How to Take Control of Your Health Journey
- Actress Gina Rodriguez, 38, was diagnosed with the thyroid condition Hashimoto’s disease at 19. She initially tried to ignore that she had the disease.
- She struggled with symptoms like weight gain, tiredness and memory problem. She eventually learned that she couldn’t let the disease control her.
- Feeling overwhelmed by a disease is something many cancer survivors can relate to. And they can learn from Rodriguez’s determination to be stronger than her illness.
- Coping with a diagnosis is not easy and usually brings a string of emotions. People can feel angry, sad, or determined after being diagnosed with cancer or a disease and it’s completely normal.
- SurvivorNet experts recommend cancer warriors and their loved ones “be patient” with their emotions while adjusting to a new diagnosis.
And that’s an attitude survivors of all kinds can learn from.Read More
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Throughout her career, she struggled with her weight, as weight gain is a side effect of Hashimoto’s, according to Cleveland Clinic.
“I went against the current by saying, ‘Hollywood has to accept me because I’m curvy, and that’s just the way it is…But I wasn’t accepting me,” she admitted.
Though she took thyroid medication to help manage her symptoms, she said the drugs led to “debilitating panic attacks and anxiety.” And it was then that Rodriguez knew she had to make a change to prioritize her health.
“[Hashimoto’s] affects so many aspects of your life. I’ve had it for so many years…that rebellion of not taking care of myself can’t exist anymore,” Rodriguez shared with People Magazine.
To reclaim control of her life, Rodriguez modified her medication as well as her diet. She is now gluten-free and adopted a consistent exercise regimen.
“So many of my ailments are gone. It feels like freedom,” she said.
“If I can at least walk for 30 minutes a day, it’s extremely helpful for my thyroid gland…Running, boxing, jumping rope, and hitting the heavy bag are my workout constants,” she explained.
The Basics of Hashimoto’s Disease
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that impacts the thyroid gland. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate your metabolism, body temperature, digestion, and more, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Hashimoto’s disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid, and it can lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), in which the thyroid “doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body’s needs,” according to the National Library of Medcine.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease says women aged 30-50 are more likely to be impacted by Hashimoto’s disease.
The condition is often treated with medication that replaces lost thyroid hormones.
The Cleveland Clinic list several symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease, which include:
- Weight gain
- Feeling cold
- Stiffness in the joints
- Pain in the muscles
- Puffy eyes or face
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair or hair loss
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Difficulty becoming pregnant
- Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
- Slow heartbeat
Coping With a Diagnosis
It took Gina Rodriguez some time to accept that she had a chronic disease and learn how to live with it. Coping with a diagnosis — like cancer or other illness — is not easy and usually brings a string of emotions.
People can feel angry, sad, or determined, and it’s completely normal. Sarah Stapleton, a licensed clinical social worker, encourages cancer warriors and their families to be “patient with your emotions.”
“It’s also important that you understand how you communicate with your providers, but also with your loved ones,” Stapleton said.
WATCH: The first three things to do after a cancer diagnosis.
“We can’t always assume that people know what we need at a given time, and there are going to be times when you don’t want to speak about your diagnosis and you don’t want to speak about cancer,” Stapleton continued.
Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik explained to SurvivorNet some tips for cancer warriors and their caregivers for managing emotions after a diagnosis. She emphasized getting extra support from loved ones.
“Some people don’t need to go outside of their family and friend circle. They feel like they have enough support there,” Dr. Plutchik said.
“But for people who feel like they need a little bit more, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional,” Dr. Plutchik added.
Bethany Kandel is a breast cancer survivor. She found a hospital in her community that brought cancer survivors together for fun activities — and it was extremely helpful for her. The group engaged in dancing, cooking, and beauty classes.
“I’ve learned so much,” Kandel told SurvivorNet.
As You Cope with Your Diagnosis, Should You Feel You Need to Tell Others About It?
As cancer warriors continue coping with their diagnosis, the question of sharing your diagnosis with others eventually emerges.
“Patients who have just been diagnosed with cancer sometimes wonder how they are going to handle the diagnosis of the cancer in social situations. How much information they should share and with whom they should share the information…everybody is different,” Dr. Plutchik said.
Expert Resources for Coping With a Diagnosis
- 39-Year-Old Mom’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis ‘Came Out of Nowhere’ During Scan for Gallbladder Surgery — Coping With an Unexpected Diagnosis
- Coping With a Sibling’s Cancer Diagnosis: How COVID-19 Affects the Siblings of Cancer Patients
- Coping with Anxiety after an Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
- Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, Jazmine Sullivan Nominated for Grammys Today; All 3 Women Have Mothers Who Battled Cancer; Coping with Parental Cancer Diagnosis
Ultimately it comes down to what feels right. Loved ones supporting a cancer warrior are encouraged to respect the wishes of the cancer patient when it comes to disclosing their diagnosis.
Comedian Wanda Sykes, 59, was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer in early 2011. She did not go public with her diagnosis until months later during an appearance on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
And actress Kathy Bates kept her battles with ovarian and breast cancer secret for years, even continuing to work and not tell anyone about her diagnosis or treatment. However, she decided to start telling people when she realized her story may be able to help others dealing with the same thing better cope with it.
On the other had, other people want to share their stories immediately. Lizzy Musi, star of the Discovery show “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings,” shared with her social media followers that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and is now posting frequent updates about her treatment journey.
All this to say, the decision to tell people about your cancer journey is entirely up to you, and there is no right or wrong answer — it’s about whatever you feel comfortable with.
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