Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That butterfly in my throat

I remember when I finally was diagnosed with Graves' disease way back in my mid 20s. Once it was confirmed and my doctor and I decided on a course of treatment, I drove to the local middle school track and "ran" 2 miles. 

It was my first run in months. As I unknowingly became sicker and sicker, among other things, the muscles in my thighs and upper arms began to waste away. Even though I ran and worked out most days. One day I could run 10 miles. One day, I couldn't even run 1 mile. 

But when I understood that I was sick and that I would get well, I couldn't wait. And, so. I ran. 

Running. 

It's my middle finger to the universe. It's my couch time with a therapist. It's my personal time with God. It's how I fight. It's how I survive. 

I did get better. Temporarily. What I didn't know then that I know now is that Graves' is an autoimmune disease. The best I could ever hope for was times of remission. My future held a confirmed diagnosis of Hashimoto's (Graves' partner in crime) and a possibility of a whole host of other potential autoimmune conditions. 

Graves' and Hashimoto's attack the thyroid. They are the most common autoimmune diseases and somewhere around 20-30 million people are affected. There are lots and lots of ideas about why people get Graves' and/or Hashimoto's. Genes. Environment. Diet. Stress. Inflammation. It's not fatal. It can be debilitating. It's not curable.

I see myself as one of the lucky ones. After two separate bouts with Graves', I spent nearly 20 years mostly symptom free. Even after my doctor told me I now had Hashimoto's, I was drug free and healthy.

But then. I wasn't.

The past 3 years have been an ongoing conversation with my doctors (who have always been my advocates) trying to get it right. 

I will be fine for a while. Then, not fine. We change my medication. Fine again. Then, not. 

This. This is typical for Hashimoto's patients. I am in no way special. The twist in my own situation is the Graves' that preceded. Sometimes I'm hyperthyroid. Sometimes I'm hypothyroid. 

These days...I live for the in-between.

Each time I "get sick," it's different. This time, it's been reminiscent of those days nearly 30 years ago when I was so tired I could hardly drive home from work.

This time, though, I refuse to stop running.

I will not surrender to the weakness. The fatigue. The sore muscles. The painful joints. The depression.

Just over a year ago, I ran a marathon.

Seven months ago, I ran an ultra.

Today, I can barely run 5 minutes at a time. Some days, even 3 minutes is almost too hard. Three miles feels like a marathon. It takes me 40 minutes.

Today, my doctor changed my medication. It will take about 2 weeks before I can really know if I am feeling "better."

Tomorrow, I will run/walk 3 miles. Even if it takes 50 minutes. Then, I will do it again. And again. And again.

Take that, universe.