There and Back Again

As promised I wanted to share as to why I have been MIA for the last two and a half years.

I have sat here trying to decide the best way to begin, I thought I would break this story up into two parts. First I will explain the physical journey and then I will explain the spiritual.  I wanted to write this in just one post but it got too long. I tried to keep it as short as possible and I have left much of the story out. To shorten it more leaves out too much of the needed facts to help one understand. Not in understanding me, but the journey.

Today I am very aware that there are many others on the journey too who don’t have answers yet. Doctors don’t seem to listen or they tell you it’s in your head, it’s old age or your menopausal. I would lay in bed at night sometimes praying that God would just take me home because I felt so bad, I felt alone because I didn't know what was wrong. Too often I thought I was just going crazy and I am sure others thought so too!  So I write this for those who might need to read my story. I write so they might find encouragement and hope. 

The Body is Wasting Away

My body wasn't working right. I couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular, I just knew I wasn’t feeling well. Early in 2015 I went to the doctor and shared my unspecific symptoms. My complaints were feeling depressed, exhausted, heart palpitations, unmotived to do the things I use to love to do and overall body pain. Because I had been diagnosed in 2004 with depression and on an anti-depressant, he began there. I’ve struggled with depression most my life so it seemed only natural to assume I was there again and needed medication. He sent me for lab work which I also showed very low iron and vitamin D. Both of which possibly adding to the depression.

With new meds and supplements in hand, I hoped I would feel better. I knew to give it time, but the heart palpitations became a daily occurrence and grew tiresome. I called the doctor and he sent me to the Cardiologist. After quite a few tests including more bloodwork, she told me I was at a high risk of a heart attack or stroke. My numbers were really bad. My good cholesterol was way too low and my bad cholesterol was too high, my blood sugar was in the pre-diabetic range and my heart was inflamed.  Oh, and my thyroid levels were a bit low but nothing to worry about right now. We would keep an eye on it. I stood there almost in tears thinking now what? I mean it wasn’t a death sentence or anything, but before this, I honestly thought I was pretty healthy. 

I had two choices, go on medication or change my lifestyle. My doctor strongly suggested that I lose weight by changing the way I eat and exercise first, if that didn’t work we’d talk about medications. So I went home determined to change. I changed eating habits by watching portion control and cutting out all white starches. (Going from white rice to brown etc.) My husband and I began walking. We worked up to walking 12 to 15 miles a week. I didn’t go on any crazy diet or anything, I just began keeping track of my calorie intake and tried to burn the calories I took in for the day ending most days with around 1400 calories. By the time I went back to the cardiologist for my six-month check-up in 2016, I had lost about 20 lbs and my numbers were within a normal range. At my year check up and I lost another 15 lbs and test showed my heart looked normal and no longer inflamed. My thyroid numbers continued to show low levels though. So she sent me back to my doctor who then prescribed meds for Hypothyroidism. 

I felt better, but I was still tired a lot. I began to read up on Hypothyroidism and realized that being tired, depression, weight gain and more were all normal symptoms. Hypothyroidism runs in my family so I wasn’t surprised by this and just adjusted my thinking and life to "this is my new normal". 

Months later I began to notice my anxiety increase. Thoughts in my head that wouldn’t go away. Thoughts of fear. Thoughts of bad things happening to me, to my family.  I would pray and try to renew my mind with scripture. I would remind myself of truth, but the anxiety wouldn’t go away.  With the anxiety came the uncontrollable tremors. My hands began to shake to the point I could barely sign my name. I had a feeling of panic on most days. I likened it to a major overload on caffeine. 

All through this, I would try to write, but words didn't come. I'd manage a sentence here and there in my journal but over the last couple of years, I only managed a handful of days worth. I wanted to write. I wanted to dig deep into the Word of God and share the precious treasures. My brain seemed to belong to someone else. Nothing I would try to write made sense. 

 I thought I was going crazy.

I couldn’t concentrate or retain what I had just read. I would open my mouth to speak but forget the words. I felt crazy. I stopped reading books because it seemed too hard to process what I was reading. I couldn't seem to say what I was thinking. Walking became almost impossible due to tiredness. I was determined to just push through. The doctor didn’t seem too concerned and just increased my anti-depressant thinking it was all anxiety related. 

Then around early fall of 2017, I began to lose weight. At first, I didn’t think too much of it. I was still eating healthy and still walked, although the walking had decreased to about 5 to 8 miles a week. I lost 10 lbs in two weeks, the next week I lost another 5, then another 5. I was below my target weight and continuing to lose. I started eating more but it didn’t help. In fact, it seemed I ate all the time because I was always hungry. Still, the weight dropped. I ended up at the doctor's office once again. 

More bloodwork. My thyroid levels were too high. He immediately told me to stop taking my thyroid meds, I was already on the lowest dose. He also said my blood anti-bodies were too high and my white blood cells were low. More tests, including a radiation uptake test to look at how my thyroid was functioning. The results showed that my thyroid was working overtime. 

What did this mean? My family doctor informed me that I had an autoimmune disease that was affecting my thyroid. It was either Graves or Hashimoto's disease. He suggested I go to an endocrinologist because if it’s Graves, which seemed more likely, then it’s more difficult to treat and I would do better with a specialist. It would be three months before I could get an appointment. Three months of no meds and feeling like I was going crazy and just wanting to die. I am not being dramatic. I am just being honest.

 I am grateful that most of those three months my daughter in law was out on maternity leave so I didn’t have to keep my grandbabies. I slept almost all day, every day. I would get up do a few things before feeling like I ran a marathon and collapsed into bed for a nap. Those three months couldn’t go fast enough. 

My diagnosis

January 2018 the endocrinologist diagnosed me with Graves disease and put me on medicine to help with the panic/anxiety and to control my thyroid levels. It felt good to have a diagnosis but I still didn’t know exactly what it meant. In the three months of waiting, I did a lot of research and there were conflicting reports. Some said there’s were cured, some had to have their thyroid removed, some were in remission. No one seemed to know the cause, other than stress. I didn’t find out from my doctor that Graves cannot be cured but it can go into remission. If remission doesn’t happen through medication then surgery is necessary to remove the overactive thyroid. It is not safe to remain indefinitely with an overactive thyroid as it can lead to heart and other problems.

It took it a few weeks but I did begin to feel better. I realized that almost all my symptoms over the past few years could be due to the thyroid not working properly. I learned that there are so many struggling with the disease and not getting a proper diagnosis. Many have had to fight for the right testing, the proper blood work and to be seen by a specialist. I am grateful that I didn’t have to endure that too on top of feeling so bad. The doctor said that it is plausible that my thyroid has been acting up for years but my test always showed normal or near normal whenever it was tested. If that is true then there are so many things that make sense now. The thyroid affects your hormones and so many other parts of your body. It may be a small body part that few even think about but if it’s not working properly it can wreak havoc on your body. In fact, there are several articles that I read where they have found some patients in the psychiatric ward of hospitals that when tested their thyroid levels are way off. Once properly medicated, to get the thyroid working within the normal range, they are released and able to live normal lives. 

I wish I could say, now 18 months after my diagnosis that I am in remission and feeling better. But I can not. I do feel better than I did prior to finding out I have Graves but it’s a daily struggle. I am not in remission. In fact, I get blood work every 4 weeks to see where my levels are and then adjust my medication accordingly. My levels bounce all over and we are having a hard time regulating them. My antibodies remain high showing no signs of remission. We have talked about removing the thyroid but we are waiting a little longer. Sometimes it can take a couple of years for remission. 

Today I try to live one day at a time paying attention to my body and how it feels. I have drastically changed my diet following a diet plan that has shown success in helping thyroid patients go into remission. I remain tired and still have trouble concentrating on reading or writing. It’s better, I have to take it slow, but I am working toward not allowing this disease to completely control my life. I will get into some of the more specifics in later blogs, this has gone on far too long and I am sure if you made it to this point you need a break. 

God has taught me and kept me through all this. One verse that He has often brought to mind is 2 cor 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." But I will get more into how all this affected me spiritually. Hopefully, I will get it up in a week!!

If you suspect thyroid issues or are currently in the midst of trying to understand your diagnosis I have found the below websites very helpful. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave me some joy...