Sr. Brynn Schelstraete battles Hashimoto’s

Sr. Brynn Schelstraete battles Hashimoto’s

Hailey Robarge

“A year and a half ago, I was getting my blood drawn for allergy testing at the hospital, and something odd came up. My first thought was ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die.’ That was when they told me it was a lifelong disease, so I’m not going to die. But it was definitely scary to find out that your thyroid is trying to kill itself and once it does, it’s going to move to your other organs.” Sr. Brynn Schelstraete was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. 

   Hashimoto’s is a genetic disease that uses the immune system to attack the host’s thyroid. Hashimoto’s makes the host more susceptible to disease, to fatigue after doing minimal work, to feeling cold during the middle of summer, to bipolar behavior, and to unexplainable sadness. Hashimoto’s can also lead to concentration and memory problems. Brynn and her aunt both share the wicked disease; it would have been easy to give up, but here she is 18 months later. 

   “I got sent into different places and around the end of my Junior year, before COVID hit is when my Hashimoto’s got bad,” Schelstraete said. She had been struggling with feeling sick for a while before finding out that she had Hashimoto’s. She missed school multiple times a week, and when she found out she had Hashimoto’s, lots of questions were answered. 

   Brynn’s mother, Teri expressed how terrible she felt upon finding out her eldest daughter carried Hashimoto’s disease. “I felt horrible because I felt like maybe I missed something. There was something wrong, and I was trying to just pretend there wasn’t,” Teri said. She also expressed feeling sad because she knew Hashimoto’s is something her daughter will have to live with for the rest of her life.

   Brynn has been a sideline cheerleader at West Ottawa since her early elementary school years and it frustrates her to miss out on practice. “Most of the time I would sit out of practice, and when I wasn’t feeling well I would just leave practice. I wouldn’t have to ask my coaches to go to the bathroom or anything.”

   As a student-athlete, Brynn has severely been affected by Hashimoto’s during her daily lifestyle when it comes to cheerleading and school work. “Sometimes I would go home early or wouldn’t be able to concentrate during classes.” No matter what struggles Brynn faces, she keeps battling on.

   “Knowing that you’re susceptible to a lot more illnesses and diseases because your immune system is working so hard to kill a part of your body, it makes her sad. Brynn just wants to be a kid and she wants to have all the energy everybody else has; however, it probably takes her double the energy to do what it would take somebody minimum energy to do, but she doesn’t give up,” Teri says. Brynn will struggle to keep up with her family some days; she struggles with remembering plans and is more forgetful due to Hashimoto’s.

   Not only has Hashimoto’s affected Brynn’s academic and athletic life, but her home life has also been turned upside down. Instead of being able to eat ice cream and her other favorite foods, Brynn is now very limited to her dairy portions. Dairy for the most part needs to be avoided and during her Hashimoto flare-ups, Brynn must be on an antihistamine diet. 

   The Schelstraete household tries to cater to Brynn and her restrictions, but their diets have not changed at all. It’s difficult for Brynn to stick to her diet during flare-ups, especially when her sisters sit down next to her with a bowl of ice cream or a plate of pizza. However, Brynn knows that to feel better, she can’t give up, she must obey her diet.

   “With COVID-19, she was our main concern because her immune system is down. The day to day is affected within the household because we know we can’t have certain foods to support her and we sorta have to give her a little bit of grace when she’s struggling because I can’t always expect the same out of her that I can out of her sisters, Sophie and Bella.” Teri explains.

   Since Brynn is a teenager, her mother expressed that on top of Brynn being a hormonal teenager, she also has an increase in her emotions and is always trying to keep them at bay because of Hashimoto’s.

   Brynn struggles every day to battle in school, athletics, and at home with Hashimoto’s, it’s been a long time since she first discovered the disease, not much has changed within her symptoms, but her attitude certainly has.