I Am Balanced Clinic & Store

Thank you Mel, for encouraging me to share my own story, journey and why I am so passionate about my work as a nutritionist and naturopath, to help guide people into their ability to heal themselves.

I am totally appreciative and supportive for products and brands with a real story behind it. However I never shared my own story until last year on my personal facebook page; 10 years after a surgery that changed me forever. I had always resisted sharing my own health journey because, I always perceived it to be my “dark” side, which I buried heavily because of feelings of shame, unworthiness and a fear of not being loved. 

"The risk that the cancer will come back in 10 years is only 20%. That's great isn't it?" Now, almost 11 years later I can still remember my thoughts about that statement by my surgeon. I was 22 at the time and my thoughts were "no that's not great - at 32, be healthy and alive”. I think I just nodded and smiled. Here I am today at 32, almost going on 33 and I believe I am relatively fit, happy, healthy and very alive 😉

At 21 I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and for 2 years I suffered, mentally physically and emotionally. This was a major event in my life that makes me who I am and has taught me so so much of what I have to offer back into this world but yet my perception of it being the dark side of me always held me back a little; with my work and relationships.
It was a little after my 21st birthday when I was home in Palmy that my mum noticed a lump in the front of my neck. We went to the doctors to check it out and I was diagnosed with grave disease, causing hyperthyroidism, which meant my thyroid gland was producing too many thyroid hormones. There are an array of wonderful symptoms when your body produce too many thyroid hormones; the ones that I experienced included heat sensitivity, anxiety and fatigue but as a student in Dunedin, who has time to even notice these symptoms when you are also drunk or hung over a lot of the time? So thankfully the intuition of my mother told her that my neck was fatter than usual.

It was a long process of my doctors putting me on meds to balance my thyroid hormones. My GP told me that it was nothing in urgent need of further treatment apart from the thyroid medication but I should get surgery to remove the lump (now I look back and can clearly see no nutrition and lifestyle intervention what so ever - how to improve the "health" system 101 :P
My mum was hesitant for me to go into surgery so we waited it out. Luckily there is a Human Nutrition department at Massey University in Palmerston North, where I transferred to study for a year so that my mum could take care of me.

During that time I suffered so much, my anxiety went through the roof, my insomnia came in patterns of 3 days of no sleep until I was physically and mentally so tired that I would knock out for a few hours on the 4th night. I was lifeless and doing things that I thought would help me get through University, like taking those nodoz caffeine pills before my exams, not knowing that it was just hurting me more! After half a year of this ongoing suffering I had had enough. I cried to my mum and begged her - “I want surgery now, I want all these symptoms gone…please”. (Little did I know, that was not the solution to a symptom free, healthier me).

So a little after my 22nd birthday I was scheduled in for surgery to remove the lump. I came out with more than my lump removed, they removed my whole thyroid as they found cancerous tissue that was over 1 cm in size which meant thats what they needed to do. Till this day I believe that if there was some kind of nutrition and lifestyle intervention between the time that I was diagnosed with grave disease and the surgery I may still have my thyroid and I wouldn’t have to be on medication for life. But I didn’t have that knowledge then and neither did my doctors.
So now I have no thyroid; without it I feel like I am always dependent, I am not as free as I could be… What else does not having a thyroid mean? The thyroid regulates your metabolism so if you don’t manage your health well and are not on the right level of meds then you pretty much get fat. And thats what I was destined for for a good year or so after surgery. So for a year or so I was becoming fat and overweight, at my heaviest I was 62kgs, now thats a lot for a shorty and trust me a large percentage was fat. That is a good 15kgs heavier than what I was during my first year of uni. I was a depressed lifeless insomniac and on top of that I had cystic acne all over my face, just another symptom of how I was so out of balance.

While I was getting fatter and more sluggish I went through 3 rounds of radiation therapy to kill off any cancer cells and in the process this damages all other cells; I hated these sessions and they made me pretty sad. It was a shitty and lonely time especially for the extreme extrovert that I was. First session I had to stay in the hospital room for a couple of days, the other sessions I was put into a motel room opposite the hospital for treatment, no visitors were allowed so that we didn’t expose anyone to radiation.

And even if visitors were allowed I wouldn’t have many anyway. No one knew this was going on, except my parents (and my brothers after some time). My mum told me that I couldn’t tell anyone. “Just don’t tell anyone” was enough explanation for me. I felt like she was afraid that if people knew they would judge me/her/our family and maybe say things like “oh look theres something wrong with her daughter”. She probably thought the stigma of being sick may affect my happiness and future. I'm not saying all Chinese have this way of thinking but some go as far as, “oh there is cancer in the family, you may not want to get into a relationship with them”

It hurt me a little, actually not a little, it hurt me deeply... in my mums world she was protecting me but without her intention this may have been one of the most damaging aspects of this experience for me. Of course the long list of physical symptoms I mentioned above weren’t pleasant but the emotional ones and the unhealthy beliefs and perceptions of myself that I had really impacted my wellbeing and caused pain that showed up in my life in ways that I never expected - an area in health that I am so much more interested in now than ever before!
It was when I read the book Beauty from the inside out by Dr Libby - that I decided I should share my story. In one of the final chapters she mentions Donny Epstein’s quote “The greater the wound the bigger the gift” and she goes on to say “you take the emotional pain, you transform it and you now you share that”. So here is my wound, my dark story which has turned my greatest gift and a source of light that I wish to share with you. And now, as a health practitioner I can freely and truely reflect on my own experience to help those who come to me for guidance and if I believe it is helpful maybe I can tell them my story too. “You pass on what you have learnt, and the transformation of someone else’s pain into gifts begin. A ripple effect is created when you share your journey” - Dr Libby.

So here I share my dark story turned gift to you 🙂

With wellness,

I Am Balanced - www.iambalanced.co.nz - @iambalanced.nz