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Living with Graves Disease (Hyper-Thyroidism)

In October 2016, 2 months after the loss of my sister Amber, I was not in a good place mentally due to my grief, little did I know that I was also not in a good place physically with my health.

I have been fighting Depression and Anxiety as well as other disorders for the past 5 years, it has been a struggle and those who are in the same position as me know how living with mental illnesses can wear and take its toll on a person in every aspect because everyday is a fight. One day, I was taking a depression nap, you know those naps you take when your body and mind is so mentally work down that sleep is the only escape, if only for a bit. I remember clearly waking up very suddenly, like shot out of bed awake with the words echoing in my mind "Check your Thyroid". I decided to look online to see if the symptoms that I had been experiencing were consistent with having thyroid problems. Thankfully, I was able to take my suspicions to my family doctor who had been treating me for 3 year prior for my depression. She listened to my concerns and sent me for the necessary blood work. Afterwards, I was given the diagnosis of having Hyperthyroidism which is also known as Graves Disease. Defined as... A condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive and makes excessive amounts of thyroid hormone. The thyroid gland is an organ located in the front of your neck and releases hormones that control your metabolism (the way your body uses energy), breathing, heart rate, nervous system, weight, body temperature, and many other functions in the body. When the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism) the body’s processes speed up and you may experience nervousness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, hand tremor, excessive sweating, weight loss, and sleep problems, among other symptoms.

I had all of the symptoms listed and more, what I had thought was simply my body being worn down by my mental illness turned out to be a health issue that needed to be addressed and treated shortly after receiving my diagnosis. Due to my life's circumstances at the time stemming from loss, I hadn't realized how serious it was. The symptoms I had included being fatigued all of the time, no matter how much sleep I got the night before, I was consistently low energy despite what I did to try and alleviate it, my hands consistently tremor due to a rapid heartbeat, my anxiety was at an all time high and little did I know yet again that my diagnosis played a factor in causing my anxiety to become worse. I also had problems maintaining a regular, consistent body temperature, I was always extremely hot to cold and no in between. My weight suffered severely as a result and I was 94 pounds at my lowest due to weight loss and not being able to gain the pounds back. My sleep also suffered severely and I had no set sleep pattern or would have problems falling asleep or staying asleep due to waking up from nightmares, night sweats, inability to stop my mind from relaxing or other factors. My immune system also suffered and weakened as a result, I would get sick very easily and when I did get sick, it hit me hard and affected me longer than others, where some might bounce back from a common head cold in a few days, It took me a week or more to bounce back and there was a risk of it becoming worse due to my immune system not being able to fight back. Classified as an auto immune disease, it affects a large majority of my system.

Since being diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism, I have been being treated by an Endocrinologist at Kelowna General Hospital who has been monitoring me through regular blood work. At first I was put on a daily thyroid medication to help alleviate the symptoms of my sickness, than eventually over time the dosage of my medication was lowered and shortly after , I was to take it every other day instead of daily. The reason? To begin weaning my body off of the medication to see if it was possible for my thyroid to function on its own without it. If my thyroid is not able to function properly without the aid of thyroid medication, I will be given the decision to kill my thyroid with radioactive iodine and than be on a thyroid medication for the duration of my life.

As of March 1st I have been completely medication free, no antidepressants, anxiety medication, sleeping pills or the medication meant to help manage my thyroid. On May 10th I went for regular blood work and the endocrinologist told me that upon receiving the results, if there were an abnormalities, I would get a phone call to set an appointment date to kill my thyroid. It is now June 1st and I have not yet received any phone calls regarding my latest blood work results and I feel better and look better than I have in the last 2 years. I remain hopeful that my battle with this autoimmune disease will end positively. I will update this blog as time goes on with my continued journey living with Graves.

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