Lets meet Sara today. Sara is a wellness writer, Graves Disease Thriver and the creator of www.mshealthesteem.com.
At the age of 24, Sara was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an incurable autoimmune disease. While learning to live with a chronic illness she realized that she needed to make a commitment to her well-being and treat her body with kindness. She empowered herself to do everything she can to thrive in spite of her diagnosis. Sara also writes articles on self-care, acceptance, wellness and nutrition – as well as simple, delicious, healthy recipes anyone can enjoy (dessert’s her favorite).
On Sara’s website, you can start your own wellness journey today
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I have Graves Disease as well as Graves Ophthalmopathy (that’s such a mouthful, but, thank goodness, we can also call it Graves Eye Disease – much easier). Both are presently (and thankfully) in remission, which means that while I do still have a few issues, like lower energy levels and a much more sensitive immune and digestive system, I’m not currently dealing with any of the serious symptoms associated with my disease.
You might be wondering what Graves Disease is exactly. Thankfully it’s not so grave (har-har). But it is an autoimmune disease that causes Hyperthyroidism. This illness is incurable but totally treatable.Because thyroid hormones affect every cell in the body, Graves Disease symptoms are far reaching and affect different body systems. Two Graves Disease patients may even have a different experience, not sharing all of the same symptoms. It can severely affect your well-being. And unfortunately the vast array of symptoms can make it difficult to diagnose. Graves Ophthalmopathy is thought to be caused by the same auto-antibodies as Graves Disease. About 30% of Graves Disease Warriors develop it. This time the immune system attacks the muscles around the eyes causing swelling that makes your eyes bulge. This often leads to irritation, grittiness, light sensitivity, tearing, and blurred vision.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the beginning of my journey with an Autoimmune Disease. Graves Disease is the kind of illness that creeps up on you, taking over slowly but surely. By the time you know something’s wrong you’ve probably been sick for a while. The first symptom I can be sure off hit me 2 years before my diagnosis. I suddenly lost 10 pounds. And this wasn’t from a ton of effort… it just happened. My clothes became looser, which was strange but I seemed fine otherwise so I didn’t think anything of it. I had also been dealing with some anxiety at the time, but I didn’t connect the two symptoms. I just figured that stress was a natural part life and my feelings were no different from anyone else’s. And hey! I had tons of energy. I’m already a pretty excitable person, but the early stages of Graves Disease made me feel like the energizer bunny. I could dance all night without ever sitting down and still have battery power to spare.
But eventually those symptoms took a nosedive… that weight loss turned into a near-constant, nausea-inducing hunger that could never be satisfied. I was constantly starving, no matter how much I ate. And my digestive system was an unhappy mess. That energy boost backfired on me… my heart rate galloped to 120BPM resting (I thought it was going to fly right out of my chest). I was maddeningly exhausted but no matter what I did I couldn’t sleep through the night. And my body was so hot I felt like I was on fire. I was a sweaty, hot flashy mess. I can definitely relate to anyone going through menopause – hot flashes are awful!
And that anxiety? It took over. My thoughts were running so fast through my mind that I could barely keep up. I existed in this unending state of fight or flight – if I wasn’t aggravated I was sad. And if I wasn’t sad I was panicked. I could go on. Like I said, Graves Disease affects your entire body. The symptoms kept piling up. And while I went to walk-in clinics and met with doctors about symptoms here or there, we never put all the puzzle pieces together. But when the muscles in my calves developed a constant painful tremor and I could barely walk around the block anymore I knew I needed help immediately. It felt like I was falling apart.
Thankfully I found a wonderful doctor at this time who was an incredible help. It still took us 4 months to find an answer, but we got there together and I felt safe and cared for in her capable hands. The medication helped stabilize the more severe symptoms but I still didn’t feel well. 9 months later I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and decided to do everything in my power to be well. I completely revamped my diet and lifestyle and learned to love and care for myself fiercely. This was a huge turning point for me and a giant factor in the reason I hit remission for the first time.
I’ve relapsed twice since then but thanks to fantastic medical care and a lifestyle that supports my health as much as possible, today I still have my thyroid (many Graves Disease warriors have to destroy it with radiation or surgically remove it) and I am in remission. I may someday need to resort to surgery or radiation and I’m glad those options exist for me if needed. But I’m also very thankful that I’ve create a lifestyle that allows me to thrive with Graves Disease at this time in my life. And I’m so grateful for the doctors and treatments that have saved me.
WHAT HAS HELPED & TIPS
For anyone who’s recently been diagnosed with Graves Disease my heart is with you. This is going to be a hard journey but it’s so important that you know this -You will be ok. I know that sounds incredibly clichéd, but you need to know it. I know that I did. And I certainly felt like it might never happen. But here I am almost 6 years later and I’m ok. You will be ok. It’s so incredibly important that you work with your endocrinologist and family doctor. The anti-thyroid medication will literally save your life. Graves Disease can have severe consequences if left untreated (including a potentially fatal thyroid storm). So no matter what treatment path you decide to take, please make an endocrinologist a part of your team. But it’s also important that you participate in your healing. Your body isn’t a car that you’re supposed to leave in a shop. Your body is still yours and your health belongs to you. So get involved baby!
Ask your doctor thoughtful questions. Learn everything you can about your illness. Keep copies of blood work in case you need to refer back (sometimes this helps me come up with the questions I need to ask my doctor). And, most importantly, create a healthy diet and lifestyle built on the foundations of self-love. The best things Graves Disease did for me was teach me to love myself fiercely. And that love is the reason I feed my body with kindness and make self-care a huge priority. It’s also why I created my website, mshealthesteem.com. Not only to follow my passions, but to help inspire anyone who needs to create a healthy lifestyle of their own.
Although I will always have Graves Disease, I’m healthy, I run a website that helps anyone looking to support their own well-being and I feel incredibly grateful for this experience every day. If I can take this experience and do that, imagine what YOU can do with your journey!
HAVE YOU FOUND SUPPORT IN DOCTORS, FAMILY, FRIENDS?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful family doctor on my team from day one. And my endocrinologist has been fantastic and supportive as well. However, my endo originally wanted me to choose radiation as my treatment option after a year on medication. I thought this was the only choice I had, but after I hit remission I realized that there might be another path for me. When I first relapsed I was told that I should do radiation right away. I felt pressured to make that choice, but was adamantly against it. It’s a huge step that I didn’t feel ready to take. I was afraid to talk to her about it, but in the end I stood up for what I wanted and we created a treatment plan together that’s worked wonderfully. It’s so important that you speak up and talk to your doctor. Dealing with any sort of chronic illness is not ideal, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t discuss your options and work together with your doctor. You have that right.
My friends and family have also been an incredible support system. I like to think of them as my team. We can’t go through certain things alone, and that’s especially true when dealing with an illness. It’s truly difficult to open up and be vulnerable with someone, but when you let the people you love and trust know what you’re going through and what you need it makes a huge difference. Don’t be afraid to lean on a few shoulders.
Disclaimer: The words in this post are not the opinion of Our New Harmony Blog, they are the authors own experience and thoughts. We are not here to diagnose you, that is a health professional’s job. If you decide to make changes in your own life, do so with the help of your health care provider.