Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.
Do you know what it’s like to wake up and not recognize yourself in the mirror? To have this happen so often that you forget what you looked like before? Unfortunately, that is the scary reality for many people suffering from thyroid eye disease – like me.
When my thyroid eye disease (TED) symptoms were at their worst, my eyes were dry, red, watery, and painful. On the outside, I experienced eyelid retraction – my upper eyelids had pulled backwards, making my eyes look unusually wide – and the muscles behind my eyes swelled, which pushed my eyes unnaturally and alarmingly forward.
I constantly woke up in the middle of the night, aching with pain from the extreme dryness. Fatigued and walking to work, I looked like I was crying as I constantly dabbed my watering eyes and tried to salvage my nearly-destroyed makeup. I’d show up every morning with the whites of my eyes unnaturally red. However, by far the worst parts of my experience were the changes to the shape of my eyes….
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.
Singing has always been a part of my identity. Having sung since I was a child, I graduated college with a degree in musical theatre and moved to New York City to pursue my career. After performing in various concerts and regional theatrical productions, I took a break to learn how to do what nearly all of my voice teachers thought was impossible: belt contemporary music. I’d always been a soprano with a voice well-suited for classic melodies from the Golden Age of Broadway. But I wanted to play the quirky, powerhouse musical theatre roles, and to do that, I’d need to be able to belt. It was what I wished for every year when I blew out my birthday candles or threw a penny into a fountain. My previous teachers said my voice simply was not built for it. How wrong they were! I just needed the right teacher – and I found them. Learning how to belt was one of my most meaningful accomplishments.
As I was exploring new techniques and dimensions of my voice, I was also experiencing alarming changes to my health. What began as fatigue and a diagnosis of an underactive thyroid turned into a rapid resting heart rate, shaky hands, and weight loss. I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition resulting in an overactive thyroid.
My endocrinologist started me on a low dose of methimazole, a medication that would block thyroid production to an extent and ideally put my thyroid levels in a healthy range until I hopefully went into remission. She explained that in her experience remission would normally happen within two years of symptoms appearing. I asked, “What if it doesn’t? What if I don’t respond well to the medication?” She told me there are two long-term solutions in that case: I would undergo radioactive iodine therapy or have my thyroid surgically removed – a thyroidectomy…
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.
Finding the right doctor can be a stressful process, especially when experiencing scary and vulnerable symptoms like those related to thyroid eye disease (TED). But what happens when the doctor you trusted during this vulnerable and emotional time turns out not to be the right fit?
After I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, I started to develop the telltale symptoms of thyroid eye disease. My eyes looked oddly red, they became very watery, and worst of all, the muscles behind my eyes had started to swell up, pushing my eyes forward.
My endocrinologist had asked me if I wanted a referral to an eye doctor who specialized in TED, but I declined. I already had an ophthalmologist I trusted, who was widely recognized as an excellent doctor and seemed knowledgeable about numerous conditions. I immediately made an appointment with him. After an examination, I explained my struggles with Graves’ disease, and he agreed that perhaps my eyes had changed a bit. However, he said there was nothing to do at that moment but monitor them. At the time there was no indication that this condition was out of his wheelhouse…
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored collaboration with Health Grades.
I was very exited when Health Grades reached out to ask if I would write a few articles about my experiences with Graves disease and thyroid eye disease. As an autoimmune disease advocate with multiple chronic conditions, I was disappointed in many of the resources I found online at the time of my diagnosis. While I could read up on clinical information, I wish I had been able to find more personal and patient-focused articles. I’m happy to have the opportunity to discuss some of the topics that I wanted to read about earlier in my journey. Thank you to Health Grades for giving me a larger platform to help share my story and spread awareness.
Presenting my first article – “Graves’ Disease: My Search for the Right Doctor” –
Looking back, my experience with Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease has been a very long and bumpy road. The thing I’m most grateful for is having a team of truly extraordinary doctors. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off that way. Most of my doctors today were the second specialists I saw in their field. Connecting with the right doctors for my needs was a process and a story that I hope will help others.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease over a decade ago. I was well aware of the link between celiac disease and thyroid disorders like Graves’ disease, and when someone has one autoimmune condition, there’s a high probability of being diagnosed with another someday. I was experiencing a fair amount of fatigue. My primary care doctor was reluctant to run a full thyroid panel, but after finally agreeing to my request, I received a sheepish call from their office with a referral for an endocrinologist. I found an endocrinologist with decent reviews in a convenient location. After running a few more tests, she casually looked over the results and said she didn’t think I had a thyroid problem, but perhaps my thyroid was a little sluggish and we’d try a small dose of thyroid replacement medication. Did I love this doctor? No, something didn’t vibe well. But I knew I wasn’t feeling well, and at least she gave me something to try….
Years after being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Eye Disease, I can finally say I’m on the other side of my main set of surgeries – a total thyroidectomy, two orbital decompression procedures (one for each eye), and most recently an upper eye lid surgery.
I had originally hoped to complete these in winter of 2020/2021, but there were numerous pandemic-related delays which significantly impacted my life and mental health. I chose not to publicly disclose the dates of my surgeries. After cancellations, near cancellations, and delays, I’d only believe these procedures were happening once they were over.
I’m currently at home, resting, recovering, and looking forward to seeing the results once this curtain of bruising and swelling goes down. At that point, my doctor and I will be evaluating the results and noting any unresolved problems, in which case we’ll re-evaluate. But it’s an enormous relief to be on the other side of these.
In the meantime, I’m also happy to share that I’ve been invited to join the advocacy team at ThyroidEyeDisease.net!
This new resource features dozens of articles about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, living with TED, mental health, talking with doctors, workplace/disability information, and more. There are also articles written by patient advocates and a heavily-moderated forum to connect with others in the community. I wish this resource had been available when I was first diagnosed and searching for answers.
I’ll be writing articles about living with Thyroid Eye Disease (my first two articles are already live on the site) as well as helping to moderate forums and discussions on social media.
Visit ThyroidEyeDisease.net to learn more and connect with the community. Looking forward to seeing you there.
It’s been a difficult few years navigating Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Eye Disease, and it’s time for an update. Where did I leave off?
My thyroidectomy that was originally scheduled for the first week of the NYC COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 was rescheduled a few months later. Upon waking up from the anesthesia, I instantly felt a wave of relief. Perhaps it was partially a release of stress that had been painfully building for six months, but I also felt deep down like my body was no longer fighting with itself. My surgeon appeared by my hospital bed and assured me that the nerves that control my vocal chords were intact. After several months of speech therapy I had a joint appointment with my surgeon and therapist where a camera was sent up my nose and down my throat – “Now sing!” (If you thought a COVID test felt weird – try this). My surgeon beamed with joy, gave me a picture of my vocal chords (which now has a prominent place my fridge – isn’t that where we all put souvenirs from our vocal scopes?), and sent me on my way.
Switching to a thyroid replacement medication, my thyroid levels finally started to stabilize for the first time in years. After pacing on the sidewalk and practicing how I would advocate for myself once inside my eye surgeon’s office, I was surprised that he suggested we try a new drug treatment for Thyroid Eye Disease. In the extra time that it took to reschedule my thyroidectomy more data had come out, and he now believed I was a good candidate.
I’m going to give you the cliff notes version of the nightmare that happened next:
-Insurance denied the claim.
-Insurance reconsidered and approved it.
-I had my first two infusions (out of eight).
-Production of the drug completely shut down due to Operation Warp Speed, and resources were redistributed to prioritize vaccine production. There was no estimation on when drug production would resume.
-Two treatments weren’t enough to tell us if the drug was working for me, so I waited four long months.
-I resumed treatment.
-Treatment didn’t work.
-We switched back to the original plan – a series of surgeries.
-Operating room schedules were significantly booked up due to all of the surgeries that had been delayed during the pandemic, so I waited another three and a half months.
Hello fall of 2021! A year later than originally planned I had two orbital decompression surgeries (one for each eye). Continuously a nightmare, I got kidney stones the morning of my first surgery and spent the first evening of my recovery in the emergency room. I was grateful the second surgery was boring in comparison.
Said one of my surgeons about orbital decompression – “It’s truly life changing!” And it has been. I am not free of this disease. I’m awaiting my next surgery. Things aren’t the same as they were before. But I am grateful that things are at least better. I’m triggered less often. Looking in the mirror is no longer excruciatingly painful. I can see progress. Sometimes I even spot a glimpse of the old me.
As I type I’m anxiously awaiting my upcoming lid surgery and experiencing familiar feelings as I watch the Omicron case numbers rise. Will my next surgery happen? Will it be delayed another three months? Maybe more? I’m just so tired. I’m ready to move on with my life. The emotional burden of this disease is too much to carry every day.
I’m hoping to share more once I’m on the other side of my next surgery. As with my orbital decompression surgeries, I won’t be sharing the date publicly. There’s nothing quite like the sadness of receiving well-wishes the night before the planned date and having to explain to everyone that it was cancelled at the last minute. But please feel free to follow me on instagram – I’ll be posting updates in my stories as they happen.
Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post. I have special relationships with some companies and may have received product samples. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I genuinely enjoy.
It’s that time of year! My annual gluten free holiday giveaway series has begun! Throughout December I’ll be featuring some of my very favorite gluten free small businesses starting with Little GF Chefs and their gingerbread house kit!
All of this year’s giveaways will be posted/run on instagram, so follow me (@tastymeditation) and look out for the giveaway posts for a chance to win! Best of luck and happy holidays!
Disclaimer: I was not paid nor given free products in exchange for writing this post. I have special relationships with some of these companies and may have been given samples in the past. This post contains a few affiliate links in which I get a small commission that helps maintain the cost of this site (there is no added cost to you). All opinions are my own, and I only recommend products that I genuinely love. As always, double check labels and product information. Ingredients, allergen policies, and facilities can change at any time.
The Tasty Meditation Gluten Free Holiday Gift Guide: 2021 Edition is here! It’s more important than ever to support small businesses, so you’ll find many of my favorites listed below.
For the chocolate & sweets lover:
• See’s Candy – Gluten free chocolate truffles! Most of their chocolates do not contain gluten, but be sure to visit the allergen information page of their website for the most up to date information.
• LA Burdick hot chocolate – Kris introduced me to their hot chocolate on our first date. “I hope you brought another pair of socks…because yours are about to be knocked off.” Lucky for me – it happened to be gluten free! Their drinking chocolates are prepared in a dedicated gluten free kitchen.
• Yum Earth – Certified gluten free treats, even licorice!
• Goodie Girl Cookies – If you’re thinking that “Mint Slims” sounds almost exactly like a certain Girl Scout cookie, you are correct. So good, you’ll be tempted to eat an entire box in one sitting.
For kids (or kids at heart):
• Little GF Chefs baking kits – Absolutely adorable, creative and fun baking projects for people of all ages! The founder, Jereann Zann, is on a mission to empower kids, build confidence, and encourage a positive relationship with food. Every baking kit is made in a dedicated gluten free and top 8 allergen free facility and comes with just about everything you need to make the fun treats. Individual kits and subscriptions are available. I loved their rainbow donut kit!
• Nuts.com gift certificate – (affiliate link) My favorite source for gluten free flours, nuts and dried fruit. They have a huge selection of gluten free items, and everything is clearly marked.
• Guittard Chocolate Chips – My absolute favorite chocolate to bake with. Most of their products are made in a dedicated facility and will say so on the label.
• Jovial olive oil – I didn’t know what I was missing until I tried their olive oil from Italy. Wonderfully flavorful and perfect for dipping bread and drizzling on top of pizza.
• Digital Kitchen Scale – Digital scales are essential for measuring gluten free flour accurately! So far my favorite scale is by Escali. I use it nearly every day, and years later it’s still working perfectly.
• Ultimate pizza-making equipment bundle – (affiliate link) I’ve compiled a collection of everything you need to make my favorite No Gluten, No Problem pizzas! The cookbook, baking steel, storage-conscious pizza peel, digital kitchen scale, and food thermometer.
• Charlie’s Table fresh pasta – Once you try fresh pasta you’ll never want to go back to dried. Certified gluten free and made in a dedicated facility, Charlie’s Table offers pasta shapes that are difficult to find gluten free – bucatini, rigatoni, garganelli, gemelli, and tagliatelle.
• Still Riding Foods pizza crusts – One of my favorite pre-made crusts. Certified gluten free, dedicated gluten free facility, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free, vegan and kosher.
For the makeup lover:
• Red Apple Lipstick gift certificate – (affiliate link) Amazing allergen-friendly makeup with a wide variety of stunning lipstick colors. The Rallye Balm is a lifesaver for chapped/dry lips during the colder months. My personal favorite colors include Vogue and Ooh La La. Get 22% off orders of $50+ with the code “TastyMeditation”.
Gluten free bakeries – All of these 100% gluten free bakeries ship across the US (for residents of Alaska, Hawaii, and US territories please inquire with the bakeries directly), and several offer gift cards:
• Bread Srsly sourdough (affiliate link) – Seriously the best gluten free sourdough (and my favorite gluten free bread, in general) on the market! Made in the Bay Area, this bread nails that traditional sourdough taste. Free from gluten, wheat, egg, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, potatoes, sesame, refined sugar, and chickpeas. The last day to order for the holidays is December 12th, but I recommend ordering early because they sell out. Use code “TASTYHOLIDAY” for 10% off your order through 12/12/21!
• Krumville Bakeshop – Delicious cookies, cakes, muffins, and bread – everything that comes out of the Krumville kitchen is incredible! I recently made it my mission to try all of their layered cakes (spoiler alert – they’re all wonderful). If I had to choose one favorite, it would be three – chocolate raspberry, lemon & berries, gingerbread & cranberry. Feel free to send me a message if you’re looking for a personalize recommendation.
• Senza Gluten Cafe & Bakery – This bakery holds a very special place in my heart. My favorite items include panini bread, burger buns, almond ricotta orange cake, lemon mascarpone almond muffins, shortbread cookies, and pecan snowball cookies. After years of visiting this bakery, I recently tried the cookies for the first time. Normally when I visit in person I opt for the pastries, but wow was I missing out! Their cookies are truly magical.
• Modern Bread & Bagel – You’re not dreaming, these are real New York style bagels! When I was diagnosed with celiac disease I never thought I would experience this joy again. Infinitely grateful to Modern Bread for making this magic happen.
• Meredith’s Bread– A family-run bakery located in Kingston, NY, Meredith’s Bread is well known for selling products at farmers markets around NYC. They have two lines of products (wheat-based and gluten free – look for that GF label!), and their gluten free baked goods are made in a separate/dedicated facility. Excellent pricing. I love their rustic farmhouse breads, black and white cookies, and biscotti.
• Izzi B’s Allergen Free Bakery – So many free-from statements! This bakery is free of gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, nuts, casein, preservatives, trans-fats, refined sugar, and more! Located in Connecticut. Try the yellow cake, it’s my favorite!
• Everybody Eats – Mention Everybody Eats to a gluten free New Yorker, and they’ll immediately start talking about how kind and wonderful the owner, Pedro, is. Check out their instagram for delightful videos of Pedro singing in his bakery, and you might spot a certain special guest (spoiler alert – it’s me!). Highly recommend their gluten free baguette.
• Mariposa Baking Co – Located in San Francisco, so shipping rates are more affordable for friends on the west coast. I highly recommend their cinnamon rolls and flaky pastries. One of the few bakeries I’ve found that makes gluten free croissants!
• The Karma Baker – 100% vegan and gluten free in LA. I highly recommend their donuts.
For the bar:
• Tito’s Vodka – Certified gluten free, corn-based vodka. You might want to get some for yourself, too. I’ve found that you save more money in the long run if you buy the bigger bottle (wink).
• Barr Hill Gin – Lightly sweetened with local honey, so every batch is a little different. Labeled gluten free.
• Bright Cellars – (referral link) A fun subscription box with wine tailored to your preferences. Each box comes with fun cards to help you learn about the wine you receive. The more you rate your wines, the more the algorithm learns about what you love.
• Wolffer rose cider – Our favorite cider in the Tasty Meditation kitchen, and naturally gluten free!
• Pallini Limoncello – A taste of Italy! Kris and I tried various different limoncello brands during our gluten free honeymoon in Rome, and this was by far our favorite.
Gluten free resources:
• Gluten Free Watchdog subscription – GFW is one of the most incredible advocates in the celiac disease/gluten free community, and her website is a wealth of information. Subscribers get special access to products reports (selected items are tested for gluten in a laboratory setting) and support her overall efforts.
• Gluten Dude app subscription – An excellent resource with restaurant/bakery lists, product recommendations, and moderated message boards created by celiac disease advocate Gluten Dude. See you on the app!
If you’ve been following my updates on social media, you know that I recently had my first orbital decompression surgery to help correct some of the damage done from Thyroid Eye Disease. It’s a pretty intense surgery and recovery process (I’ll go into more detail in a future post once I’m on the other side of my upcoming procedures). As I’m following all recovery instructions from my doctors and taking my prescribed post-op medications, I’m trying to help my body as much as possible with a variety of nutrients.
I’ve been making fresh ginger tea for years, and it’s my go-to recipe whenever I’m not feeling well. I was looking for a way to spice things up, and my Ginger Chai Tea is now one of my favorite cold weather drinks. Hope you enjoy!
Ginger Chai Tea
For ginger tea:
5 cups water
3 oz peeled fresh ginger, cut into cubes
For chai tea:
1 1/3 cup ginger tea
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp vanilla
2 dashes cinnamon
2 dashes nutmeg
Place water and fresh ginger in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn the stove off and let the tea sit for two hours. Discard the ginger. Place all chai tea ingredients in a pot. Heat and stir. Add more maple syrup/vanilla/spices to taste and serve.
Makes two cups. Extra ginger tea can be refrigerated for future use.
Disclaimer: I was not paid nor given complimentary product in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own, and I only recommend restaurants and products that I truly enjoy. Please always call a restaurant before visiting to verify that it is appropriate for your needs, as policies and menus can change any time.
I have a new favorite 100% gluten free restaurant, and I can’t believe it took me so long to try it. I visited Thyme & Tonic on the Upper West Side earlier this year for cocktails and appetizers. I was incredibly impressed and excited to eventually return to try the entrees and desserts (and more cocktails, of course). In short, I was blown away.
We started the evening off with a round of cocktails. Kris was instantly a fan of the Chipotle Pineapple Margarita. I opted for my favorite cocktail from my previous visit – Besos Calientes (Spanish for “hot kisses”). Featuring vodka, lime, passion fruit, and a cerano ice cube, the concept of this cocktail was so smart. It was on the sweeter side (which I like), but as the cerano ice cube melted, it changed the flavor profile of the drink. And it got spicy quickly!
I normally feel very confident in my gluten free restaurant research, but when this salmon burger arrived at my table I thought, “Oh no, I’ve made a terrible mistake. Am I at the right restaurant? Did I read something wrong? Look at that bun! The height, the color! Is it gluten free?” And yes, of course the restaurant is 100% gluten free. They just do magical things in their kitchen. The burger and fries were simply amazing.
Lucky us, our reservation happened to coincide with their final ice cream special of the summer. The mini lemon donut ice cream sandwich was heavenly. I’m looking forward to seeing what desserts specials Thyme & Tonic will offer in the fall/winter, but I’ll be on the lookout for anything they make with lemon because this dessert was perfect.
Overall, I adored my experience at Thyme & Tonic. The service, atmosphere, food and cocktails were all top notch, and it has quickly become one of my very favorite restaurants in NYC. Book your reservation now. You don’t want to miss out.
Thyme & Tonic is a 100% gluten free, mostly vegan, and certified Kosher restaurant located at 474 Columbus Avenue (near 83rd St). Open for brunch (in collaboration with Modern Bread & Bagel next door) and dinner.