Defining My Essence

I Spent A Semester Not Knowing I Have Graves' Disease

Published November 17, 2021
Author: Claudie P

I decided that I should explain my story of being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. First, let me explain what it is. Graves’ Disease is an immune system disorder that interferes with the function of the thyroid. Basically my immune system is attacking my thyroid, and the thyroid controls everything in the body. I was attending a private university in Miami Florida when this was all happening but I didn’t know what was going on with me. This occurred during the fall semester in 2016, school just started and it was a good year for me. I was finally taking classes in my major which is Psychology and I was Vice President of F.E.M.A.L.E.S which is a women empowerment organization. This was the first semester in a while that I actually felt happy and I wasn’t depressed. I was getting a hang of balancing my classes, being VP and my social life. The first few times I started feeling sick I shrugged it off, I was getting stomach aches but I thought I probably ate something bad and they weren’t as bad as my period pains. But one night I was tossing and turning because I had a really bad stomach ache. I told myself that it was from all the glue and paint fumes and that I probably inhaled too much glitter from crafting for the girls in F.E.M.A.L.E.S. I told myself to wait until the morning to see if the pain would stop, I waited until 6:00 am and I still didn’t feel good. I woke my suite-mate up because I considered her my nurse (she was always taking care of me) and right after I woke her up I had to rush to the toilet to vomit and it was the worst feeling ever because I was vomiting bile and it was acidic. My suite-mate helped me the best that she could but she had to get ready for work. I called my mom crying even though she was two hours away, I would have called my grandma because she lived five minutes away from the school, but the one week I really needed her she was on a trip to Jacksonville. So I called my cousin to take me to the hospital and after they did some tests they told me that I had Gastritis and I was out of the hospital by noon the same day. Even though I was provided with medication I didn’t get better after my hospital visit. A couple days after I was in the hospital we had to evacuate the school because of a hurricane, so I went home and while I was there I visited another doctor because my throat was swollen. At first they thought I had Strep Throat but the test came back negative for it but they still provided me with antibiotics. While I was at home I had a fever and I couldn’t talk for days because my throat hurt so bad, because of my sore throat I only could eat soup and apple sauce. After the evacuation I went back to school and I realized that I was having a hard time walking to class, I was out of breath and I felt like I was going to faint. I had to have my suite-mate walk me to class every morning to make sure I made it to class safely. Towards the end of the semester I thought I was getting better, I made it through finals week and I didn’t think my health could get any worse. I went home for Christmas break and to make sure that I was good I made an appointment to visit my Primary Doctor, but he only had an appointment for the end of the month and I started to feel sick again, I couldn’t  explain what was going on one day I would feel fine and the next day i felt horrible. When I went to my doctors’ appointment I noticed how much weight I lost. I usually weigh 120 lbs but I was at 110 lbs. My doctor noticed that my heart rate was too high so he wanted me to get some lab work done at the hospital to figure out what was going on plus it was the day before New Year’s Eve so everywhere else would be closed. My doctor would joke about how I was his healthiest patient so he knew that something wasn’t right and I could tell by the look on his face that it was serious. I waited until the next day to go to the hospital so I ended up staying in the hospital from New Year’s Eve, 2016 until January 5th, 2017. The doctor in the hospital told me that I have Hyperthyroidism, but they still ran tests to see if there was anything else wrong because they couldn’t figure out why this was happening. They had me do two different CAT Scans, and MRI Scan and an Ultrasound. Another reason why they kept me so long was that they were waiting for my heart rate to go down but I couldn’t stand being there for so long. They kept getting my hopes up everyday by promising that I could leave but by night time they would tell me that I had to stay an extra day. After this trip to the hospital I went to follow up with an Endocrinologist and within a couple of minutes of explaining all of my symptoms( feeling faint, sore throat, irregular periods, shaking and much more) he told me that there was a 99.9% chance that I have Grave’s Disease and that he just needed to draw some blood to confirm. I was worried at first but when he started to explain what was going on I felt relieved because I finally understood what was going on with my body. We discussed a plan that I would take medication for a year and that if that didn’t work the next step would be radiation and the last step would be surgery to remove my thyroid. Within a couple of days he called me to tell me that I do have Grave’s Disease and that we will continue with the plan that we discussed.

Right now it has been a little over a year since my diagnosis, I am still taking the medication but on the lowest dose I can be on. The past year has been a struggle. The first half of the year was trying to figure out the right dosage so my thyroid levels can be normal. There was a couple of weeks that I switched over to the Hypothyroidism side of the spectrum so I gained some weight, lost some hair and was depressed for a bit. The second half of the year was a different type of struggle, even though my thyroid levels are normal I realized that I can’t handle stress like I used to. My left eye twitches when I’m stressed, I even ended up having a panic attack one day because my anxiety has gotten worse. I’m still on this journey to learn what I can handle, I’m trying to figure out what to avoid so I won’t get stressed out. My next doctor’s appointment is in April and my doctor and I will discuss if I can be taken off of the medication or if we have to move on to the next step which is radiation. I will do an update and tell you guys what the next step will be.

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