contraception have thrown our hormones out of their natural rhythm, and we are finally just seeing now how altering our hormones for years was not really a smart choice.

Our thyroid is the major control center in our bodies, so clearly when we are so out of whack due to the stress placed upon us by our environment, work, and toxins that have taken over our endocrine system, we just can’t keep up. Our bodies go into survival mode, just fighting to find a little bit of balance.

The second reason is a bit more subtle and often something that your doctor may have never presented to you. Many women and men have the fear of communicating their needs and desires, feel unheard at work or in their relationships, or feel afraid to do what they really love and express themselves creatively.

Why does this matter when we are talking about the thyroid?

I have noticed in my practice that many women have manifested thyroid conditions because of a long pattern of not speaking up or feeling blocked creatively. Often, I’ve seen clients who were physically or emotionally abused and have held the trauma inside, afraid to speak up, and even repeating the same situations again, feeling unworthy of being heard, or asking for and receiving the love and support they truly desired.

Are you experiencing something similar? Have your physical symptoms slightly improved with nutrition, lifestyle shifts, or medication, but you just can’t seem to feel 100 percent better? Can you recognize any areas of struggle in your life where you’ve been unable to speak your ideas and truth without being judged, shamed, or criticized? Do you find yourself allowing others to speak without expressing your voice because you are afraid of what they may say or how they may perceive you?

We are approaching a major shift in global consciousness, one in which we are beginning to speak our empowered truth about our intuition, our gifts, and our needs. Thyroid conditions and thyroid cancers have been showing up more and more frequently because we are being called upon to raise our consciousness and become leaders in this world. Our bodies are literally saying “Hey, this blockage here, I’m sick of you not being true to you, I want you to finally speak up, it’s not OK to be silent about what has happened to you, it is time for you to clear the past trauma and become your powerful, confident self!” and it’s about time we listen!

Your emotional health certainly helps shape the way your body functions, right down to a cellular level, and science is now catching up with what ancient medical modalities have been explaining for years. Chinese medicine has forever loved to focus on the emotional relationship of the organs, and in many illnesses, successful treatment of conditions and ailments lie in the resolution of emotional issues. Along with other ancient healing wisdom modalities including Ayurveda, the science of life, Kundalini yoga, and Pranayama, we can really begin to start understanding how the physical and energetic body are connected.

Intrigued? You can learn more about my one-of-a-kind thyroid support method in my mindbodygreen course and dive even deeper with me and the world’s leading thyroid healing experts in my upcoming Thyroid Yoga teacher training happening in L.A. this fall and streaming globally.

*This post was written by Fern Olivia and originally published on mindbodygreen. Photo: Alicia Panetta, Blue Velvet Studios.

What My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Taught Me

What My Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Taught Me

This past weekend, April 2nd, marked the three-year anniversary of my thyroid cancer diagnosis (you can read the full story here). It’s not something I choose to commemorate, but rather something my mind never lets me forget. Like it was yesterday, I still remember the day I got the call to come in to my endocrinologist’s office to receive the news.

I was on my way out the door to have lunch with a friend, when I finally reached the doctor’s office on the phone hoping to get the results of the fine needle aspiration biopsy I underwent a week earlier. Instead of hearing “yes, everything is fine,” I heard instead, “the doctor would like to see you this afternoon.” I knew then that the news was grim.

It has been a lengthy and tortuous journey, one that I never thought would have lasted this long. But I learned after my surgery that it is a never-ending one. You are never cured of cancer; you are merely a survivor. Each morning I’m greeted by the same yellow Synthroid pill. And by the afternoon I’m reminded of the toll my invisible illness takes on my body. This journey has forced me to let go of who I thought I was, and to take control of who I am becoming.

But in doing so I’ve learned a few things about myself. I’ve learned that I’m stronger than that which tried to hurt me. I’ve learned that I’m more resilient than I ever thought I could be. And I learned that I will never stop advocating for myself and fighting the good fight — because the fight is worth it.

A terrible diagnosis can put life in perspective for you in a way that you might never know, even if you lived a hundred years. I feel that I am wiser than my young years should allow, yet older than my young years know.

Thyroid cancer has taught me patience, compassion, and understanding — not just for others, but for myself.

P.S. For those of you who are curious, the appointment with my new endocrinologist whom I saw last month went well. She agreed to keep me on the same dose of Synthroid that I’m currently taking, and seems to be a doctor who will listen to me and that I can work with. I will see her again in August for a neck ultrasound and follow-up. Thank you for all of your well wishes!

The Doctor Will See You Now…

The doctor will see you now

Three years after my thyroid surgery, the struggle to find a good endocrinologist is real. If you are a fellow thyroid patient, perhaps you can relate. The first time I heard the word endocrinologist I had no idea what kind of doctor they were, or what they treated. No one in my family had ever had a thyroid problem, so there was never a need for one. I didn’t have any friends who went to one either, so I asked my primary care doctor for a recommendation. He referred me to someone local, and advised me to make an appointment as soon as possible, as they tend to book up fast.

I started seeing an endocrinologist shortly after a lump on my thyroid was discovered in 2013 — even before I knew it was cancer. He prescribed my first dose of Synthroid, and advised me about the next step — a fine needle aspiration biopsy. At first I was in awe of the time he took with me; answering my questions and listening as my voice shook while I fought back tears. He was compassionate and seemed to understand my reluctance to start on Synthroid before I had an official diagnosis.

After the biopsy, when it came time to deliver the news, he called me into his office rather than tell me over the phone. I knew then and there that it wasn’t good. He kept me in his office for over an hour, speaking slowly and methodically about the surgery, recovery, and what I should expect.

But after my surgery it all changed. My surgeon prescribed my new dose of Synthroid — a slight increase from the dosage I had been on before. And I went for post-surgical follow-ups in New York City, where I had my surgery performed. The need to see my endocrinologist at that time seemed like overkill. I was happily adjusting well to 100 mcg of Synthroid, and my scar was healing nicely.

I returned to my endocrinologist a month after my surgery, and to my surprise found that he wanted to increase my dose even further. Here’s where the confusion began. I had a surgeon who wanted to keep me on the lowest dose that would still treat my symptoms, and an endocrinologist who felt that it needed to be higher. What’s a patient to do? Which doctor do you listen to?

I’ve always believed that my body was the best doctor, and would tell me what it needed. Over the last three years, my dose has been increased and decreased by various people with MD’s, and I’ve never felt much of a difference — for better or worse. I tend to think that the lowest dose that still treats your symptoms is best…at least, for me.

Today I am on my way to see a new endocrinologist, one who came highly recommended, and who will with any luck listen to my concerns.

To be continued…

January is Thyroid Disease Awareness Month

January is Thyroid Disease Awareness Month

When I was first diagnosed with a thyroid condition, I knew little about thyroid disease. In my mind, my thyroid was this shapeless figure somewhere in my neck that served a function — but I didn’t know just how important its job was until I lost it.

Since this month is dedicated to thyroid disease awareness, I thought I would share some background to my thyroid cancer diagnosis. You can read the full story of my journey here.

In March 2013 I was diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism, which explained why I had none of the symptoms that usually accompanied hypothyroidism — weight gain, hair loss, or extreme fatigue, to name a few. I always felt tired, but never associated that factor with a medical condition. Subclinical meant that some of my levels were within range, but my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was higher than normal. This suggested that without eventual treatment, I would begin to suffer the debilitating effects of hypothyroidism.

I was started on 88 mcg of Synthroid, a daily synthetic thyroid hormone. In April 2013, further testing revealed that I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and papillary thyroid carcinoma. Hashimoto’s was another disease that I was unfamiliar with — where your immune system attacks your thyroid. It is often the most common cause of hypothyroidism.

After I had my thyroid removed in June 2013, my Synthroid dose varied between 100 and 112 mcg. I am presently on 100 mcg and looking forward to meeting my new endocrinologist in March.

I write about my journey to encourage you to get your thyroid levels checked during your next medical appointment and to ask for, and know how, to perform a neck check. Being familiar with thyroid terms, conditions, and symptoms can help you stay vigilant about your health — and perhaps avoid a health crisis.

*Image courtesy of ThyCa

Thyroid Tuesday: Awareness Efforts

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

It’s the final days of September and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. But that doesn’t mean awareness efforts are over. Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the United States, making early detection critical. Be sure to have your doctor perform a neck check at your next appointment and regularly examine your neck at home. I’m thankful to my readers who have offered support as I’ve shared my story, to those who have commented with questions, and others who have raised awareness in their own way. I’m also extremely grateful to Mikelle Hebeka of Zen Thyroid, who shared her valuable insight about living and coping with thyroid disease in two posts on the blog this month (you can read them here and here).

If you are looking for ways to partake in awareness efforts, here are some things that you can do right now.

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Over the weekend I snapped a photo for the #TruthAboutTC challenge. For each person who shares a picture holding a sign that states #TruthAboutTC, Eisai, Inc. will donate $1 to ThyCa and Light of Life Foundation for Thyroid Cancer, up to $50,000. The month still has a few days left, so let’s help them reach their goal! Once you have your photo, share it on social media and tag two friends to help spread the word. You can even mention a fact about thyroid cancer or include a line about your own diagnosis and journey. Please visit ThyCa’s Facebook page for more information!

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

Yesterday I took my annual “scarfie” (scarf + selfie = scarfie, in case there was any confusion) for Scarfies 4 Thyca. Just grab your favorite scarf and take a selfie. It’s that easy. Make sure to tag your photos on social media using the hashtag #Scarfies4Thyca #CheckYourNeck #ThyroidCancerAwarenessMonth and get your friends involved, too!

These are two simple awareness initiatives that are a great way to educate others and raise money for thyroid cancer research. For further information on thyroid related topics, please visit the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association and ThyroidChange.

Again, thank you to my readers and the thyroid warriors I have been fortunate enough to meet through blogging and social media. Your support means a lot to me!

P.S. The 18th Annual International Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Conference will be held next month from October 2nd – 4th (which is actually the end of this week!) in St. Louis, Missouri. Details are on ThyCa’s website!

Thyroid Thursday: A Guest Post on Coping

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month

I am thrilled to welcome Mikelle Hebeka, author of Zen Thyroid, back to the blog this week for Thyroid Thursday. Mikelle’s words on coping resonated with me as a thyroid cancer survivor and I felt they were important to share with other thyroid warriors. Coping with any disease or illness takes time, and it was what I struggled with most during my battle with thyroid cancer. I was unable to attach any personalization to my diagnosis…it was as though I was talking about someone else’s condition when I referred to it. It wasn’t until I could take ownership of what was going on with my health, which came through research and understanding, that I felt strong enough to combat what was in front of me. If you or someone you know is dealing with a thyroid condition, please remember Mikelle’s words of compassion, strength, and guidance. They may make all the difference.

How I Began to Cope with Thyroid Disease
By: Mikelle Hebeka

I suspected for many years that I had a thyroid issue. It really did not affect the day-to-day operations of my life and had primarily manifested itself as a minor irritation. For the past several years, that minor irritation morphed into some more major events. They came and went and while some were harder to deal with than others, I always was left feeling like I could handle this, no problemo. I got this. Until this past autumn when the gusts turned into Hurricane Hypothyroid and turned my world upside down. When the dust settled, I found myself completely lost for the first time (or at least the first time I would admit that I was lost). I felt like I had been dropped in the middle of the wilderness without a map.

There were so many new symptoms and situations to deal with. Everything became incredibly difficult. Even getting dressed in the morning was awful and frequently resulted in sobbing on the closet floor. Each task, each moment of my day seemed to require all of my energy. Rest became as important as breath. Every single thing I did required planning. I was beyond upset at my situation, myself, my body.

I realized this wasn’t going away quickly. I needed to find my way through this wilderness. A way to cope.

Here is how I began to cope with hypothyroidism – I decided I must treat myself as I would treat a friend. What would I want for my friend? I certainly wouldn’t want her crying in the closet, feeling lost. I would tell her how strong she is, how smart she is. I would tell her that I know she would get through this. I would remind her of all the times she has grown from her experiences, no matter how hard they were. I would tell her that I love her and that I will be here for her every step of the way. This is how I turned the corner in my healing process.

The final post for Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month will be up next Tuesday, so if there are any topics you would like me to cover or if you have questions, please leave them in the comments.