{Graves’ Lessons} Steady

Slow-but-steady-wins-the

This is the third lesson that I’ve learned from Graves’ disease.

When I was first diagnosed by telephone on the last Tuesday in November 2012, I went online and researched my treatment options.

According to websites like the Mayo Clinic, people with Graves’ typically have three choices: anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine therapy (RAI), or surgical removal of my thyroid gland.

None of them sounded appealing. In fact, minus the meds alone, they sounded more like options a cancer patient puzzles through. If a Graves’ patient takes the meds and successfully tamps down the raging hormone numbers achieving a euthyroid (“normal thyroid”) state, then her doctor will tell her that she’s in “remission.”

Drug-induced remission, radiation, or surgery.

Yeah, sounds a lot like cancer, right?

But I didn’t have cancer. I still don’t.

Instead, my immune system has called a hit on my thyroid gland–the butterfly-shaped thing in my throat that, in one way or another, affects every system in my body.

So, no, no cancer in me (thankfully). No little pink ribbons. No highly visible fun runs to build awareness.

I “just” have Graves’ disease.

Yet there I was last year contemplating remission, radiation, or surgery. Without the success of one (or more) of them or spontaneous remission, the disease can prove fatal.

Radiation at 42 didn’t appeal to me a whole lot. Surgery? I’d have to work through my fear of anesthesia. But at least I wouldn’t be radioactive for three days, unable to sleep along side my husband or hug my child without passing along some of the radiation.

I decided on giving meds a shot before I got to the endocrinologist’s office.

Which was good because when I got there, he said:

“You can’t do RAI right now or surgery because it is too dangerous for you. We can talk about it when we stabilize your numbers, but if we did anything right now beyond the meds, we could put you at risk for thyroid storm again.”

Translation:

“This is a hornet’s nest of problems you’ve got going on, and modern medicine can only do so much for you right now. Maybe later? We’ll see. You’re going to have to sit here and get through this and just stay vulnerable for awhile.”

I couldn’t run from Graves’ disease. I couldn’t hide from it or shirk it off. Worst of all, I couldn’t do what I always try to do with problems: I couldn’t outsmart it.

The very idea of that was harder to swallow than the pills.

Thus, the central driving force of my treatment became an exercise, an extended meditation on the idea of holding steady.

It was a good lesson. It is for this lesson that I am almost grateful that I got sick. Twisted? Yes. But it’s possible I needed this lesson to save my very soul. Like a lot of people, I had fallen into the trap of believing I was invincible.

Graves’ disease woke me up to reality–and then forced me to sit down with the idea of it while my pulse raced, my digestive system tried to turn itself inside out, and my mind and spirit nearly broke from the toxic cocktail of fear and racing hormones. My best option proved to be taking my pills and waiting.

Now, here I am… one year later.

Whole. Healthy. Steady.

Thankful.

Next Tuesday: {Graves’ Lessons} Surrender

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2 comments

  1. This is grose:)
    However, I have read about an experimental treatment where laser beam is sued to plug the thyroid blood vessels. Without the blood supply, the thyroid will be unable to produce extensive amounts of hormones despite TSI stimulations

  2. I’m so grateful for your story. Your post reminds me of my favorite saying from the Tao:

    The soft overcomes the hard
    The slow overtakes the fast
    (Tao, 36)

    Sure, there are times in our life it makes sense to move hard and fast, especially when that sort of the thing is required, like in competitions. There’s nothing wrong with a good competition. The art is setting a clear boundary between a competition and the rest of life. When I was younger, I kept myself steeped in anxiety, by being so focused on proving I was worthy of success. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of what success meant to me, and my life fell apart before I was willing to slow down enough to grasp the lessons. I’m so thankful I’m learning to steadily steer my life, in measured doses, with lots of joy for my successes, and especially the successes of others.

    Congrats!
    Jami

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