Woman loses a third of her body weight after bravely battling life-threatening disease
As a child, Shay Saucier was just like any other. She was lively, energetic, and she exercised every single day. However, as soon as she reached puberty, something strange happened.
All of a sudden, she started gaining weight. Not just a little weight, either, but a worryingly significant amount. Then came the other symptoms - the kidney problems, the relentless tiredness, the increased susceptibility to other illnesses. Clearly, something was wrong.
Speaking exclusively to VT, the 23-year-old said:
"My eating habits hadn’t changed, and my parents quickly grew worried. They took me to specialists, I was poked and prodded and examined, always returning home answerless. I had constant kidney problems and a weaker immune system, so I was always sick and fatigued."
It would eventually transpire that Shay had hypothyroidism: a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough triiodothyronine or thyroxine (hormones responsible for regulating a person's metabolism). However, for a long time, medical professionals did nothing about it.
"Doctors and everyday people all accused of lying about my condition," Shay explained. "I was 220 lbs and 4’11, OBVIOUSLY something wasn’t right."
See, though hypothyroidism has been known about for a while, there is still a huge stigma around treating obesity as a symptom of a pre-existing illness. What's more, a lot of healthcare workers are not up-to-date on the current understanding of such conditions, and so Shay was not given the proper treatment she needed.
"In 2016, I found out that the grading scale for hypothyroidism had changed in the late 90’s, yet an abundance of doctors are still using the old scale," she said. "On the old scale, I was considered fine by only a small margin. On the new scale, I was definitely suffering from hypothyroidism."
Because she was never properly diagnosed, though, everyone around her assumed that she had just made poor self-care decisions.
"Basically, people don’t understand that I did not do that to myself. I was extremely sick. They bullied a girl with a disability they assumed was a lifestyle choice."
For almost a decade, she suffered with the condition, and at one point nearly lost her life to it.
"In 2017, I almost died from sepsis," she said.
"A kidney stone, a common occurrence in my life and common with hypo, got stuck in my ureter and caused a backup of pus and infection that leaked into my bloodstream.
"My boyfriend met me at Walmart at 2 am to help me inside because I was having trouble breathing. He found me in my car in the parking lot laid back, barely conscious, and shivering from the fever, even though I had the heat on and it was summer in Texas.
"He drove me to the ER and stayed with me all night. I ended up staying in the hospital for 5 days and was told I would have died in my sleep if he had not taken me that night. He saved my life."
Shortly after that, the young woman began receiving treatment for her condition and - along with some lifestyle changes - it's allowed her to completely transform herself.
"I began taking my meds in april 2017," she said. "I take levothyroxine and will have to be on it for the rest of my life. I don’t mind, it’s better than the alternative."
And she also made the effort to adopt a better diet and fitness regime.
"I count calories. I avoid sugar and definitely avoid soda. I drink mainly seltzer water like La Croix and flat water and exercise outside any chance I get. I hope to now get a gym membership to start working on strength. I was told by my doctor to take up lifting, since my medication makes me more susceptible to ostioperosis in old age. Lifting can help lower those chances."
But she still knows how to enjoy life.
"I eat anything I want, but I make sure I pay attention to the calories and eat only as much as I can afford to," she explained. "Pizza is still one of my top faves, but I limit myself when eating it. Everything is ok in the moderation it deserves."
And she's found a form of exercise that works perfectly for her.
"I picked up skateboarding last year, and instantly fell in love, even though I’ll never be pro or anything. I just enjoy it as a weekend activity with my boyfriend. We also like to hike together. He keeps me active and has been my biggest exercise supporter. Anything active I can do is my workout routine."
For anyone else who is dealing with a condition such as hypothyroidism, Shay has this advice: "Push your doctor to take action and do their job. It's time doctors in the US step up and take responsibility for our health. If you have weight loss difficulties, check your thyroid first. It's worth checking even if you’re wrong."
And for those who ever feel the need to comment on someone else's weight, the 23-year-old wants to push the importance of being kind. "Growing up, the bullying was enough to make me commit suicide," she confessed. "I thought about it a lot, but I always told myself I wasn’t that weak, that I could take it."
Now that she is receiving treatment, though, she's never been happier.
"It’s like night and day," she shared. "All I ever wanted was to be normal, and not get laughed at by groups of teenagers at Walmart. Now, sometimes I hear them talking about how good I look instead and its so amazing, I always smile for a while after."
"I can run after my three-year-old son with ease, and trust me, I do A LOT. My family has seen a personality change as well. I’m 100 per cent positive now, and so easy to get along with. I suffered from mood swings, irritability, and fatigue while untreated, and it strained my relationship with them a lot.
"Overall, I'm much happier and heathier, and I feel like a normal girl for the first time."
We're so happy to hear that Shay is now able to enjoy life in a way that she deserves to, and was able to access the treatment she needed in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Hopefully, her story will help others who are dealing with similar problems, and remind everyone not to judge a book by its cover - after all, we never truly know what someone is going through unless we've been there ourselves.