Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Northland shearer gets candid about health struggles

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A travelling shearer gets candid hoping to normalise talking about one’s health struggles and to emphasise why it’s important to listen to your body.
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Danielle Boyd, 28, lives on her family’s farm in the small settlement of Arapohue, just south of Dargaville. Involved in shearing since she was a child, she now has her own shearing run, and also works part-time as the PGG Wrightson’s wool rep for Northland. Danielle spoke to Shepherdess about her journey of using both conventional and alternative medicine to help with some long-term health issues.

This is her story…

I always loved being in the sheds. Dad was a shearer and shearing instructor and my mum was a wool handler. When I left school, I headed down to the South Island to go shepherding. I’d only been there a few months when I got really sick with glandular fever. I took a week off and then went back to work, but I think I got back into things too quickly, because about a month later, I got crook again. For a long time, I was in a yearly pattern of getting bad chest or throat infections. I spent a couple of years travelling with shearing and rousie work, and I’d get sick the same time every year, regardless of whether I was in the New Zealand winter or the UK summer. I was also getting tired and run down. I was getting to the point where I physically couldn’t get through a day without having to sleep. Someone would be driving the vehicle and I would struggle to keep my eyes open. What fit, healthy twenty-three-year-old is like that? I’d also have some days where I found it hard to get out of bed, and then had to take painkillers to get me through the day. For the type of person I am and used to be, it just didn’t feel right. My family and friends could tell something was wrong, too. My grandma used to call me a ray of sunshine – I’d just bounce into the room!

I’d been to see doctors over the years, but I felt brushed off by them. When I returned home to Northland, I went to see a naturopath. He was the first person who actually sat down with me and wrote a full timeline of all my symptoms. He did a whole heap of blood tests and told me that my adrenal gland was overworking, and I had adrenal fatigue. He also said I had extremely high levels of inflammation. He suggested I see another naturopath who does bioresonance. After going to see her, I had energy that I hadn’t had for a good five years.

About three years ago I discovered another health issue. I hadn’t had a period for about two years, and I started getting moody. I’m not normally a moody person, so I felt that something wasn’t quite right. I went to see my GP, and after some blood tests I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid. It took a little while to get the balance right with my meds, and I’ve got a few big decisions to make about my treatment in the future, but for now, as long as I remember to take my meds, everything is pretty good.

I’m quite a private person but I wanted to share my story to hopefully help others. I think we need to start listening to our bodies a bit more, and pay more attention to the little health niggles, because sometimes ignoring a small problem can result in bigger health problems. If I had slowed down a bit when I was younger and listened to my body, and not swept it under the carpet so much, I might not have the thyroid trouble I have now. It’s not entirely settled but when you read a few books, some say having an overactive adrenal gland can trigger thyroid issues.

I’d encourage people to try different things – it could be changing doctors, or it could be exploring alternative options. Accessing health advice can be challenging for rural women – especially if you’re like me and you travel all over the country for your work. It can cost more if you’re an out-of-town patient, and if you’re seeing a different doctor each time, it can be hard for them to know what’s ‘normal’ for you.

I have definitely learnt to listen to my body more over the years, but sometimes I still get caught out with a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. I’m probably my own worst enemy, because they say the worst thing for thyroid health and adrenal health is stress, and sometimes in the middle of the season it’s like I’m working three full-time jobs! I’ve been to a registered nutritionist, and she helped me adjust my diet, which made a difference when I followed it, but it’s hard to stick to during the busy season. I’m trying to put those good practices in place during the off-season and hopefully that will lead into better habits and just make the next season a bit easier.

I used to get annoyed at myself when I would get crook because I felt like my body was failing me and I was failing others by not being able to work. I sometimes felt a bit alone, and that it was my own issue, so shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem. But I’m a lot more open about it these days, as you won’t know if anyone is struggling with the same issues if you don’t talk about it. I like sharing what has worked for me, and I like to hear how other people have tackled similar issues.

This story was written as told to  Felicity Connell and photographed by Michelle Marshall for Shepherdess magazine. Shepherdess magazine was started around a kitchen table on a dairy and beef farm in the Horowhenua. We continue to come to you from this kitchen table, and from many other farms, home offices and lounges across provincial Aotearoa. The magazine is here to connect, empower and inspire women across rural New Zealand, by offering a place to tell stories of our rural communities. Find out more about Shepherdess here

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