My Wake Up Call
Early 2011 and the journey that began horribly in the summer of 2009, was finally brought to an end. My burden, at the age of twenty-two, I found out that I have thyroid disease. On its own the disease is manageable, however to truly understand this story, we have to travel back to the summer of 2009. We have to go back to where it all began.
As a military member, I am required to meet certain physical requirements, which are assessed by a test every six months. This is not really my strong suit, but going into my test in August 2009, I could not have imagined how wrong things would go. With my first pushup, I injured my shoulder, by the end of my dismal run I was nearly in tears from the pain and the failed expectations. A couple of months before, I had been only tenths of a point away from passing. At that time, I had failed the test grandly.
This began the long process of rehabilitation and seemingly endless visits to the doctor. On one of the first visits, should have set off alarm bells, when I was asked if my blood pressure was normally high, however I was more worried about my pain than anything else. Blood work was done, x-rays were taken and nothing was wrong or so I was told. My gut said otherwise, but I trusted that my doctors knew what they were doing. I trusted that I would receive proper care.
By February 2010, I had reached what I now identify as my low point. I was questioned if my problems were in my head. Did I wish to leave the military? Was I faking my issues? With each barb thrown my way, I bristled and continued to state that something was wrong. By this point, my resting heart rate was normally 120, I averaged four or five hours of sleep a night and ate like a horse to keep weight on. I brought up these issues and was given a depressing answer- I was out of shape.
Fast forward to May 2010 and nothing had really changed. However, my parents came to visit and this was the key that actually helped me to solve the problem. They had been there all along, but when I revealed to them my resting heart rate, I saw the fear in them. I saw them realize that something really was wrong. Although they were remiss to admit it, they had had their doubts as well. With their encouragement, I prepared to go back to the doctor one more time. This time was different; I flatly refused to leave until I had an answer of some sort.
Several hours and an EKG late, the results were in- results that I should have received in February. My thyroid was overactive and I was going to be sent to a specialist. I was diagnosed and treated for Grave’s disease within a month. While I was ecstatic to finally have answers, I still had a long road to recovery. By February 2011, I had done just that. I put my last physical hurdle behind me, by passing my physical fitness assessment that had been my nemesis for nearly a year and a half.
Although there was a good amount of relief at passing, it did not cure the emotional turmoil that I had endured. Over the next several months, I slowly started opening up to the emotional pain that I had had to shove to the back of my mind. In the coming months, I felt more emotions than I had allowed myself to in a long time and I started clawing my way back to be the person that I was before my health scare. I knew I would never be the same, but I also knew that I could not continue by blocking so many things off.
What I learned from this experience was invaluable, even though it was painful. I learned that I must speak up for myself when something is wrong. That I could not expect that doctors to give me the results or to do some of the simplest of things. I now walk into any medical appointment prepared for battle and sadly, I have run into more doctors that merely seem to want to hand me aspirin and go along their way. I know there are excellent doctors out there; I just have not had the luxury of working with them.
I have found my faith again, a faith that I walked away from during some of the darkest times in my disease. The people that I had thought would be there for me, had left when things had started to get rough and I hadn’t try to stop them. Other than my family, I lost many friends that I had thought were close. However, what I gained were friends that were even closer, people that truly accepted me for who I am and for what I had been through. I have started over in many areas of my life and thanks to this disease, I know more about what I want out of it than ever before.
I will not sugar coat what happened. I missed several key signs that something was wrong. I did not understand what was happening; only that something felt wrong. I could not understand why the doctor continued to find inconclusive test results. I was angry at myself and the doctors when I found out that my thyroid levels had been off from as early as November 2008. Through all of it though, I remember thinking that I could not quit. Quitting would give those that doubted me what they wanted; it would prove that all of the things they had said were right. I did not quit, I did not give up and that is what I am most proud of.