Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Battle with Testosterone - Update!

Before I jump into the meat of the post, I want to first thank everyone for your kind, loving words and support after my first post. Sharing such deeply personal parts of our lives with the internet can be a scary thing, and the outpouring from everyone squashed that fear. So, thanks. :)

Also, settle in for another long one. This particular situation doesn't benefit from brevity. 

Yesterday, Ryan went in for his 2 week follow-up and I am so pleased to report that my darling husband is improving every day! I am getting my sweet husband back, and the joy that fills me with is indescribable.

I guess I should explain what went down at the initial appointment.

We brought along all the recent blood work that our general doctor had just run a week prior, and settled in for the consultation. When the specialist came into the room, met us and started looking over Ryan's paperwork, he was making me nervous. He kept looking at the blood work results, shaking his head and looking at Ryan. Finally he put everything down and spoke to Ryan with such care and concern. He said "I have seen men with double the levels of testosterone who can't even get out of bed in the morning. You must have some will." No surprise, I started crying immediately. Partly, I was crying because I was so happy someone else recognized how amazing Ryan is for dragging himself through (recent) life while feeling SO terrible...and partly I was crying because he was justifying that this was serious. We talked over Ryan's blood work, the options available, what he suggested and how it would work. I cried a lot. He was kind and patient. He even joked that "its not a successful visit if no tears are shed" as the nurse passed me a box of tissues. After hearing all the options and the doctor's recommendation, we trusted him and took the plunge. Ryan was prepped and received the first treatment right there, on the spot.

What we decided was best for Ryan is an injection of bio-engineered testosterone pellets, which are inserted into his hip area, just under the skin. A small incision is made and then a large syringe puts several pellets under his skin. These pellets are sustained release and last for months, so Ryan will only have to have that done about twice a year. The hope is that eventually, Ryan's body will start producing the correct amount of testosterone on its own and this won't be a life long thing. He was also given a shot of fast acting bio-engineered testosterone to help jump start his system. Within a few days, I was starting to notice little improvements. Things that would make Ryan mad or upset for DAYS were now rolling off his shoulders in record time. He was smiling more. Being more playful. Laughing more. (The sound of Ryan's laughter is one of my favorite things on the planet and hearing it with much more frequency was so very welcomed.) Overall, he was just...BETTER.

Over the last 2 weeks, that has continued to improve. His mood is better each day, his energy level is getting back to where is used to be and I can just tell that he FEELS better. He didn't experience the "light switch" effect that many have described, but considering how low his levels were to start out, that doesn't surprise me. At the follow up yesterday, his doctor told him that he was at almost 500 now, (a HUGE jump from his starting level of 181) and as the pellets dissolve and go to work, he should reach the optimum level of 1000. As for the root cause - well, that's still in the air. They ran a lot of tests and there are several possibilities, but the doctor doesn't feel comfortable making that determination until he sees how Ryan's body responds to the pellets after a couple of months. So, for now, we are just along for the ride. A ride that is getting increasingly more enjoyable. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Battle with Testosterone

If you know me personally, chances are you know that I am a pretty open book. I have always been one to openly discuss things I am dealing with because the way I see it, if sharing a part of yourself helps just one person, then you are doing something good. I've always been very transparent and real on my blog, I feel, by sharing things about myself...but I've not shared a lot about my husband. Ryan is a pretty private person, which I respect, but recently we have gone through some tough things that I felt strongly about sharing. Luckily for me, Ryan agreed. He jokingly said "Sharing is caring!" ;) I happen to agree.

Per my usual disclaimer, this post will be immensely personal and LONG. 

There are a million reasons why I married Ryan. I could go on for days talking about the things I love about him. But two of the biggest things that drew me to Ryan was his heart and his personal motivation. He is so kind, sweet, thoughtful, generous and loving. And I'd never met anyone who gave as much as Ryan. No matter what he did as a job or to help others, he gave 110%. The year we got married, 2008, I would have described him as "sweet, even-keeled and driven". He had been through some really tough circumstances from 18-22 and while most would have understood why he had a chip on his shoulder, he worked very hard to not be bitter. He remained kind and giving and level headed. 

Fast forward to 2012, Ryan has been laid off by THREE companies due to his career path being one that is seen as a "frivolous" expense and when the economy took a turn for the worse, the A/V industry did too. I was starting to notice that my kind, level headed husband was growing increasingly angry, bitter, detached and less tolerant of things that used to just roll off his shoulders. Most people would probably have just chalked that up to the blows he'd received professionally or that he was forced to work a job he hated...but after knowing him for 10 years, this felt different to me. 

My initial reaction was depression. I come from a family where that is a very openly discussed subject because many of my family members, and myself, have been treated for depression at some point. But it felt bigger than that. He wasn't just "sad". He was losing his motivation. He seemed to be walking around in a fog. He was withdrawing from life. Essentially, he was giving up. I knew there was something serious happening to him, so I made him a doctor's appointment, took a personal day to go with him and basically said "this is what we are doing." I felt like it was important for me to be present. Because of the foggy state he had been in, I wasn't sure if he would be able to accurately explain what was going on. It was as if he'd forgotten that he used to be full of life and happy.

We met with an AMAZING doctor who listened carefully to what we both had to say, prescribed anti-depressants on the spot but then said "I'd like to do some blood work, just to make sure there isn't something else going on inside Ryan's body."  About a week later, he went in for his follow up and we were hit by a Mack truck sized discovery. 

Ryan had dangerously low Testosterone. For a man in his mid-twenties, the normal, healthy level is between 800-1000. Ryan's was a staggering 181.

I was shocked. He didn't have the "well known" Low T symptoms like ED and low sex-drive. But after speaking with his doctor and doing my own research online, I realized that those symptoms primarily effect men who have Low T due to age. As I read over the list of often over-looked symptoms, I started to sob. Depression, mental fogginess/fuzziness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, loss of muscle, weight gain in the mid-section, and a general feeling of not caring about anything. Check, check, check - as I went down the list I soon realized that over the last year, Ryan had experiences ALL of those "hidden" symptoms. 

His doctor put him on a regimen of shots, but his levels just weren't responding like they should have been and he seemed to be getting worse by the day, so his parent's graciously offered to help us cover the cost to see a specialist to seek another treatment option - one that has been proven to work QUICKLY and WELL. So, I took the afternoon off of work and we will meet with the specialist together this afternoon.

I haven't shared the extent of how hard this has been with many people. For much of the time this year, I've felt like I was married to a stranger. There would be fleeting moments where I would see "my Ryan" still in there somewhere, but over all he was a different person. In the midst of one of the lowest lows he's had, Ryan looked at me solemnly and said "I feel like if you were anyone but Rachel, you would given up and left by now." That statement, which reduced me to tears in an instant, was the main reason I wanted to share our story. He could have so easily have been stamped with "DEPRESSED", put on meds and sent on his not-so-merry way. But our doctor took the extra step and did the blood work. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this saved my husband's life and looking 5 years down the road, probably saved our marriage. And, as I mentioned at the very start of this epically long post, if ONE person googles these symptoms and finds my blog, and that ONE person realizes that they or someone they love may be suffering from Low T, then sharing all of this was well worth it. 

Want to know more? Here are parts 2, 3 and 4

Monday, September 3, 2012

Product Review - Neutrogena Tinted Moisturizer

Since my mid-twenties or so, I've felt like I was constantly battling with my face. I was really lucky and had great skin in my teens. I would get a few monstrous pimples a few times a year, but other than that, my skin was clear, soft, not too oily, not too dry. But, around 24-25, something changed. New types of stress, "aging" or hormones perhaps? Whatever the cause, it threw me for a loop. In the past year, I have noticed even more changes. Many of you will roll your eyes at me, but I'm starting to notice fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes. They don't ruin my day or anything, but I don't exactly love them either. Add in this new break-out prone skin with serious dryness and I feel like I've switched skin with a stranger.

When I switched to the Neutrogena Naturals line for my cleanser and exfoliater, I noticed a slight drop in break-outs. Don't misunderstand - they still happen more often than I'd like, but they are slightly less frequent.

But then I noticed my mineral makeup was accentuating the fine lines and worsening the dryness.

I decided that I needed some extra moisture to help combat the dryness, but with my fair skin, going with no coverage on my face at all doesn't really work for me. My pink undertones and pale complexion isn't ideal on its own. So, I made the decision to try a tinted moisturizer. Enter another stellar Neutrogena product - Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer.

 Enhance indeed. 

This is a light, creamy tinted moisturizer with SPF and Retinol mixed right in. This combined so many things into one! It took a product I already used (moisturizer with SPF), added in Retinol (shown to diminish fine lines AND help fight break-outs) and a dash of sheer color. And I just love it. It provides just enough coverage to even out my skin tone while leaving my skin softer than its been in YEARS. And I have truly noticed the fine lines (especially on my forehead) becoming just a little less visible. I will admit that my nose and chin tend to get a bit shiny, so I just dust a tiny bit of translucent powder on them and problem solved.I don't see myself going back to "regular" make-up for my face anytime soon.

*Disclaimer: I am not being paid or sponsored by Neutrogena in any way. This is simply an opinion from my personal experience. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hair Fail

So, if you follow me on Instagram you get bombarded with a nauseating number of beauty-related pictures. As I've discussed approximately a million times, I love trying new things with my hair, nails, makeup, etc, and IG is my outlet for that.

Well, recently I saw a tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, The Beauty Department, and it got me all excited.

Let me back up.

I have naturally thick, coarse, curly, big hair. Some of you think that sounds awesome. Sometimes it is. Usually, it isn't. I prefer to wear my hair straightened because I can get more "wear" between shampooings. And when you have coarse, naturally curly hair, the less you wash it, the better condition your hair is in.

Back to the point. This tutorial was all about extending the life of your blow out. I generally can't wear my hair only blown out without using my Chi to smooth and seal the frizz, but I decided to give it a whirl.

I spend about twice as much time as usual blowing out my hair until it was basically as smooth as I could possibly manage without my trusty Chi. Then I twisted each side into rope braids, as directed, and went to bed.
Proof it was before bed - no makeup, tired eyes.
The next morning, I was eager to see what the result was. I was convinced it was going to be gorgeous. I unraveled the rope braid and ran my fingers through my hair.

Um, no. The Beauty Department lied. Or they cheated. Maybe both. Because the result, was NOT pretty.

Still no makeup, but looking slight more rested? Maybe?
It didn't look so awful from the front, you can judge for yourself above, except it was pretty frizzy. But the was a freaking Roman tragedy.

I kind of can't believe I am even putting this on the internet for the world to see...ew. It basically looked like I slept with my hair in a ponytail and had the WORST pony tail indentations ever. I immediately plugged in my Chi and went to town fixing this mess.

So, here is my thought. This would probably work on someone with longer, naturally straighter and smoother hair. (coughKIMcough) But, it was a giant hair FAIL for me.