In 2013, I co-founded a startup company with a SaaS product in the recruitment technology space. The developer who built the raw platform prototype (or MVP) contacted me cold on LinkedIn because I had a combination of business skills that included marketing and raising investor capital.
We met for coffee and hit it off such that he invited me to join him in his business. I agreed. Shortly thereafter, I brought the deal to one of my contacts, he placed a seed-stage investment, we formed a company, and with the help of an outside firm, work began on building the market-ready version of the product. So far so good.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) things didn’t work out. We had a dumb business model that we couldn’t as a team agree to change. As we burned through cash, tensions began to rise, and the team split into sides. Bad news. During this time, I was working what seemed like all day every day. It probably didn’t approach Elon Musk-level 100-hour workweeks, but in retrospect, it certainly felt like it to me.
Including and most damningly my health, everything else in my life took a back seat to building the business and trying to move things forward with my partners in a good way despite our difficulties. I let my typically very persistent health practices slip and I started to feel worse and worse and worse. As this happened, my temper quickened and I was far less able to handle the stress of trying to save a struggling startup company. For a time, I even developed double vision!
Before this experience, I had almost always put my health and wellbeing first because that seems to be the way I’m naturally wired. I sincerely believe that if you’re not healthy and well, it’s very difficult to show up as your best self every day and have the energy to do all the things you want to do in life.
The partnership and business eventually hit a brick wall and dissolved. Shortly thereafter, on a routine checkup, my lab work showed a spike in TSH or thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. My GP at the time sent me for a scan of the thyroid. It revealed that I had a large nodule on one of the lobes of my thyroid gland. “Due to its size, it’s most likely cancer and you’ll have your thyroid removed and have to take thyroid drugs for the rest of your life,” my FORMER primary care physician said (paraphrased).
In my head I probably said something like, “Eff that!” and immediately went searching for a doctor with a less rigid and more wellness-oriented attitude. Seek and you shall find! I found a wellness-centric endocrinologist who 1. Immediately determined that the nodule on my thyroid was NOT cancerous; 2. Said with my foundation of health practices and a conservative dose of an anti-thyroid drug, tapered over time, it was likely I could get my endocrine system back in balance.
Important to mention here that in the roughly 30 days between when I was told about the nodule by my FORMER primary care physician and the time I met with the AWESOME endocrinologist, I put myself on a radical raw vegan diet eating only robust and delicious combinations of fruits, vegetables, and legumes. In that time, based on the new scan done at my awesome endocrinologist’s facility, the nodule had shrunk down to less than 30% of its original size.
That said, my thyroid lab levels were still out of whack and it would take another couple of years of healthy living and keeping away from stress (e.g. startups) before my thyroid levels would return to normal. Eventually, I stopped taking thyroid medicine (I’m currently taking no prescription medications whatsoever) and all traces of the nodule are gone. Throughout this journey, I met people who had simply acquiesced to their doctor’s naturally fallible guidance and prescription. Unfortunately, they had their thyroids removed and are now on thyroid medicine for the rest of their lives!
My understanding is that three things contribute to autoimmune disorders like thyroid disease: 1. Genetics, 2. Stress or trauma, and 3. Lifestyle factors. That means at least two-thirds of the equation is within your control. Don’t settle. Take responsibility and try to control your outcomes. It’s so much more empowering than just letting disease happen to you. Sure, maybe you’ll fail and succumb to the disease, but at least you gave changing what you could a shot!