The topic of autoimmune diseases has sparked my interest recently. My mom has been having symptoms of autoimmune diseases, and I also became more curious when I interviewed local woman, Jennifer Rector, for an essay at school. Last month in my college English class I wrote a paper on food deserts, and I took the angle that even though Hillsboro is not a food desert, it is to some who have food restrictions and have to travel out of town to buy groceries. I interviewed her thinking I would know more about how she’s affected by traveling for food, but discovered so much more.
Autoimmune diseases are when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the body. There are many different diseases under this category, some with answers, some without. Rector has many food restrictions that she has been diagnosed with as well as specific autoimmune diseases.
“My [allergies] are not anaphylactic. Food-wise, gluten, dairy, egg, and potatoes I can’t have. Those are the ones if I’m at a restaurant I definitely have to ask about. I have auto-immune diseases. I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which lead to thyroid cancer, and Raynaud’s Disease, which is an auto-immune circulatory disease. That one only flares now when I’m exposed to chlorine,” said Rector.
Rector started to realize something was wrong in 2011 when she had her daughter. Having her first child was what set off a majority of her health issues, and soon led to thyroid cancer.
“I had that removed, and the doctors told me when they took out the tissue that I had Hashimoto’s Disease. I thought that made sense, I had been complaining of thyroid issues for ten years and doctors kept telling me that I was fine. I knew I wasn’t. I started asking questions, ‘what do I have now, I don’t have a thyroid, do I still have Hashimoto’s’, and they said, ‘No, you’re fine, take your medicine and go on with your life.’” Rector said.
Although many people all over the world are affected by this, and have been for a long time, some doctors in the medical field are still skeptical of autoimmune diseases.
“This didn’t sit well with me. I kept digging and found some websites about gluten. I had never heard about any of this. I cut out gluten first, and I didn’t notice much difference except that my vision got way better. My vision when from -5.25 to -3.75 in six months. I was getting new glasses every month because it was getting better so fast, and it has stayed. Then I saw my thyroid doctor, and when I asked him to run a couple different new labs, and he yelled at me. He said, ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about, you need to just let this go.’” Rector said.
Because of this disbelief going on in the medical field, people are turning to alternative medicine and functional medicine doctors for help. Today’s medical world is at a point where the traditional ways will not always work.
“I think the medical field is at a crisis. All the drugs that they give people with autoimmune disease are immune suppressors. That’s not going to solve anything. I have had an allergic reaction to every single medicine I’ve been prescribed in the last seven years. I end up back in the hospital, given fluids, Benadryl. I know antibiotics and drugs are not really an option for me anymore. I am glad for the clinic I go to because they will recommend supplements or essential oils because they know that’s a struggle for me,” Rector said.
After years of trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with her, Rector finally knows how to keep herself healthy. She may never be perfectly healthy, but with a clean diet and staying away from chlorine, she has learned to manage.
“I’ve had probably 30 years of damage going on, so it’s going to take a while probably to heal everything, so it’s a process,” Rector said.
Autoimmune disease is a real thing that normal, everyday people struggle with. Whether or not doctors believe, people deserve to persist on and achieve the best quality of life.