I’m Rock Robbins – a husband, dad, tech geek, saxophonist, and Stevie Wonder karaoke king. I’ve participated in many entrepreneurial efforts over the last three decades: Business owner, professional musician/music director, non-profit co-founder, tech writer and coach to couples and men going through hard times in their marriage. If it has something to do with a computer, music, or supporting people, I’ve likely done it.
About a year ago, the tech company I was working for was sold, giving me a rare opportunity to reassess where I wanted to spend my time and energy. Many men I talked to, who had gone through the same thing, said it opened the door for them to do something they believed in. This website is part of my effort in giving back and trying to help shortcut folks who are going through what my wife and I went through in her health journey.
This is my story of how I got Married to Hashimoto’s.
First a little back story…
The Early Years
Fresh out of high school and unsure of my next steps, I found myself at my local community college. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I was pretty sure that music and computers would be a part of it. I was this tall, trim, Southern California native who was fun, energetic, and passionate. I loved music and played saxophone and sang in local bands.
One day, in one of my music classes at school, I saw her. Stacey Anne Confalone came into the classroom. Young, confident, brash, sexy… and so different from many of the other Southern California girls I was used to. I liked that this East Coast girl was accessible and open to conversation, unlike many of the aloof girls around campus. She was unlike anyone I had ever met. I mean, she was odd, but in a good way. Heck, I was my own version of weird, so I guess it was a match! I eventually asked her out and that started our adventure together.
Since we were both musicians, we started performing together – first in studio recordings, and later as a musical duo, establishing a professional music career together. We also loved walking and talking, and our relationship grew closer on many levels. We ended up eloping in 1989 when I was 21, and she was 20. Here’s our wedding photo. We didn’t really know the people next to us here, we met them in the restaurant lounge where we were playing at the time.
Good god, what a cheesy photo. Check out my classy penny loafers with white socks! Oh well, we were young.
I would like to say that it remained all fun and wonderful, but the first years of our marriage were bumpy. We were both new to the whole “married” game and it took time to work out getting used to each other. Plus, I have to admit, I was selfish. It wasn’t a pretty process, but right around year seven, our marriage started coming together, and Stacey’s health started falling apart.
What the Heck Happened?
There was no shortage of stressful events going on.
- Our marriage had issues and for a time we were separated
- Stacey’s parents were in the process of a divorce
- She got hit in 2 separate car accidents
- Her grandmother died
- Her dad started going through the process of dying
A whole lot of not fun. It was during this culmination of stress when Stacey’s body started having odd symptoms…
- Skin problems
- Dry hair issues
- Joint pain
- Chronic sinus infections
- Menstrual issues
- Erratic sleep
- Brain fog
- Panic attacks
- High sensitivity
- And the one that hits women hard… weight gain.
Really, it seemed that everything just started going down the tubes for her mind and body.
Doctors, Tests, $$$, Frustration, Repeat…
We did what anyone would do in such a situation: we went to our doctor to try to get help. In the beginning, we were trying to deal with all the different symptoms separately. In retrospect, it was a bit like only seeing individual pieces of a larger puzzle, and not being able to see the big picture.
Stacey had begun having stomach issues, so one doctor, thinking it was some kind of bug that needed to be killed, had her take antibiotics. OK, but after many rounds of antibiotics and six months later, this doctor admitted that he was stumped. We didn’t know that you’re really not supposed to take antibiotics month after month after month – and it can seriously jack up your stomach.
When one doctor or specialist had tried everything in his or her repertoire, we’d move on to someone else.
After enough traditional doctors couldn’t dial her health in, we eventually moved on to alternative doctors and treatments – chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal supplements, meditation, and on and on…
We had so many different prescriptions and bottles of things that had been tried and abandoned. The whole process was really a time, energy, and money-sucking experience. God bless Stacey that she kept on moving ahead – trying different things, asking friends, doing research. As lousy as she felt, she keep moving forward.
Husband of the Year! (not so much)
I, on the other hand, wasn’t really committed as I could of been. The whole scenario had become just another thing I had to do, so I became more of a passenger on Stacey’s crazy health trip. I would sit with her in doctors’ offices and they’d review the symptoms… again. I basically thought that she was already on the case and I couldn’t offer anything more. I went back and forth between being supportive and being selfish. I’d drive her to different doctors, but I’d also drive her crazy by being checked out of reality. My inconsistency was a big part of the stress on her health and our marriage.
Truth was, she was scared and looking for assurance. Being sick, physically, stirred the pot emotionally. Stacey’s Italian family background was full of superstitions, like “If something good comes along, watch out! You’re likely going to get hit with something bad.” Which played in perfectly with the timing of everything – like I said, our marriage was getting better, while the doctors told her she might not live through this, and if she did, she’d likely never have children. This all played perfectly into her ‘doomed’ world view.
In her desperation and pain, she asked me, “Do you think I’m going to be okay?”
I thought she was just asking for an honest answer. So, I said, “Hon… I just don’t know.”
I could see from her face, that didn’t really help. She later came back to me and said, “I know you were just being honest, but can you take some time and come back with an answer that’s honest AND encouraging?”
Yeah, I kind of missed that encouragement opportunity.
After thinking it through awhile, I came to her and said, “I don’t know all of what’s going on hon – but I’m going to love you back to health.”
I gave her great words, but I didn’t always follow up with great actions.
Everything Gets Better Now, Right?
After about 15 different doctors and specialists later, we still didn’t have an answer. Then one day, while Stacey was out at a music gig, she collapsed in pain. A friend took her to a walk-in clinic where a doctor took labs and then sent Stacey on to the emergency room. We should have had a frequent flyer card for the amount of times we had been to the ER that year.
The doctor called a few days later with the lab results. “I’ve got good news, and bad news for you”, she said. “The bad news is that you have Hypothyroidism. The good news is that if you take this prescription, you’ll have energy, you’ll lose all your weight, and you’ll be back to normal within three months.”
Yes! We thought that this was finally it – an actual diagnosis and road back to health.
That was freaking music to our ears. Stacey jumped in and faithfully took her new thyroid pills, and we waited for life to go back to normal.
Three months later, things hadn’t changed for the better. With the new medication, Stacey didn’t lose weight. She actually gained 30 MORE pounds, until she was at her highest weight of 270. So, unfortunately for us, we found that the standard treatment of standard thyroid meds didn’t take care of the issue.
Because things were getting worse, Stacey we had more trips to the doctor. It took about 2 more years before we figured out that it was more than hypothyroidism. She had an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune dis-ease where your body attacks its own thyroid. Having Hashimoto’s can often be MUCH more complicated than just the “take this pill and life will go back to normal” kind of hypothyroid condition.
Here’s the before Hashimoto’s diagnosis photo, and the after, with Stacey at her highest weight.
That’s the reality for some women. With multiple issues and body systems affecting each other and playing off each other, it can be pretty challenging to get everything into balance.
At this point, I really got tested with how committed I was to our marriage – my vows in particular came to mind. I had to question if I really meant “for better or worse – in sickness and in health” now that I was dealing with the worse/sickness part. My wife was in a really bad, and complicated health issue that affected EVERYTHING – her weight, her organs, her appearance… peace, energy, sleep, libido, fertility, and more.
There was not a lot of information to be had about Hashimoto’s 20 years ago. But Stacey didn’t give up or take this diagnosis lying down, and I wanted to see her well, so together we “went on a mission” to understand her condition and find answers. Before long, we were traveling all over the country to different healing centers, and health conferences and talking to people all over the world about this Hashimoto’s thing.
We found that this condition involved so much more than just physiology. So many elements played into this diagnosis – it was about stress, food, lifestyle, belief systems, relationships and more. We have spent the last 20 years, and almost $300,000, diving deep into this dis-ease.
As we unraveled some of the mysteries behind Hashimoto’s and took active steps to change our lives, we started getting our life, and her health back, which included having 2 children – which the doctors said we never would have.
So finally, our life together was moving forward. But pregnancy can greatly affect Hashimoto’s, and after years of progress, we found ourselves in a setback. Stacey became depressed, listless, and even hopeless-feeling sometimes. She found it hard to concentrate, and was stricken with dizziness so bad that some days, it was all she could do to just get through the day.
I was at a loss.
I was doing my tech job Monday through Friday, and found it to be an escape from the frustrating reality of me not knowing how to help her. Sometimes I would come home and all I could do was just eat, relax, play with the kids, and encourage my wife to relax while I was home.
The truth is I was waiting for someone else to fix this.
- I was waiting for her to fix it.
- I was waiting for the doctors to fix it.
- I was waiting for the pills to fix it.
- I was waiting for supplements to fix it.
And while all of those things matter, it has taken me a long time to realize that I can be a part of this healing process.
When I just was in waiting mode, I would go between taking stress away, and then to adding to stress. But as I’ve been waking up, I realize that as a husband, I’m an important part of the equation.
- I can help/remind her to take her supplements and mark it down her symptoms in a journal.
- I can listen to her, and partner with her on next steps.
- I can encourage her, when she’s down and tempted to give up.
- I can take the kids out, and let her have time alone or go be with some friends.
- I can research and be an extra set of eyes on test results, or next step treatment options.
Together we can get to a better place faster. And it’s less work to be involved, than it is to resist being involved.
What About You?
- Are you 100% all in and just need some guidance and information? That’s amazing – kudos to you, and I’m glad you’re here.
- Are you half in, and half out? Helping sometimes, and causing stress other times? That’s honest – so glad you’re here.
- Are you wishing someone else would just fix all this? I understand that too.
I’ve been in all of these phases. I get it.
This isn’t just about Stacey getting her health back, it’s been about me waking up. And both of us shifting our expectations from what we thought life would be, to accepting what life is, and what it can be.
Where You’re at is Not the End
I want you to know that I’m writing this from Florence, Italy – a dream that Stacey and I had when we were first married, but had lost sight of during the dark years of her poor health. If you are in that hard place too, where you’re so busy living in the moment of the pain and frustration that you can’t remember the dreams that you have of the future, I want to let you know – there’s hope.
Where you’re at is only the middle of the story, it’s not the end. I’m here to encourage you and be with you as you walk through these times, until you get to the other side.
If you’re interested in a book for your woman, much of Stacey’s journey is covered in her book, You’re Not Crazy, and You’re Not Alone which has helped thousands of women, and I highly recommend it.
I’m excited to share more with you soon.
You’ve got this. Hang in there.
You’re not alone.
Rock Robbins (with the gang)