This morning I went to the hospital to get some routine blood work done and for some reason it hit me that this is my new normal. There will never be a day that I don’t take some dose of Levothyroxine, and routine blood work is now, well, routine. As I reflected on life in general I asked myself, “Wow, how did I get here? How is this now my life?” The next 3 blog posts will be about my journey with Graves’ Disease; my symptoms and diagnosis, what I’ve learned through it all, and what it means for me now. I hope if you found this post because you are struggling with thyroid issues, that you are encouraged. It is hard, but you are not alone, and you will survive!
I am not a doctor. Wha?! Go ahead, act surprised. If you want real facts about Graves’ Disease, I suggest you talk to your doctor or plug your symptoms into webmd (just kidding, unless you want to convince yourself that you have only days to live). In short, your thyroid controls all the chemical reactions in your body, so if you have a hyperactive thyroid, all those reactions are super sped up (if you are hypothyroid, the opposite is true). These are just my personal experiences. I did not exhibit all of the possible symptoms of Graves’ Disease, and you may not either.
This all “officially” started on December 17, 2016. I had just returned from a trip to Canada with our 1-yr-old for my grandmother’s funeral. It was the first time flying by myself with the baby and I was stressed out! I was exhausted the whole trip and my heart was pounding on every flight. What if he started crying and someone said something rude to me? What if he had a blowout and I had to travel for hours with poop stains on my shirt? Normal anxiety, right? Well, the morning after I returned home, my heart was still pounding. I had just woken up after a relatively good trip (I think my husband even took care of the baby that morning so I could sleep in) and my resting heart rate, before I even got out of bed, was around 100 bpm. By the afternoon it had slowly risen to about 145, so we decided to go to urgent care. They took my blood pressure and sent me straight to the ER before even processing my paperwork. At the ER they pumped me full of fluids, and after resting for a of couple hours my heart rate was still hovering around 100. That’s when they ordered some blood work and saw that my thyroid hormone levels were through the roof (8x higher than “normal”)! They gave me a beta blocker to slow down my heart rate and I followed up with my doctor.
My doctor ordered an ultrasound of my thyroid and it showed that I had a mass on the right side. We got a biopsy of that mass (not a fun procedure) and it came back with inconclusive results. Either way, something was obviously wrong with my thyroid. Through more blood work and a radioactive uptake scan, two days after my 26th birthday, my endocrinologist diagnosed me with Graves’ Disease (an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid). At the beginning of April I had my thyroid removed. There were three treatment options, but I chose this one (more on that later, I think).
So, from December to April I had very poor health. This is the part I would never wish on anyone (especially someone who has to take care of a 1-yr-old 24/7)! Here are the symptoms I remember:
Obviously, one of the biggest ones was my heart rate. My endocrinologist told me to take 3 beta blockers, 4x a day. Do not do this if you are not under the care of a doctor! My cardiologist gave me a scolding when I was taking 4 of them a day, let alone 12. Even taking 12 pills a day, my resting heart rate never went below 90 until after my surgery.
Weight loss. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was eating everything I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I was still shedding pounds. I lost 20 lbs in 4 months, and I wasn’t a big person to start off with (I do not recommend this as a weight loss program!).
Physical exhaustion/No stamina. I couldn’t make it through washing the dishes because I’d have to sit down and rest in the middle. I didn’t have the energy to get groceries, so I started ordering them online. My legs got weak walking up our set of 7 stairs, so exercise was completely out of the question.
Insomnia. There were some night where I was up until 4 am because I couldn’t sleep.
Dry skin. I’ve always had oily skin, but suddenly the skin over my whole body was dry and flaky.
Irritability and brain fog. It felt like my brain was hyper. It would jump from thought to thought, never staying on one long enough for me to actually remember anything.
In short, I was completely exhausted all the time, but my body was hyperactive, so it was a very strange juxtaposition of feelings. If you have any of these symptoms, and especially if you have a combination of them, you could also have a hyperactive thyroid.
These were some of the hardest months of my life, and I wouldn’t wish these symptoms on anyone. Thankfully, I was diagnosed fairly quickly and there are medical treatments available for this disease. Also, I learned invaluable lessons about who I am, who God is, and what that means for my life. Stay tuned for more on that!
(Also, please leave any questions in the comments below!)