This disease has an appropriate name; Graves’ disease. After you have lived for years with the symptoms of this disease you wonder if “a grave” is in your near future.
My Graves’ Disease Symptoms
This past week memories of life before RAI kept popping into my head during the day and into my nightmares during the night. So I decided to document some of my life before RAI. Between June 1988 and December 1998 I suffered from symptoms that grew more horrendous and unbearable as the months went by. I had absolutely no idea what was wrong with me. I suffered from debilitating monthly migraine headaches that increased in intensity and duration between 1988 and 1998. Testing for thyroid disease never happened. To try to control the intensity of the migraines I took pain medication. My husband would give me Gravol shots to keep the nausea and vomiting under control. Those years were a nightmare that I would just as soon forget. The symptoms I experienced before being diagnosed with Grave’s disease are as follows:
- extreme fatigue
- weight loss
- tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
- heat intolerance, always warm
- heavier menses
- muscle weakness in arms and legs
- tremors, felt like I was vibrating
- increased sweating
- nervousness and irritability
- leg cramps
- graying hair which started in my early 20’s
- severe migraine headaches
- high blood pressure
- intolerant of stress
- inability to sit still
- heart palpitations
- restless sleep or inability to sleep
- distracted attention span
- loss of stamina
- memory loss
- carpel tunnel syndrome
- sore throat
- lost my voice for 2 months
- shaking hands and loss of dexterity
- difficulty concentrating
- proximal muscle weakness
- night sweats
- increase in temperature (fever)
Because I had no idea what could possibly be causing the symptoms I was enduring, I did not volunteer this information to my doctors. Because of the intense migraines I was suffering at the time, I got the distinct impression from my doctors that the migraines were all they could handle. At this time in my life I was still incredibly naive and stupid about doctors. I believed that these highly educated humans actually knew what they were doing and would never cause a patient harm through their own ignorance. Since my Grave’s disease diagnosis, I have “seen the light” and now know that doctors are not infallible but are prone to make as many mistakes as we mere mortals. I have also realized that my doctors are not that concerned about the well being of their patients. Quite frankly, the slogan “out of sight, out of mind” about sums up how much these doctors care.
My history prior to June 2000 is rather sketchy because of my previous misguided faith in the medical profession. It never occurred to me that I would need to keep accurate notes of each doctor’s appointment and that I would have to demand copies of every single lab result. It never occurred to me that if I did not do this, I would be lead down a path to destruction!
I knew I was very ill but felt I had no recourse. It wasn’t until November and December 1997 that I finally went to see a doctor about my more severe symptoms. By this time I had lost my voice, had a choking feeling in my throat and ran intermittent high fevers. With the fevers I also experienced heart palpitations, severe trembling and shaking, nausea, vomiting and at times breathing problems The fevers and accompanying symptoms finally scared me enough to seek medical help.
On November 10th, 1997, I went to the country clinic. According to the doctor’s notes, I complained about a fever, night sweats, muscle cramps and uncontrollable body tremors, heart palpitations and laryngitis. A chest x-ray was taken and the report stated that my lungs were clear.
I returned to the clinic on December 30, 1997 still complaining of laryngitis. Another complaint noted by the doctor was that my throat felt like there was something stuck in it. According to my medical records, the doctor requested that blood work.
January 5th, 1998 was my third visit to the clinic. I did not feel much better. The doctor attempted to do a laryngoscopy but was unable to visualize my vocal cords.
On February 9, 1998 I was given a diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism and prescribed PTU.
At this point in my life I was so tired of feeling sick, that I embraced this diagnosis. I was so relieved that there was a name and a solution for my symptoms. I followed the doctor’s advice like a sheep to the slaughter.
A Bit About Me written in January, 2003
When I began writing my diaries on February 20, 1998, I believed a diagnosis was just around the corner. Little did I know that five years later I would still be waiting for our esteemed medical professionals to give me a diagnosis.
One of my nightmares is that I will run out of “internet” space before I get a diagnosis. If this negligence on the part of my doctors continues, I may end up with the world’s biggest blog.
A Bit About Me – Written in February 1998
Hi. I am Widebertha. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease in January 1998 after approximately 10 years of ever worsening symptoms. Blondie, my endocrinologist at the time, promised me that after I had Radio Active Iodine Treatment, all would be well with my health. She assured me that all I would have to do was take a tiny little once a day pill and all my nasty symptoms would be gone forever. I would be a normal, healthy person. “And I have a bridge to sell you!”
My health has been declining in the ensuing 3 1/2 years.
After gaining over 50 pounds between June 2nd, 2000 and August 26th, 2000, I decided that Widebertha was a very appropriate handle. I should clarify that the weight gain was over 50 pounds in just over two months. All my so-called medical caregivers have never read that right. They claim I gained that weight over a period of one year and some have gone as far as to read that to mean I gained that weight in two years. If I had gained 50 pounds in one year, I would consider that a cosmetic problem. I consider gaining over 50 pounds in two months a medical problem.
I am a 53-year-old wife, mother, and mother in law, sister, aunt and Nana. I have two children who are all grown up and married. I am blessed with a darling grandson who is the joy of my life. I reserve my strength for the times I spend with him. I am a very fortunate daughter. My parents are my constant inspiration.
I do not know what the final outcome of my treatment will be. I do not know if I will ever find the answers I am looking for. I am an intelligent woman who was actively involved in running a business together with my husband. I went in to the office every day and played a vital role. I was also a genealogical researcher and had been in the process of writing a book. I have had to give all that up. My life has become a daily battle just trying to cope with my symptoms. I do know that I am not just a depressed, menopausal, 53 year old hypochondriac with panic issues who is ready for the glue factory. In fact, by now the glue factory would not want me! My life was much to rewarding and interesting to imagine all these symptoms. I have too much I still want to do in life and I need to find some answers.
This blog will contain my story and my perceptions of the never-ending struggle I have endured and continue to endure with the medical system.
I hope to convey my message in a humorous vein. I may at times be sarcastic but forgive me that transgression.