Navigating the Traditional and Alternative Medical Worlds

How to heal naturally
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Written by Susan Jacobs

Faced with this diagnosis, Susan Jacobs was going to have to walk the walk, and stand tall, while, by her choice, navigating the traditional and alternative medical worlds.

For decades, I, Susan Jacobs was afraid of the ramifications of speaking up, speaking my truth, so I swallowed my words and feelings.  And I swallowed often. That is  until  my body said ‘no more, this is destructive, and since you don’t see it, here’s a little lesson that you will hopefully learn from.

There it was – pow, boom, oh crap… I had developed a raging hyperthyroid and Graves’ disease.

At first, I didn’t even know what a thyroid was, let alone where it was located in my body. I came to learn that it is a small but mighty and critical butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s Apple, that regulates our hormones and lots of other bodily functions.

To alternative and holistic healers and us yogis, the thyroid is associated with the fifth chakra and is about all things self-expression, communication, truth, and creativity. The fifth chakra supports us in expressing all that we are meant to be, speaking and owning one’s truth. In short, it’s pretty darn important that this critter works properly.

So it was with huge alarm that I received this news, but an even bigger challenge was suddenly finding myself face-to-face with the ultimate test: Could I maintain my belief that not only do we subconsciously create health conditions that force us to look at what is going on in our life, but that we also have tremendous power to heal ourselves? It was easy to strut strong to that belief when healthy, but faced with this diagnosis, I was going to have to walk the walk, and stand tall, while, by my choice, navigating the traditional and alternative medical worlds.

Reality hit hard; I had to make life-saving or life-threatening decisions. This challenge was compounded by how I physically felt  —  as though there were 10,000 watts of electricity mixed with a steady IV drip of espresso and amphetamines running through my body coupled with a resting heartbeat of over 100 BPM and the ensuing brain fog that topped it all off. Fun, right?!

Before long, my strut went limp and I was caught between confusion and fear. Should I take the dangerous, though seemingly ‘safe’ Western medical route, covered by insurance, or trust my expansive network of alternative healers, none of whom were covered by insurance? At the time of my diagnosis and for many years thereafter, nothing holistic was covered by insurance, which meant it would be an expensive journey. The question of could I afford the alternative path was very real, but what was more important was standing strong with my integrity.  I always believed in integrative medicine–East meets West, West meets East–and while I predominately chose East for my process, I did integrate elements of West.

In addition to the insane hyperthyroid symptoms I was dealing with, the Graves’ disease caused me to have double vision and strange looking eyes.  Thanks to my holistic eye doctor, my contact lenses were switched out for glasses with plastic prisms taped to the lenses. While somewhat unsightly, this did correct the double vision symptoms, not the cause.

If the physical symptoms weren’t bad enough to live with, my endocrinologist scared the crap out of me every time I went for blood tests, telling me I was putting my life in danger and being irresponsible. He wanted me to follow the standard treatment of drinking radioactive iodine to kill my thyroid, causing me to ultimately become hypothyroid, and on medication for the rest of my life.

If I chose that treatment, I would have been so radioactive afterward that I wouldn’t have been able to be around children or animals for a couple of days.

Sure, sign me up, that’s right up my alley. Ultimately my endocrinologist fired me as his patient because I wouldn’t succumb to these ‘routine,’ yet radical Western treatments.  Perhaps I was risking my life, but I stubbornly believed I could heal. I didn’t have a clue how this was going to unfold, and despite leaving his office after each visit in tears, I mostly held strong.

Not only was the doctor against my decision, I also had to endure the forceful opinions of my family and friends who were extremely worried about me.  At 5’7, I was weighing 105 lbs and a wearing size 4.  Today, healthy, still 5’7, I’m 140 lbs and size 8-10 (I know women don’t normally admit this but stay tuned for another post on this subject!).  Not speaking from vanity, but how much better I now look is significant.  Years later, friends and colleagues confessed that when they saw me at my worst they thought I was dying.

It sucked, was horrible all around, and one of the most difficult experiences of my life. At some point along the way, I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. Why did I get a condition that affected my throat and eyes? What wasn’t I saying and seeing in my life? And then the floodgates opened.

With the help of an incredible posse of alternative healers including acupuncturists, homeopaths, naturopaths, astrologers, tarot card readers, nutritionists, and a whole lot more, coupled with my yoga master, Yogi Bhajan’s teachings, my Kundalini Yoga practice, and various books including Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa’s Meditation as Medicine, Carolyn Myss’  Anatomy of the Spirit, Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart,  and Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life, I began to seek answers within.

Through this process, I became a much more active and conscious participant in my healing, not solely expecting that a treatment method would do the trick, but that I had to get to the root cause which only I had the answer to. This perspective required tremendous energy, focus, and discipline to maintain (and a ton of tears!), and even though I experienced the benefits and saw the proven results, sustaining that level of conscious living remains a constant daily challenge.

Diet and lifestyle played a big part in my healing, but I believe the most important factor was becoming able to see that I needed to speak and live my truth. When I started doing that, my blood numbers and symptoms balanced out over time.

This was a long, hard journey that was accomplished 95% holistically, the exceptions being two eye surgeries for the Graves’ disease, a year on the thyroid drug PTU before my body rejected it with a negative liver reaction, and a short stint on beta-blockers to protect my heart.

It took  a long time for to me come full circle in the healing process before I realized that I am my BFF (best friend forever) and my most trusted guru. When I speak and live my truth and am disciplined with a daily practice of three simple actions – Kundalini yoga, meditation, and journaling – life flows, stress is minimized, and I receive answers from within and a have a clear sense of direction.

Although it took a long time, tons of work, and lots of ups and downs, I can happily say that my thyroid has been balanced for the past several years.  While there’s still stress in my life, on most days I handle it better, knowing that letting it get the best of me doesn’t serve me in any way. I trust the process of life, and trust myself.  I am living proof that it’s possible to heal yourself.

Identity Magazine is all about empowering women to get all A’s in the game of life — Accept. Appreciate. Achieve.TM Every contributor and expert answer the Identity 5 questions in keeping with our theme. Their answers can be random and in the moment or they can be aligned with the above article. As a team, we hope to inspire and motivate ourselves and inspire you to get all A’s.

1. What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

I’m working on accepting that everything changes.  Cliche as that sounds, you can’t argue the truth, and everything changes is the truth.

2. What have you learned to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

I appreciate where I’ve been, the risks I’ve taken, and all the choices I’ve made.  In all situations, I was doing the best I could at that moment.  Remembering that makes it easier to not have regrets about not making the best choices sometimes.
3. What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?
Healing myself which required tremendous trust and faith in myself for which I’m proud that I was able to maintain.  One of my goals is through writing a book about my thyroid healing journey I help other women believe in themselves and to speak up — to live, breathe, own, and speak their truth.  And in the process, perhaps I can help another not have to go through radical western treatments.
4. We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth–we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are–your Identity?
I’m really good at trying to con myself into believing that I can control everything.  Silly as that is after all these years, I still forget to move forth with clear intention and trust and then surrender to the outcome, knowing it will all be in divine order.

5. “I Love My…” is an outlet for you to express and appreciate all the positive traits that make you…well… YOU! Sharing what you love about yourself will make you smile, feel empowered, and uplift your spirit and soul. (we assure you!) Identity challenges you to complete the phrase “I Love My…?”

I love my quirkiness. I love that I’m middle aged and still act like a kid.  I love that I know how to play and do so often.


About the author

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Susan Jacobs

Writing has been part of my DNA, career, and creative outlet for as long as I can remember. My joy is bringing to life stories of the world, its people, and its cultures.

I'm filled with an insatiable curiosity for life off-the-beaten-path and love to share stories of the unheard voices I find along the way.

Giving voice to things that matter, raising awareness, and expanding perspectives is what lights my fire and is the heart and soul of who I am and what I do.

I have contributed a chapter to two books: “Step Forward and Shine,” published by RHG Media Productions, and “Pain, Purpose, Passion,” published by The Round House Press. I'm a contributing blogger to Huffington Post, Identity Magazine, Thrive Global, Yogic Living, and My personal essays and writing have appeared in Pink Pangea, FourTwoNine Magazine, Extreme Sailing Series 2018 Official Magazine, Aquarian Times, Spirituality & Health, PR Week, and IndieWire. I'm working on my first memoir.

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