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Your heart is racing, the room suddenly feels sweltering, and you can’t stop your hands from shaking. You begin to feel anxious, and you don’t know why. You hope the feeling passes, but each day you feel these same symptoms creeping back. Constant anxiety, body tremors, and increased perspiration are now a part of your everyday life. Your appetite has decreased, and you simply don’t enjoy food the way you used to. You’re losing weight without even trying, and it’s dropping fast. Something isn’t right, but you can’t fully answer the “what,” or more importantly, the “why.” This is the scenario many people face prior to being diagnosed with Grave’s disease. This month, we want to promote Thyroid Awareness by putting the spotlight on Grave’s disease, and sharing one healthcare professional’s personal journey facing her new “normal” while shining a light of hope for others fighting the same fight.
Thyroid in a Nutshell
The thyroid gland affects quite a lot inside of your body. Compared to a car engine creating energy to power a vehicle, as Dr. Jeffrey R. Garber explains, the thyroid creates the power, or thyroid hormone, that your most vital organs need in order to function. Your brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and skin all depend on it. Basically, if your thyroid is not functioning properly, then neither are you.
Grave’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that results in the thyroid gland producing excessive hormones, which is also classified as hyperthyroidism. This disorder gets its name from the individual who initially described the condition in the early 19th century—Sir Robert Graves. Grave’s disease is caused by a fault in the immune system, in which an antibody is generated, which tricks the thyroid into thinking it needs to create more thyroid hormones than what is actually needed. The reasoning behind this immune system malfunction is still unknown. This overproduction of hormones can result in many symptoms, including but not limited to the following:
Anyone can develop Graves’s disease, but you will typically see multiple cases popping up in the same family, and more specifically, with women under the age of 40.
A Direct Support Professional’s Personal Struggle with Grave’s
Direct Support Professional (DSP), Lauren Spaw, has been dealing with Grave’s disease for almost two years now. Her symptoms first came to light immediately after the birth of her daughter, at the age of 27. During what was supposed to be one of the happiest times of her life, she was instead dealing with body tremors, heart palpitations, profuse sweating, body aches, decreased appetite, rapid weight loss, and difficulty sleeping. However, the worst of all was the intense anxiety, which quickly permeated every facet of her life.
Having never experienced anything like this before, confusion and worry set in quickly. “I began dealing with the symptoms, not really knowing what was going on with my body,” Lauren recalls. “I was a new mom dealing with what I originally thought was postpartum depression.” According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnancy or recent childbirth can increase the risk of developing Grave’s disease. However, with such commonalities between Grave’s and postpartum depression, the two are often confused, which can lead to problems or delays in diagnosis.
Lauren dealt with the frightening symptoms for six months before receiving her official diagnosis, and beginning her treatment of prescription thyroid medication and beta blockers. During those six months, her quality of life and relationships were greatly affected by the disease she describes as being mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. “I didn’t want to get out of bed, my whole body ached, and I sat and shook from sunup to sundown,” she says.
The Grave’s induced anxiety is something that Lauren carries with her every day, regardless of whether she is at home or at work. With a career in the Health and Human Services field, stress is typically a part of each shift, which can make the anxiety even greater. “I was constantly on edge, waiting for something bad to happen all of the time,” she says. However, even with the added stress and anxiety she’s experienced for the last two years, she has not budged from her career as a Direct Support Professional. When getting to know Lauren, it doesn’t take long to figure out how much she truly loves her clients, and her line of work.
In fact, passion and dedication might just be what has allowed Lauren to prevail during this difficult time in her life. The role of “mother” has complemented Lauren in more ways than she ever dreamed of, and in the end, any struggle is worth being able to watch her little girl grow and thrive each day. She has learned to be resilient and adapt to her new “normal.” “Learning that you are going to be really tired, and your body simply isn’t always up for what you want it to do has been the most challenging aspect of Grave’s,” she says. To anyone going through the same difficult scenario, she advises you to stay strong and trust your doctors! “It doesn’t go away,” she says, “but I promise it does get better!”
If you’re afraid that you might be experiencing the symptoms of Grave’s disease, we urge you to be proactive, and consult your physician. The journey to your new “normal” might be tough, but with the right treatment and support, you too can get through it!
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Posted by Michelle Adams on Jan 20, 2017 10:15:36 AM
Michelle Adams, Advertising and Social Media Specialist for Capital Healthcare Solutions and Harmony Home
Healthcare, enjoys life in Southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and beloved dog.