It is Sunday late morning and I am bored out of my mind with nothing on the agenda. I thought I had better eat a well balanced meal and then find something to do, so I made a salad (I love them) and decided to find something on Netflix while enjoying my lunch.
I decided on Her Master’s Voice. It was sort of a biography of internationally acclaimed ventriloquist Nina Conti. She talked about a man by the name of Ken Campbell, her mentor that got her started in ventriloquism. About five minutes into the show she began to talk (with her monkey puppet) about giving up and going to tell her mentor the news. I began to cry. How hard that must have been for her to decide to give up on what she wanted to do the most. She discovered that he had since passed and had left her all of his puppets and books!
It seems this week is all about not giving up. It has been a rough week for me and others I know. Remembering who you are and what your goals are and to not give up is hard at times. We all go through it, we just have different stories.
Within a split second I thought about what it would mean for me to give up my writing and my photography and as I write this, the words flying from my fingers, it is hard to control this lump in my throat and this tear that hovers in the outside corner of my eye. I can’t imagine.
It rips my heart out to think of what would happen to me if I couldn’t do this any more, if I had to once again put myself on the back burner and never get to do what it is I truly love to do. The thought of it pains me to no end.
I struggle to make a living at it, yet I cannot put it aside. I wait for that one break, that one sale of a photograph, or a commission that will change my world. I wait for the time when I can publish my book and not get discouraged by the daunting task of finding a publisher and trying to stay positive and not let go of my dreams.
My only solace is to keep going and to not give up… On me.
When I realized what was happening on the show, fighting the tears forming at the edge of my eyes, a nagging urgency came over me, my first instinct was to grab my computer and write and spill my guts, get it out on paper. That is what we do as writers, I think. Or is it just me? It is not that I want to or need to share my pain, it’s just that it is important to stay true to what your passion is and when you have an overwhelming desire to do something, then you must do it.
“Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life”
I have to say that is all I do, I work every single minute of every waking hour. I write so many stories throughout the day, and take thousands of pictures in my mind. To me, everything fits into these two elements of my life and I can’t escape it, I don’t want to. I am lucky enough to know what I want from this life, even luckier to go after it.
I was diagnosed with Graves Disease in the fall of 2007. I was extremely sick and had every symptom, save for Graves Opthamolopathy (GO) eye disease. Remember the movie Young Frankenstein? Marty Feldman played Igor in that movie. I remember watching it wondering how he got his eyes to do that. That is undiagnosed Graves Disease, GO and the results of a botched surgery.
Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder. Typically a healthy immune system wards off and protects the body from infection. With Graves Disease the immune system attack’s the body’s own cells and organs, waging a war on the inside as well as the outside of your body. It took many years for the doctors to diagnose me and I continued to get sicker and sicker. I went through so many tests it was ridiculous. I guess the reason for that is because I had so many symptoms that mimicked other illnesses and became an agonizing journey of elimination.
The final straw came in the fall of 2007, I was getting really dizzy just sitting in my chair at work, feeling as if I was going to fall out of it. I couldn’t take it any longer and made an appointment with my doctor. On the day of my appointment I was driving for about seven minutes when I realized I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know why I was in my car, I don’t even remember getting into my car. All I knew was that I was in it and headed for the freeway.
I pulled over to regroup and get my shaking under control and try to remember why I was in my car and where I was going. I finally made the connection by backtracking to my office and remembered telling my co-workers I would see them after my doctors appointment. So now I had to figure out how to get there. Even though I had been there many times, I couldn’t remember how to do it. Working it out, I was finally able to “map” it out in my mind and began to drive again, concentrating so very hard on each moment as I made my way to her office, focusing on the next turn I had to make, concentrating on the street lights.
You see, I had been finding myself in the middle of intersections when I should have been stopped with everyone else. I would stop, but then go again as if I was at a stop sign. Not a good thing to be doing. Even to this day I panic and concentrate on the color of the light.
I was a wreck when I finally walked into my doctors office and I lost it. I was so scared, I didn’t know what was happening to me. She ran a blood panel and in that panel, she ran a test on my thyroid. Two days later she confirmed my thyroid levels were way off and I had to go in for further testing, more blood work, then even more blood work. I was near tears when I had to go in for labs because it was like every other day over a lengthy period. Finally I went in for a Thyroid Uptake Scan and was eventually diagnosed with Graves Disease.
My thyroid was over producing and messing me up from head to toe. I was getting dizzy because my thyroid was pumping out massive amounts of hormones.
I had a choice of surgery to remove my entire thyroid, radioactive Iodine (RAI) to destroy my thyroid (it takes up to 5 years) or we could try to balance it all out with medication. I chose to have RAI. I had been on a nasty roller coaster ride far too long, I was done playing. It was a 3 day ordeal: they calculated how much radiation I needed, they made a pill specifically for me and then I had to be quarantined for the three days – the quarantine was tough, I love people and I couldn’t even be with my family. I have to take medication for the rest of my life now, but that’s okay. I am alive and a lot of my symptoms are either gone or minimal. It is still a struggle to get my medication balanced out for some reason, but I have a wonderful Endocrinologist in Portland that I see. Even though it has been nearly 6 years since my diagnosis, I have not yet graduated to seeing him once a year, but I’m hanging in there.
I have talked about every step I take has lead me to this exact place in time and Graves Disease has helped me to be who I am today. I enjoy my life as much as I possibly can now. I have never taken anything or anyone for granted nor do I have plans to. I cherish every day, even the hard ones.
Graves Disease has pushed me to follow what I want most in my life, writing and photography are right up there with breathing so to think of not doing what I love so very much is often times too much to bare.
I am a huge advocate for thyroid testing and preach about it every chance I get. Please get your thyroid levels checked. It’s a simple blood test that can save your life and should be done every year, without fail. We check our smoke alarms, we check our oil, yet we don’t check our thyroid, and I am here to tell you that little butterfly shaped thing rules your world. I hope this sticks in your minds and grabs your attention. I am passionate about it, I live it each day.
Here is a basic list of Graves Disease symptoms:
Anxiety, irritability, sensitivity to light, memory loss, muscle weakness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, rapid or irregular heartbeat, hand tremors, increase in perspiration or warm moist skin, intolerance to heat, headaches, weight loss, enlargement of the thyroid, brittle hair, hair loss and change in menstrual cycles.
It drives me insane when I see ads and commercials telling women there are pills they can take for fatigue and weight gain; yet, what they fail to say is, “check your thyroid.”
You can see your thyroid if you do the following; Stand in front of a mirror with a glass of water, take some water into your mouth, tilt your head back and swallow as you look at your throat in the mirror. Watch for any abnormalities. An enlarged thyroid can mean a number of things which should be checked (please do not use this as a self diagnostic tool, always consult your doctor).
Shortly after I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, I noticed symptoms in a friend of mine and recommended she get tested. She was also diagnosed with Graves Disease. My very close friend Kim was diagnosed with both Graves Disease and Hashimoto Disease.
September is Thyroid Cancer awareness month. A dear friend of my family has had her thyroid surgically removed due to cancer, my friend Roni was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and has undergone surgery to remove her thyroid and has just completed radiation treatments along with RAI. Cancer has no boundaries and no discriminations, it affects everyone.
Please do yourself and your family a favor; insist that your doctor test your thyroid levels and do a neck check. It saved my life and it could save yours, too. Thyroid disease can be hereditary, and family members should be tested also.
I dedicate this to anyone who has had a thyroid related issue, be it cancer, Graves Disease, Hashimotos, Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism and to those who have yet to be diagnosed, it will be okay, and never give up. You are not alone I can promise you that.
If I can help in anyway, even to listen, please email me at [email protected]
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