How did Hashimoto’s Awareness come into being?
Pearl: When I was first diagnosed back in 2011, there were very few resources on Hashi. I had no idea what the disease was until I was able to speak at length with my wonderful doctor about how Hashimoto’s is actually undiagnosed most of the time. I was dumbfounded. I started simple lifestyle changes (doctor’s orders) and within 6 months I was in remission. I knew at that moment that I wanted other’s to have the same opportunity, so I started building a non-profit. It was not long after that Fabienne and I met through a friend in the health industry and I came to find out she had started an organization with the same mission. We decided instantly to merge our organizations and create what was then known as Hashimoto’s Awareness and is now HeyHashi.
Fabienne: In 2012, my health was at its worst. I couldn’t even walk to the park across the street without having to go back to bed afterwards to rest. I had just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis after a biopsy of my thyroid. That small minor surgery almost killed me. My body was so exhausted having to fight every day that I started drifting away and a whole day went by in which I hovered between life and death. I came back from that with a strong commitment to making sure no one else would ever go through what I had gone through.
Six months later, I was holding support groups for people struggling with Hashimoto’s. I had done a lot of research and spoken with many experts, and was following the protocols of Dr. Kharrazian. Shortly after that I was introduced to Pearl, and we realized we both had big dreams for the Hashi community. Not much later, we received non-profit status for Hashimoto’s Awareness and were launching the first Hashimoto’s Summit. Together, we were unstoppable!
Why is it time to rebrand? And what’s the significance of HeyHashi?
Fabienne: It was important for us to start with Hashimoto’s Awareness and it served many people! Now it is evolving into a movement defined by looking at this autoimmune disease in a very different way – people working together to reverse it. We are so grateful and excited to continue this journey of supporting the Hashimoto’s community and raising awareness of this epidemic yet under-diagnosed disease.
How will the rebrand change how you’re helping people?
Fabienne: After listening for a few years to all your stories, answering your questions, and reading your emails, we knew it was time to invite people to look through a new lens at autoimmune disease. HeyHashi is about inventing a new context to live in. Hashimoto’s disease can wear a person down, but it’s easier to live with when you look at your blessings and realize the positive impact it can actually have on yourself and your family. It’s about not being a “victim” any longer.
To support people as they adopt this new outlook, we need to come together and that’s what HeyHashi is: a growing community of people who are or are ready to begin taking full responsibility for their health and to empower each other to take steps each day to change physical, emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual habits for the better. Early in our journeys, Pearl and I wanted a community like HeyHashi, but it didn’t exist so now we’re creating it.
Why was it so important that you work as an organization rather than helping people one at a time?
Pearl: Heyhashi is helping one person at a time simultaneously, impacting a larger group because of the range of experiences we address. As a non-profit built by women who have Hashimoto’s themselves, everything we do comes from our personal experiences with the disease. We built a non-profit because we want to inspire people to live a symptom free life and to give back to the community by helping them find their healing way. When I learned how to heal, I wanted to give that gift to others on a grand scale. And that is why HeyHashi exists: we do what we do because we want other women to feel connected.
Fabienne: I realized very quickly that there was a serious problem underlying Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And I believe that educating the public, not only the people struggling with Hashimoto’s but everyone, is essential if we don’t want to see the entire population suffering with autoimmune disorders in the next 5-10 years. Most people don’t realize that in the last 50 years, the rates of autoimmune diseases have doubled or even tripled!
What kind of impact have you had on individuals so far? How about on the larger autoimmune disorder community?
Pearl: Oh my goodness! The letters, emails, cards, and calls we received from those people touched by the 2016 Summit were just astounding. And we still receive so many thank yous – it’s proof that HeyHashi is really making a difference in people’s lives with the resources we share.
Fabienne: 46,000 people attended the first Hashimoto’s Summit, which was many more than we expected! Our monthly webinars are more intimate and give people in the Hashimoto’s community to ask questions to the keynote speakers we invite – and those questions are ones many of us ask ourselves so the effect is cumulative. Even better, our resources, from the Summit to our webinar recordings to our blog posts, are always available, whenever someone is in need of help.
Do you think you’re helping to change how people think about Hashimoto’s?
Fabienne: I hope what we do at HeyHashi inspires people to live healthier lives because we’ve shown them that doing so is much simpler and more rewarding than they might have believed. I often say, if I can do it, anyone can! And I really want people to know that they are not alone in this journey, which was my story for so many years. You’re not crazy, even if some doctor has told you it’s all in your head and here are some anti-depressants (which is what the expert endocrinologist of Columbia Hospital in NY said to me). This story is way too common!
I hope that HeyHashi will change not only the lives of people that still struggle with Hashimoto’s but also that it will revolutionize the entire conventional medical field. My hope is that when doctors see what we are doing, they’ll be inspired to look at wellness in a new way that includes environmental factors and agricultural factors. If we can help people change how they approach their own health and their own households, the demand for a healthier way of living will grow, and big transformations will follow.
If you could give others with Hashimoto’s just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Pearl: Take it one day at a time. Love yourself AND your body exactly where you are in the healing journey. Start a daily gratitude journal and write down five things a day you are grateful for.
Fabienne: I’d add that it’s important to educate yourself and to take full responsibilities for your own health, so stop looking for the perfect doctor and start making positive changes in your life.
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