autoimmunity: a reckoning

The immune system is an amazing thing when you start to study it. Our immune systems consist of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues and protect us from bacteria, viruses, and parasites. A healthy immune system can distinguish self from non-self. (Non-self as in foreign tissue, a pathogen, something that is not us.) A healthy immune system mounts an immune response when it sniffs out proteins from invading antigens. A healthy immune system is an awesome reckoning/call and response network.

When your immune system fails to distinguish self from non-self, well, heck.

AutoimmuneDisorderSource: Four reasons your autoimmune disorder won’t go away

Depending on what your immune system attacks, the symptoms can be fairly benign or full blown. About a year ago I was experiencing a panoply of weird symptoms. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I chalked them up to getting older. And then my birthday in June happened. The symptoms were beyond what you would attribute to getting old. It was a time for a medical reckoning. I don’t have family or close friends in #Jackson. I also didn’t have a general practitioner or doctor I knew. So I got myself to an urgent care center to figure out what the heck was going on. Happy birthday to me, I guess.

Blood work indicated that my thyroid levels were way off. My immune system was attacking my thyroid, and my thyroid, poor thing, didn’t stand a chance. I met with an endocrinologist a couple weeks later to learn my options. I could have my thyroid surgically removed (no), treated temporarily with anti-inflammation drugs (no), or have it irradiated and then take synthetic thyroid medication (yes).

I started feeling better very quickly, thank goodness. And my endocrinologist has been helpful in helping me appreciate healthy thyroid function, which I have by proxy. Next month I turn a year older and plan on being grateful for the care of doctors and modern medicine. And for as long as I have it, the lack of autoimmunity.