When Your Body Betrays You—Lori’s Health Journey

Posted by Lori Merrill on 08/17/2017

 

Looking back I should have known something was terribly wrong. Now that I can quickly recall all the symptoms at once, adding them on my ten fingers, it seems unreasonable that I didn’t know. However, if you, like me, have experienced symptoms that come on slowly then you know that eventually they become your normal because the changes are so gradual.  If you have experienced this then you also know how difficult it is to see them as an accumulation leading to a bull’s eye rather than many random arrows scattered about.

For those of you who don’t know, I became very ill in the fall of 2010. The short version of the story is that I wasn’t diagnosed until May of 2012 and the diagnosis was a “brain tumor”. Translation--adenoma on my pituitary gland. Surgery wasn’t performed until January of 2014 because my doctor and my husband didn’t want someone to cut around “inside my head”.  But, after more than a year of medication that was meant to shrink or deactivate the tumor, while increasing the medication 7 different times, then I was determined to have the tumor removed, no matter the risk.  After much research and prayer, we were accepted as a patient at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. This is where I had surgery.

My case was an unusual case in that the tumor was pressing on the “stem of my pituitary causing the prolactin to leak anytime and at all times.” Praise God the surgery was successful and I noticed improvement immediately in spite of the long recovery. Recovery from the surgery took at least a year.  My body struggled to resume the proper activation of my thyroid, my adrenal glands and the regulation of my hormones. Then it took another year before my brain could process and function as normal, which meant that my thinking and emotional stability was somewhat of a roller coaster. It certainly has been a journey. When people ask me if I am normal then my response is that I am not sure if I will ever be as I was before and I’ve come to accept a new normal. I am not sure how many of the changes I experience are from aging or if it is because of the tumor and what it did to my body.

Because my journey was so taxing on my family and on myself it changed my life. I am not the same person I was before. There were so many dark days and nights prior to the diagnosis. God was always there, but I doubted that at times (I will write more about that later). I have always wondered, “How many women have this tumor and live with the symptoms, but never know they have it or that they can be helped?” How sad that would be to be so sick and not know there is something physical causing the mental and emotional symptoms along with the physical ones?  This was my situation for too long. Once the tumor was discovered, I was told that I should be able to live with it. What they didn’t realize is the unique placement of my tumor or the depth of the symptoms. I am so thankful that God led us to keep searching for help.

So, three years later I have just as much passion as I did in 2014, post-surgery; to be that voice to women, reminding you to care for yourself. And to make sure you pay attention to your body, your mind and your souls.

Listed below are symptoms that I experienced and because they either came on gradually or crashed in when I was going through a lot of stressful situations in a short amount of time then, it was easy to NOT recognize that there was more to this than just a difficult season of life. I hope that by reading these symptoms you will be aware and take action if you see these in your own life at anytime.  Because of a woman’s aging body, often times these issues are dismissed as “part of what women have to deal with.” And while some of that is true, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to get help or delve into research about our symptoms.

  • Sleep—Change in sleep patterns or not being able to sleep.  When I was at my worst I was fortunate if I had 2 hours of sleep in a night. And this wasn’t consecutive. Lack of sleep causes a whole host of other problems.
  • Anxiety—I used to call my anxiety a nervous stomach because that is how it manifested itself in high school and randomly throughout the stresses of life. So when I began to experience severe anxiety I didn’t know what it was. The way I described it to my doctor was, “I feel like I am having a nervous breakdown every day.” I had no idea how anxiety could be so debilitating.
  • Loss of Hair—I was pulling out lots of hair when I washed my hair, but on top of that I was getting lots of comments about how much I was shedding on my clothes, in cars and on furniture.
  • Speech Struggles—For years my speech was hindered. But once again, it came on so slowly that I had not idea it was due to a tumor. However, looking back I should have recognized my struggle to find the right words. I stuttered a lot and sometimes I would use a word wrong or after I said it I wondered if I had used it correctly. This has improved greatly, but it has taken lots of time.
  • Memory Loss—It seemed I couldn’t remember much of anything. I asked my doctor at one time prior to diagnosis if I had early onset Alzheimer’s and I was completely serious.
  • Fatigue—Extreme fatigue would come on all at once. It almost felt like energy was being drained from my body. Of course, I chalked this up to not sleeping and being overweight.
  • Emotional Extremes—I would cry a lot, but not necessarily because I was sad. I would also become stoic and feel like a robot.
  • Depression—Along with the emotional extremes came depression; which I had never struggled with in my life. Deep depression overtook me and I could not shake it no matter what. I began to doubt my purpose in living and even had suicidal thoughts when I was at my sickest.
  • Processing—The ability to process steps to take action on something was very difficult and if there were too many steps then I felt overwhelmed.
  • OCD—For the first time in my life I felt like I understood a little of what it would be like to be obsessive compulsive. I would have thoughts about something and I wouldn’t be able to control those thoughts. My mind would never stop and this was part of the reason I couldn’t sleep at night. It was especially difficult if there was conflict in my life. The situation would replay constantly and I couldn’t make it go away.
  • Organizational Skills—The ability to organize, which had always been an asset, were no longer accessible and this affected my work, my home and my daily functions. But, again this came on over a period of years.
  • Weight Loss—When my body crashed I lost an incredible amount of weight in a short amount of time. I couldn’t eat because of anxiety and my stomach issues, so this became a vicious cycle.

I share these things with you because aging is something we all face daily. But, some of us face a health crisis earlier than others. To attend to our health is a beautiful thing. To have health is a gift from God. To have an illness can be a gift in ways we never thought possible. I am changed by my illness. I can thank God He carried me through it. Some of us still are there in the midst of it. No matter where you are remember this. The one thing you can count on when all else fails, including your body, is our faithful Lord Jesus Christ.  

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalms 55:22

I will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5

Father God, give the women reading this wisdom to know when to seek answers for their bodies. Please give us a balanced mindset about being aware of our bodies and being in tune to what is going on. And Lord, please give those going through a health crisis your sustaining strength and comfort as they persevere and endure the path. May they lean hard into You. Amen.

In His Love,

Lori Merrill

 

P.S. More to come about lessons learned through the struggles. 

 

2 Comments

Leigh Ann Says:
August 18th, 2017 at 2:16 pm
Thank you for so transparently sharing your story, Lori. There are so many important topics that many are scared to discuss. I hope others will feel encouraged to voice their own personal struggles and have the courage to seek professional help.

Lori Says:
August 22nd, 2017 at 4:45 pm
Thank you Leigh Ann! I appreciate your encouragement and I agree with you.
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