Jessica Alexiou was working as a professional dancer and health and fitness coach in 2018 when she began to feel that her body was breaking down.

“I started having really weird symptoms. I was gaining weight fast. I think I gained 25 pounds within a month and a half,” Jessica tells POPSUGAR.

Then came the sudden hair loss. “One day I woke up, went to wash my face in the sink and I noticed that parts of my eyebrows fell off as I was washing my face. In the shower, my hair also started to fall out in clumps. “I have naturally curly hair and every curly girl knows that it’s normal to lose hair in the shower,” says Jessica. “But it was an abnormal amount of hair.”

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When Jessica told her primary care doctor about her symptoms, she took a blood test and suggested she exercise more and eat less. When that didn’t work, Jessica thought the symptoms might be hormonal and related to her IUD. So she went to meet her child and asked her to take him out.

But when she did, “[the doctor] basically told me it was so twisted, that my body was rejecting it or trying to expel it,” Jessica said – but the health professional couldn’t explain why.

Over the next two years, Jessica went to various doctors in search of answers.

“It was this game where I went from doctor to doctor to doctor to doctor, and the doctors just looked at me like I was crazy.

Meanwhile, she began to experience additional symptoms – including debilitating fatigue. “At some point I started to feel really tired,” says Jessica. “I remember going to work with like eight to nine hours of really restful sleep and still feeling like I couldn’t function in the morning, like I was exhausted. I had never experienced anything like that before in my life.”

She also developed pain on the right side of her neck and a very swollen lymph node. When she went to her family doctor, she referred her to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who diagnosed Jessica with reflux and Eustachian tube obstruction, “a condition in which the tubes that connect the middle ear to the upper throat become blocked,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Jessica was prescribed antibiotics and steroids and told to come back in a few weeks to see how things improved. But two weeks later, Jessica returned with no improvement in her throat and new symptom. “I started getting ringing in my ear at night. When I lay down my ear would ring and it was almost like I was hearing an ultrasound in my ear,” says Jessica. “It was keeping me awake and it was pissing me off at the same time.” When she asked the otolaryngologist for imaging, he said she didn’t need it and that it would probably go away on its own.

That’s when Jessica took her health into her own hands.

At this point, Jessica had to step away from her career. Her symptoms were debilitating and she had gained about 75 kilos. “It literally physically hurt to dance,” she says. She devoted most of her free time to researching the possible causes of her problems.

“I was this person who was trying to get to the bottom of it because I felt like doctors weren’t helping me. I felt like they were turning me on, to be honest,” says Jessica. When she Googled her symptoms, “everything pointed to thyroid disease,” she tells POPSUGAR.

So at the end of 2021, she went back to her primary care doctor with her medical history and tests, determined to have imaging done.

“I said, ‘I want a thyroid ultrasound,'” Jessica said. But her PCP was hesitant, after feeling her throat. “She’s like, ‘I don’t feel anything.’ If you had a thyroid tumor, or a thyroid nodule, I would be able to feel it. caused by the liter water bottle she was carrying around.

But Jessica wouldn’t take no for an answer. Again she suggested an ultrasound and asked the doctor to put it in writing if she was going to refuse her imaging.

It was then that her PCP agreed to order the test and Jessica learned that she had a thyroid tumor that needed to be evaluated. “In that moment, I felt so convinced, because it took so long for me to get answers,” she tells POPSUGAR. But she wasn’t prepared for the next piece of news she would receive: further evaluation of the tumor confirmed it was cancer.

In that moment, Jessica felt a whirlwind of emotions: joy, because the cancer was on the less serious end of the spectrum; proud of herself for pushing her health care providers to finally give her the care she deserved; but also anger and frustration, because it had taken years to get a diagnosis.

“It could have been discovered so much earlier if doctors had just taken me seriously,” says Jessica.

After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, Jessica underwent treatment to attack the cancerous nodule.

At first, the endocrinologist suggested that she have the entire thyroid removed, which Jessica was reluctant to do.

“From all the research I had done, I knew that the thyroid gland is involved in so many things that the body needs. Not just your weight—it controls your metabolism, but it also affects your blood pressure, your calcium levels, your mood. So many things.” says Jessica.Removing it completely seemed pretty drastic.

So she asked if there was anything else. Her doctor suggested that half be removed so she would still have control over the other half. And at that point, Jessica decided she wanted to do her own research to figure out other options.

That’s when she learned through a Facebook group about radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a minimally invasive procedure in which, according to UCLA Health, “a small needle electrode is inserted into the thyroid nodule with ultrasound guidance. Heat generated at the tip of the needle destroys target tissue.” She consulted an expert on RFA to see if she was a candidate.

In November 2021, Jessica received RFA, and since then, “literally all my symptoms have gone away,” she says. It took about a month to recover from the surgery and a year for the tumor to fully shrink and the symptoms to completely go away, but they did. She started losing weight, her hair grew back, her fatigue faded and all these debilitating symptoms went away.

“I just feel like myself again,” says Jessica.

Today, she is in remission and focused on living a balanced lifestyle.

“[The] the number one thing is managing stress,” says Jessica. “Often thyroid problems are exacerbated or even caused by stress and trauma.” She always makes sure to have an outlet if she’s feeling overwhelmed, whether it’s exercise or taking some time for herself. .

She also tries to prioritize a healthy diet. Not necessarily cutting out certain foods, “but just paying attention to feeding my body with vegetables and protein and whole grains, not skipping meals and not depriving myself because the thyroid also gets stressed when you skip meals and you’re not really in balance your nutrition.

Maintenance times are also crucial. Jessica has regularly scheduled visits to her doctor once a year to make sure there is no regrowth and has blood drawn every two months.

Overall, Jessica says she’s incredibly grateful. Experience has taught her that “no one knows your body better than you,” she tells POPSUGAR. “Your body will always contact you if something is wrong.” And that lesson has also trickled down to her family. After watching what Jessica went through, “now they’re asking for the tests they need.

And as for her dance and fitness career, Jessica is back working full time coaching other women to be in touch with their bodies through movement and movement. “It feels like home,” she says.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Jessica Alexiou and illustration by Ava Cruz

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