Please Note: This project is a work in progress, and we are currently shooting footage and gathering information for the website and films. Sick to Death! is funded by the Guggenheim Foundation.
In my experience, thyroid disease, and its accompanying symptoms and related disorders, is a very confusing health challenge. The purpose of this project is not to supply all of the answers, but rather to create a resource for health seekers that can assist in confirming that what they are experiencing may in fact be thyroid related and to pose the question why is it that patient advocates are taking on the roles and responsibilities of the medical community? With the assistance of this huge community, the Sick to Death!project seeks to improve the medical establishment’s response to thyroid disease.
In Sick to Death!, a multi-platform project incorporating video, animation, medical research and an interactive website, artist Maggie Hadleigh-West exposes her own disturbing, yet determined thirty-year struggle to regain her spiraling health. After seeing hundreds of doctors who either disregarded her symptoms, misdiagnosed or undertreated her, Maggie discovers that her thyroid problem used to be a fully understood medical issue that has become all but erased, and which today leaves more than 750 million people sick and suffering.
Follow Maggie into her colorful, unconventional, creative life where she tackles existential milestones, and through the assistance of her team of advisers, including a charismatic doctor, takes on the medical establishment. Participate in the unveiling of a huge body of medical information, which became obscured through the lobbying and business practices of a pharmaceutical giant.
At once a deeply intimate portrait and a rousing invitation to seize life and health to the fullest, Sick to Death! invites audiences to turn our diagnoses into a call to arms. The final films will take several forms, including several short films to be distributed online to fans, a feature-length film also entitled Sick to Death!, and an interactive website which includes a platform for audiences to connect with one another and to build intentional communities.
The project is intended to serve as both a work of art and a resource for millions of individuals around the world suffering from thyroid disease.
Over the course of her career, Maggie Hadleigh-West has been internationally recognized as an activist, independent filmmaker, public speaker and the founder of the corporation, Film Fatale. She has been writing, directing and producing in film and television since 1991. Her work is often considered to be controversial, provocative, radical and irreverent. Through her company and the mediums of film, television, and public speaking, Maggie focuses on developing social justice projects related to various forms of “violence”, which have been previously unrecognized or under-examined.
Currently Maggie is production on her fifth film and website project, Sick to Death!, which explores the testing, diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disease and the medical industries worldwide failure to attend to the nearly 750 million individuals that suffer from thyroid diseases.
Her fourth film, and second feature documentary Player Hating: A Love Story which follows the life of hip-hop artist Half-a-Mill as he struggles to escape ghetto obscurity for fame. This intimate and controversial film explores issues of race, “thug life”, cultural / government neglect, the far-reaching impact of extreme trauma and cultural culpability
In her well known feature length documentary, War Zone, about the public harassment of women, Maggie turns the lens of her camera on her harassers, in much the same way that they turn their aggression on her. Using a combination of black and white and color images, she creates a film that is immediate, disturbing, beautiful and historic.
Maggie has appeared on numerous national and international television and radio programs including ABC’s news magazine show 20/20, The Today Show, CBS News, The Oprah Show, Lifetime Live, Oxygen Media, BBC, NPR, and CNN. Articles on Maggie have been published in such periodicals as USA Today, New York Times, San Francisco Examiner, New York Observer, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, New York Daily News, Ms. Magazine, Glamour Magazine, London Times, South African Elle, the Swedish papers Aftonbladet and Dagens Nyheter, Australia’sExposure Magazine and more.
Maggie Hadleigh-West is a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow Award Winner, 2010 Indie Fest: Audience Impact Merit Award Winner, 2010 Accolade Merit Award Winner, 2009, 2006, and 2005 Alcyon Foundation Fellow, a 2004 New York State Council on the Arts Fellow, 2001 University of Louisville Distinguished Professor Nominee, 2000 Rockefeller Fellow Nominee and a 1998 Berlin Film Festival Caligari Nominee.
Film Fatale, Inc. was formed in New York City, where Maggie lived for twenty-four years. She currently resides in New Orleans, where she has deep roots and plans to remain forever.
Maggie’s Thyroid Backstory
For most of my adult life I have known that there was something radically wrong with me, which impacted my health on a daily basis. But it wasn’t until I was 32 that I was diagnosed with something concrete and treatable: Graves Disease. That diagnoses scared the shit out of me. But, being the health sleuth that I am, I hurried down to what was known as the People’s Medical Library in Manhattan and began researching my affliction.
Graves Disease is a form of hyperthyroidism, which had thrown my body into massive overdrive, shaking, sweating, crazy emotions, and a metabolism running at an insane speed, which in fact had to be stopped or I could go into what’s called thyroid storm and have a heart attack and die.
So after more research and multiple opinions, I did something that felt incredibly archaic: I drank radioactive iodine and killed my thyroid. My endocrinologist at the time assured me it was safe. However, he said, I should stay away from pregnant women and flush the toilet three or four times after peeing for the entire week following drinking that “benign” concoction.
As my thyroid died its slow death, my endocrinologist assured me that all was well, that all I’d have to do was take Levothyroxine also know as Synthroid– a synthetic thyroid replacement drug – forever, to replace what my gland was no longer producing, and I would function as a normal person. So off I went into twenty-some-odd years of Synthroid-dosing, convinced my thyroid issue was taken care of, even as a myriad of symptoms developed. And they got worse as the years rolled along. Doctor after doctor sent me from one specialist to the next. By the time I was in my mid 40’s I rode my bike all over Manhattan and Brooklyn because it hurt to walk. I had scoliosis, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, low blood pressure, low-grade fever, the inability to sleep, constant infections, bizarre allergies, and a malfunctioning brain, among a zillion other symptoms. And when my heart started beating erratically and I was depressed beyond belief, I thought–I am not going to survive this body. It’s time to get the fuck outta New York City because I’ve got to slow down and get some help, somehow.
So I moved back to New Orleans, where my family is from. By now, I was certain that my lack of thyroid was the culprit and the medication wasn’t helping me. Neither were the doctors-so I totally gave up on the medical community from sheer physical and mental exhaustion. Then on a blind referral, and only looking for an increase in the natural thyroid medication that I had started taking, I walked into the office of Dr. Chuck Mary, an Internist and Integrative Medicine Doctor, who immediately understood that I had been suffering with thyroid disease long before Graves Disease even came into play. Chuck pointed out all of the clinical signs that had existed since my childhood, including scoliosis as a symptom of thyroid disease!
After a few months of taking an increased dosage of medication, the carpal tunnel in my arms disappeared, and I was astounded. I voiced my shock to Chuck and he showed me one of his primary medical references that he used for treating thyroid disease clinically. It looked like a road map of my life. Unbelievably the book was printed in 1943. Two hours later when I stopped crying, I became enraged and against my better judgment, decided to make yet another film, because I was in fact, Sick to Death!” – Maggie Hadleigh-West
Executive Producer of Sick to Death! | Founder of the National Academy of Hypothyroidism | Director of Holtorf Medical Group
Kent Holtorf, M.D. is the medical director of the Holtorf Medical Group and the nation-wide Holtorf Medical Group Affiliate Centers, providing physicians a turn-key program for a successful anti-aging practice. Dr. Holtorf is also the medical director of the non-profit National Academy of Hypothyroidism; fellowship lecturer for ABAAM; The Endocrinology Expert for AOL Health and founding director of the non-profit Bioidentical Hormone Initiative.
Dr. Holtorf has published a number of peer-reviewed endocrine reviews, including on the safety and efficacy of bioidentical hormones, inaccuracies of standard thyroid testing, testosterone replacement for men and women, the diagnosis and treatment of growth hormone deficiency and on the diagnosis and treatment of HPA axis dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. He is also a reviewer for the journal Endocrine, Postgraduate Medicine and Pharmacy Practice.
He has personally trained numerous physicians across the country in the use of bioidentical hormones, hypothyroidism, complex endocrine dysfunction and innovative treatments of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic infectious diseases, including Lyme disease.
He has been a featured guest on numerous TV shows, CNBC, ABC News, CNN, EXTRA TV, Discovery Health, The Learning Channel, The Today Show, Dr. Dean Edell, Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace, Fox Business, ESPN, Rush Limbaugh, CBS Sunday Morning, Sean Hannity, So Cal News and quoted in numerous print media including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, US New and World Report, San Francisco Chronicle (front page), WebMD, Health, Elle, Better Homes and Garden, US Weekly, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News, Self magazine among many others.
Consulting Producer of Sick to Death! | Author | Patient Advocate
“We’re patients…NOT lab values!”
Internationally-known patient advocate/activist, author, and health coach Mary Shomon transformed her 1995 thyroid diagnosis into a mission to educate and empower others struggling with thyroid and hormonal conditions.
Mary has guided the popular About.com Thyroid site since its launch in 1997, and is also the founder of the patient-oriented newsletter, Sticking Out Our Necks.
Mary also provides personalized Hormonal Health and Thyroid Coaching services, via telephone, with patients around the world.
Mary has written a number of best-selling books on thyroid disease, hormones and weight loss, including:
- Living Well With Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You…That You Need to Know (HarperCollins)
- The Thyroid Diet: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss (HarperCollins)
- Beautiful Inside and Out (Simon & Schuster/Atria)
- The Menopause Thyroid Solution: Overcome Menopause by Solving Your Hidden Thyroid Problems (HarperCollins)
- Thyroid Hormone Breakthrough: Overcoming Sexual and Hormonal Problems at Every Age (HarperCollins)
- Living Well With Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism (HarperCollins)
- Living Well With Autoimmune Disease (HarperCollins)
- Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia (HarperCollins)
- Thyroid Guide to Hair Loss
Mary’s book The Thyroid Diet Revolution: Manage Your Metabolism for Lasting Weight Loss, was a New York Times best-seller, an Amazon.com Top 10 Health book, and Quills Awards semi-finalist.
Mary is on the faculty of New York’s premier holistic learning center, the New York Open Center, where she leads workshops on thyroid disease, health and wellness.
Mary has been co-starred in the PBS “Healthy Hormones” television series, and has been featured in hundreds of television, radio, newspaper, magazine and web interviews around the world, including ABC World News Tonight, Time Magazine, the New York Times, First for Women, Ladies Home Journal, and the CBS Radio Networks.
Mary is a key thyroid voice in social media, with her Thyroid Support page on Facebook, and more than 10,000 followers for her ThyroidMary feed on Twitter.
More information on Mary’s thyroid and health-related books is available at her site, www.thyroid-info.com.
Welcome! Part portal, part feature, part map, part medical textbook, part method of action animation and part call-to-action, Sick to Death! is a website and film project that maps the human body in its imperfect glory.
With this project I am seeking to uncover a lost medical history that impacts primarily women, to reveal and change corrupt medical practices, and to regain my own health – a process that I am mapping as a resource for others. Here you will find videos and animations that tell my story as well as text and images that provide an anatomy of thyroid disease. The site combines creative expression, research and basic recommendations with a medical justice campaign to urge viewers to join together to fight medical inequities.
I hope you will find resources here to help you help yourself or someone else.
The Sick to Death! project is honored to have the following luminaries as Advisors. These professionals are helping to guide the project from a medical, patient advocate and social justice perspective, providing an enormous amount of information in an effort to support changing medical practices around thyroid disease and assist the millions of suffering patients.
Dr. David Borenstein obtained his medical degree from the Technion Faculty of Medicine in Haifa, Israel and completed his internship at Staten Island University Hospital. He has completed residencies at University Hospital at Stony Brook, Westchester County Medical Center, and St. Charles Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.
During the course of his career he has attended numerous specialized training courses in order to expand the scope of his medical expertise. He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, certified in Medical Acupuncture, and is a member of numerous professional societies.
Dr. Borenstein has held many prestigious clinical appointments and positions in leading medical facilities. He has been published in the European Journal of Ultrasound and has been the Chief Investigator on a research project on Spinal Cord Injuries.
After his residency, Dr. Borenstein was involved with an integrative medical center and became impressed by the effectiveness of the treatments that were offered there. The experience led him to incorporate integrative approaches into his medical practice. Getting to know his patients, listening to them, and understanding the symptoms are the starting points for his treatment protocols.
Dr. Borenstein’s areas of specialization do not exist in isolation – patients are diagnosed and treated in an integrative manner to promote both the overall recovery and continuing good health. In his own words his “greatest feeling of accomplishment comes from helping make real changes in people’s lives, especially after they’ve been through a difficult time.”
Seize the Wisdom! has become Thyroid Patient Activist Janie A. Bowthorpe’s mantra as creator of the patient-to-patient informational website www.stopthethyroidmadness.com (STTM) and author of the book, “Stop the Thyroid Madness: a Patient Revolution Against Decades of Inferior Thyroid Treatment.”
After suffering miserably for 20 years while on Synthroid with a “normal” TSH (which forced her to begin the process of applying for Social Security Disability in 2002), Janie saw a dramatic turn-around in her health when she discovered natural desiccated thyroid.
Being both dumbfounded at the change and angry that not one doctor had a clue as to what had been going on for two decades, Bowthorpe set herself on a spiritual mission to inform and educate others based on recorded patient experiences and wisdom worldwide.
Bowthorpe started the one-of-a-kind Yahoo group “Natural Thyroid Hormone users” in 2002. The STTM website, based on what was being learned in the Yahoo group, launched in December 2005 and has grown immensely with information critical to thyroid patients. In 2011 the best-selling, revised STTM book was released, and today – known as the “bible of thyroid treatment” by thyroid patients – it is still one of Amazon’s top-selling thyroid books.
She is associated with twelve FTPO (For Thyroid Patients Only) discussion groups on Facebook, and is owner of the dynamic and informative Stop the Thyroid Madness Facebook group. She also does coaching calls and has recently added three more coaches.
In late 2013, Bowthorpe realized that it was time to bring in more informed medical practitioners into the movement, and that beget the second book in 2014 of which Janie Bowthorpe was editor and each chapter written by practitioners: “Stop the Thyroid Madness II: How Thyroid Experts are Challenging Ineffective Treatments and Improving the Lives of Patients.”
You can contact Janie Bowthorpe here: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/contact.
Dr. David Brownstein is a Board-Certified family physician and is one of the foremost practitioners of holistic medicine. He is the Medical Director of the Center for Holistic Medicine in West Bloomfield, MI. Dr. Brownstein has lectured internationally to physicians and others about his success in using natural hormones and nutritional therapies in his practice. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Brownstein is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College for the Advancement in Medicine. He is the father of two beautiful girls, Hailey and Jessica, and is a retired soccer coach.
Dr. Brownstein has received two prestigious awards by his colleagues. The first was given by the American College for the Advancement in Medicine at the 2005 annual meeting. The award was the Norman E. Clarke Sr. Award for Science and Practice. The second award was given by the American Academy of Integrative Medicine at their 2005 annual meeting in Florida. This was titled, 2005 ARC Excellence Award for Distinguished Clinician for his “Advancement in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Diseases.”
Dr. Brownstein has authored eleven books: Overcoming Arthritis Vitamin B12 for Health Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It , Overcoming Thyroid Disorders , The Miracle of Natural Hormones , Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do Salt: Your Way to Health , The Guide to Healthy Eating The Guide to a Gluten-Free Diet , The Guide to a Dairy-Free Diet The Soy Deception.
Michael Friedman, ND is a licensed naturopathic physician and medical herbalist. He graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1998 and served on the faculty as an adjunct instructor of endocrinology at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.
He is also the author of the medical textbook Fundamentals of Naturopathic Endocrinology and co-author of Healing Diabetes and Evidence Based Approach to Restoring Thyroid Health. His research on the use of Sustained Release T3 has been published by the medical department of the University Puerto Rico.
Dr. Friedman has lectured internationally at both naturopathic and conventional medical schools. Dr. Friedman is also the Executive Director of the non-profit Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine (AARM) a professional society for licensed physicians whose goal is to offer high level education and promote excellence in clinical medicine for its members and conference attendees. He is the editor and chief of the affiliated Journal of Restorative Medicine.
Dr. Friedman is also an experienced and gifted clinician and has published some of his unusual and difficult cases including: Remission of Stage 4 Metastatic Ocular Melanoma, Treatment of Lymphoma with Poke Root and Pacific yew, and The Use of Botanical and Mineral Supplementation to Treat Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes.
Dr. Melnick has been treating infertile couples since 1976, and is considered a pioneer in the field of outpatient IVF treatment. Dr. Melnick is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University School of Medicine. He completed his residency training at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where he later served as director of both the Endocrinology clinic and the postgraduate medical course on Human Endocrinology.
Dr. Melnick served as a research fellow in the Department of Experimental Pathology at the University of Birmingham in England and spent two years as an attending physician at the New York Fertility Research Foundation. He has published many scientific articles in medical journals and textbooks, and wrote The Pregnancy Prescription, one of the most informative books recently published for couples experiencing infertility problems.
Dr. Melnick has lectured on topics related to Infertility and Reproductive Endocrinology. In 1983, he founded Advanced Fertility Services, the first private, freestanding In Vitro Fertilization Center in the tri-state area and has been its director since.
Dana Trentini is the founder of Hypothyroid Mom, an online resource for individuals suffering with thyroid disease. Dana was diagnosed with hypothyroidism the year following the birth of her first son in 2006, when low thyroid symptoms overtook her life. A healthy woman prior to pregnancy Dana soon had blood levels indicating high risk for heart attack and diabetes. What had happened?
Dana trusted her doctors implicitly and followed their thyroid drug protocol to the letter, never once thinking they might not know everything there was to know about hypothyroidism. She trusted them as the experts especially when she became pregnant again. She assumed that in New York City, one of the greatest cities in the world, doctors would have all the answers.
Dana would later learn that her Ivy League medical school trained and top awarded doctors did not know enough about hypothyroidism, especially the dangers of hypothyroidism and pregnancy. Under their care her TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) reached levels far above the recommended reference range for pregnancy, endangering the life of her fetus, and she miscarried.
Dana graduated in 1993 with an Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto with High Distinction, receiving multiple scholarships and prestigious awards. She worked for several years as a high school science teacher for intellectually gifted students. In 2002 she obtained an M.A. in Organizational Psychology and an Ed.M. in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University, where a distinguished professor selected her as the team leader for his research. Dana was no stranger to scientific research. So why hadn’t she used her science background and research skills to learn everything she could about her own thyroid disease?
After 4 years of intense research and a quest to find the top thyroid health professionals, Dana is now in the best health ever. At the age of 40, she got pregnant naturally and gave birth to her second son in 2010. In 2012, determined to share what she has learned with the world, Dana founded Hypothyroid Mom as a platform for important information about thyroid disease. The website has garnered a large and dedicated following since its launch and in 2014, won two WEGO Health Activist Awards: Health Activist Hero and Best In Show Twitter.
Ilko Davidov founded Bulletproof Film in 1995, where he has produced, edited, and directed numerous award winning documentaries including producing and editing the much-acclaimed William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. In 2008, Davidov co-founded the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMfest), an annual 4-day, multi-venue event highlighting the crossover of film and song. He also serves on the advisory board of the American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, CA.
Elizabeth’s professional career began over 20 years ago as a script-reading intern at Columbia/TriStar. She has worked in film and television production in California where her experience ranged from property development for Comedy Central to free-lance work on PBS television documentaries and other commercial production work. Elizabeth served on the Board of Directors for the New Orleans Video Access Center (NOVAC) from 2004-2007, including two years as Board President. In 2007, she was appointed Director of Community Development, where she launched the Louisiana Film Crew Training Program, training hundreds of low-income individuals and finding them paid work in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2008 she became NOVAC’s Executive Director, and in 2009 Elizabeth launched the Digital Media Institute, which earned a 2009 New Orleans City Business Innovator award. In 2012 Elizabeth became the Chief Operating Officer of the Louisiana Children’s Museum, where she helped drive organizational restructuring in preparation for a $35 million capital campaign. Elizabeth currently produces programs for film and television. She is a founding board member of the Louisiana chapter of Women in Film & Television and serves on the Board of Directors of the New Orleans Film Society. Elizabeth holds a BA in Theatre Arts from Brown University.
Catherine Rierson is a writer, producer and filmmaker based in New Orleans, Louisiana. With a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Catherine has worked researching and reporting original content for web and print publications in North Carolina and abroad. Garnering extensive experience with web-based visual arts and storytelling, she has produced multimedia stories as a freelance reporter and as an Editorial Production Assistant at Lens Culture, a digital photography magazine based in Paris, France. Seeking to meld her background in editorial journalism to filmic arts, she began pursuing a certificate in documentary studies from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She co-produced the award-winning Big Charity, and, in addition to co-producing Sick to Death!, is currently developing a documentary web-series.