How Gina Rodriguez Inspired Me to Kick Hashimoto's Butt Too
When I was first diagnosed with Hashimotos, I was fresh out of college, in a stressful job and had just lost my Tío who is one of the most influential father figures in my life. I didn’t have time for disease. Nor did I have the energy to put towards it that I would soon learn it required. So I didn’t.
I had been seeking out medical attention for what seemed like an eternity to no avail. Unexplained symptoms seemed to be coming out of nowhere and I was baffled. I had always been one of those kids who never got sick. And when I did, I was always able to kick it out in 24 hours or less. But this, I couldn’t kick. So I ignored it. Or at least I tried. But the symptoms were relenting. Vertigo, migraines, digestion issues, hair loss, extreme anxiety, depression, fatigue like nothing I’d ever experienced, and the list goes on. I kept asking myself why was this happening to me? What had I done to deserve it? Was I being punished for something?
Flash forward to me sitting in the waiting room of a chiropractor’s office (which would end up being just one of the many stops on my healing journey) and there she was, Gina Rodriguez, on the cover of Health sharing about how she manages to kick Hashimotos and the Hollywood scene all at the same time. I read her story and immediately felt a glimmer of hope. If she could do it, and face it, and conquer it with her crazy schedule and life, this regular ol’ girl surely could too. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel alone, alienated, different or sick. I felt like I was in great company. And the more I started researching the disease, the more I realized just how common it was. Zoe Saldana, Sofia Vergera, GiGi Hadid, Kim Cattrall, and Jillian Michaels, just to name a few, all have thyroid disease and still lead active lives.
I thought, if they can, I can too. So I did. I drastically changed my diet, cut out all gluten and dairy, focused on fruits, vegetables and organic meats, and taught myself how to cook. I still lived at home with my mom and she was not having it. She said: if you don’t like my cooking, cook something else. So I did. And the more and more recipes I tried and the more and more dishes I cooked, the more curious she became and eventually adopted my ways as her own. She is a Latina mom though, so it was definitely a slow process. Thyroid disease is known to run in families and turns out, she has Hashimoto’s antibodies in her system. Hers never developed into Hypothyroidism. Ironically, my aunt (mother’s sister) just got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Fun fact: More than 10 percent of Americans have some level of the Hashimoto’s antibodies in their system. And women are roughly five to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid conditions.
Now, let me be real for a second and say that just because I had found powerful women who struggled with the same disease as I did didn’t mean this “transformation” of choosing to conquer this condition happened overnight. I fought against it, hard. And not against the disease itself, because that’s winning to me. But against my willpower to address it head on. Some days I just didn’t want to. Plain and simple. Some days I cried because there was literally nothing for me to eat at family functions anymore. Some days I made food my enemy, and some days, it won.
Throughout the process, I starved myself because I thought food was making me sick. I tried every diet and alternative and conventional medical option known to man (it felt so at least), and literally exhausted all my efforts in a quest for a “cure” to make it all go away. But the more I pushed against it, the harder the process became. It wasn’t until I surrendered to it, the season, the shifting that I realized the underlying blessing of it all.
Hashimotos has forced me to take care of myself in a way that I never would have had I not been diagnosed with the disease. Many people suffer silently for years or even a lifetime with the host of symptoms that come along with it before ever being properly diagnosed! I’ve been blessed to not be one of them. And in this season which seemed to blanket over me in complete darkness, also came wisdom, strength, knowledge - and the birth of something I had never had before, compassion. Compassion for others and compassion for myself. Because I knew what it felt like to suffer alone, I could empathize with those who suffer alone.
And even though this is an ongoing battle, and I still have my daily struggles, I like Gina and all the other badass women out there have chosen to fight. Fight for myself and for my quality of life, and for all those who continue to suffer in silence. And when I hit bottom, which happens probably more than I’d care to admit, I can say with confidence that if Gina can do it, so can I – and so will I.
Check out this video of Gina Rodriguez talking to someone newly diagnosed with Hashimoto's about how she navigates living with the disease.
Copy by: Judith Ruiz-Branch
A Chicago native, Judith Ruiz-Branch is a passionate and driven media connoisseur. She graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Latino Studies. Judith has extensive news, media and public speaking abilities and has gained experience at various outlets in Chicago including Crain’s Chicago Business, CLTV, WGN-TV, and Rivet Radio. Judith also co-founded a non-for-profit, the Angel Gabriel Foundation, in memory of her Uncle who passed away from cancer. The foundation’s mission is to offer essential support for the fight against cancer and beyond.
Combining her media experience, philanthropic spirit and passion for empowering people, she now proudly serves as the Public Relations and Community Outreach Coordinator for the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. Judith would love to continue gaining experience in all mediums of media as she establishes herself as an influential force in the world of public relations and journalism, and philanthropy and media. Judith doesn't like to limit herself in any area of her life. She feels the sky is not the limit, but merely a glass ceiling which she intends to shatter.