The month of March represents something different for each of us.
Most of the time it's just the beginning of longer days and warmer weather. Sometimes it's about Basketball Madness, National Nutrition, holidays with bunnies and lots of chocolate or just simply the green that begins to bloom, spread and show us the rebirth cycle in motion.
Each month in our calendar also points to awareness of a particular type of injury or cancers and March is no exception but it is also Autoimmune Awareness Month.
I can say with all honesty that five years ago I had an inkling of what that meant but I didn't really "get it" or understand. If someone were to have quizzed me I would have failed miserably only being able to name maybe 5 or 6 actual autoimmune diseases.
You probably know more than you think, maybe, and on the same note, I may be giving you more credit than you deserve.
I know now, and even back then, the names of a bunch of illnesses but may not have been able to categorize them correctly. And to be fair you can probably name more types of cancer than you can autoimmune diseases. It's not uncommon.
If you were to place a number on how many autoimmune diseases there are what would you say?
Forty? Seventy-five? I wouldn't have guessed more than seventy five. There are in fact over a 100 known autoimmune diseases and 70% of them affect women more often than men.
So, If you have one...or more, you understand. It's not uncommon to have more than one. If you know someone that has one you may or may not understand. And if you think you don't know anyone with one, you're probably mistaken simply because not everyone talks about what ails them on a regular basis.
Having an autoimmune disease can be a full time job. When you are newly diagnosed it can be easier to talk about it for several reasons but after living with something that can feel like varying versions of the plague some people try to give it less energy so that it feels like it has less of a hold on your overall life.
Now, the part, a part, that really sucks about autoimmune diseases is how often they are either overlooked, ignored or misdiagnosed. Don't believe me? Just drop into a AI support group on social media and read the posts. It's not only eye-opening but heart breaking.
Many symptoms cross the lines from one disease into the next and while there are all sorts of diagnostic tests and blood work that can be done, before you can even get to that step you need to have a doctor that actually knows what they are doing. Guess how many miss the signs? a lot. As in too many, too often.
And before you defend your doc, or tell me how amazing all doctors are, I'm not dissing all doctors but I am dissing the more than a dozen that missed every sign, symptom and ignored me for the majority of my life. If you think I am the exception, I can assure you that I am not.
I was diagnosed with Hashimotos about 3.5 years ago after one doctor, a chiropractor, actually listened to me about my ailments and ran some blood work. What immediately followed was a slew of new doctors, more tests and the surgical removal of my thyroid because the Hashimotos had destroyed the gland to a shriveled nonfunctioning unrepairable placeholder.
In order to get to that point, based on science and according to my surgeon, I had to have had Hashimotos for over 30 years. Over ...30.... Years.
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my late teens. It shouldn't have been a far jump nor a difficult connection to make if any of my doctors had been paying attention, been better educated or honestly just listened to me.
This snapshot gives you a glimpse but hardly the details of what I've been through. You can read my book when it's published if you'd like the whole story....it's a doozy.
So - Autoimmune Awareness Month.
Awareness is key, being kind is extremely important.
If you were to ask your friends with chronic illnesses about the current pandemic it has presented several challenges for our treatments and yet mixed blessings about staying away from people.
I was wearing a mask long before any of this started simply because after my surgery I caught every virus that breezed by me.
I couldn't travel without catching something on the way there or on the way home.
Frankly, it sucked.
This is not a political post and I don't care who you voted for - At the end of the day we are all human bodies that can be affected by illness.
We, as a society, must do better.
If someone wants the current vaccine, Support them.
If someone doesn't want it or can't get it, Support them too.
Not everyone can physically actually tolerate the vaccine. And while cancer is not autoimmune, many autoimmune patients have cancer or are still recovering from cancer and cannot get vaccines.
AND Don't get me started on the patients who have gene mutations and issues with metabolizing or detoxing elements and ingredients.
There is so much more going on than what you can see on the surface.
Life is already too hard.