My Battle With Graves Disease, part 1

My story probably started way earlier but that’s only in hindsight, let’s start in the summer of 2014 in France. I thought i had a bit too much around the waist and wanted to feel better, despite the fact that i worked out (fitness, running) and biked to work every day. Of course when there’s french cheese and bread you don’t start right away so after we came home i put my mind to it and started changing things. Less bread, more ricecrackers, other dietary changes and started a new way of working out through crossfit.

But soon, eating was getting more difficult, wasn’t really hungry, stomach was protesting with sort of a pinching feeling or knot in the gut. This caused me to eat less and even skip meals. Athletically it didn’t go bad but, in hindsight, never really well. Often during a workout i had an empty and low energy feeling. But i thought that this is just part of getting started. But also at work, again in hindsight, things weren’t going smoothly. Speaking to quickly, stumbling with words, unfocussed, couldn’t sit still. Also at home things weren’t improving, i was edgy, didn’t react well to the kids. And being a bit of an introvert didn’t really help the situation.

What did go well was the loss in weight, melting ice. I started at 96kg and after 2 or 3 weeks i was down to 93/92 and a bit later to 90. I was even proud to go shopping for tighter pants. But despite the diet and working out, the energylevel was not that high and i got more edgier, hurried. And then things got busy at work….so it’s stress right? It would explain the fact that i’ve not been sleeping well (waking up 2 or three times at night), for quite a long time actually.

But the loss of weight was going well, 88 kg and a few weeks later down to 85. My wife thought it was going to far and was worried. I got a bit worried as well but the six-pack was showing so that can’t be bad. Then down to 84/83kg, mmm, anyways, the Sinterklaas festivities were done, almost holiday so no more stress and with Christmas in foresight i thought i could go for an eating-binge and everything would be alright.

On the monday after Sinterklaas i wasn’t feeling well, bit of a flew. I was down to 82kg so i went home early from work and lied down on the couch. I woke that night with sort of a cramp in my leftcalf, didn’t think too much of it. Next day i brought the kids to school and thought i’d go for a short run to get the cramp out. Okay, bad idea, after 200m i had to sit down and almost couldn’t breath. Very weird feeling considering we did a pretty hefty WOD the week before with 300 airsquats, 200 kettlebell swings, 100 burpees, 800 m running, 100 burpees, 200 kettlebell swings and 300 airsquats (with a buddy and ended within 43 minutes or so). So i went back home thinking the flew really got me. But anyways, had to pick up a Christmas tree so took the bike to the gardencentre and back again. Pffff, had to lie down. Something wasn’t right because my heart was also pounding quite hard, which has been the case for a while now. So i made a doctors appointment.

Now i can’t remember if i went to the doctor the same or the next day but went there by bike, like we do here in the Netherlands. I tell my story and the doctor asks: “did you come here by bike?”. And then she said: “i’m inclined to call an ambulance and not let you go home”. Okay, didn’t see that one coming, still not realizing the seriousness of the situation. So i promised i’d call my wife, who was working at home that day and then immediatly go the the hospital which she made sure would be informed upon arrival.

An hour later at the hospital i was taken for an X-ray and then a checkup which seemed fine. After that they injected me with contrast-fluid so the CT-scan could get a good image. So i got into a dark room, people whispering in the back, and into a CT-scan which is quite intimidating. Keep calm, breath slowly, which is really hard as i was getting more nervous. After the scan i was brought back to a room and with no one telling me anything, we were still in the dark.

Waited for half an hour, then suddenly a nurse walks in and injects me with something. Bloodthinner, she says. Hun, why? Has the doctor had a chat with you? He’ll be here shortly. A bit later the doctor comes and explains that i’ve had a lung or pulmenary embolism. Which at the time didn’t strike me as serious but it actually can be lifethreatening (a friend later told me his father died of one). But what about my calf? That means thrombosis, which probably resulted, via bloodcloths, in the pulmenary embolism. It was only later that night, when it was clear i had to remain in the hospital, that my calf started swelling and actually started to hurt.

Euhh, what about graves? Won’t be long. So there i was in a hospital bed on bloodthinners and a compression around my calf, not much fun. Luckily my wife was there to support me and take care of the kids, family and friends looking me up, so it was bit of a rollercoaster but it wasn’t ‘real’ yet. The next day the doctor came for a checkup and we asked about the weightloss but he said it’s not related. But he made an appointment with another doctor but first a few more days of rest.

Then, a few days later, another doctor starts asking about stress, being on edge, starts touching my throat and asked for some bloodwork. The result? You guessed it, Graves disease. What the hell is that? Apparently an auto-immune disease. But how? We don’t know either. Okay, but what about the thrombosis and pulmenary embolism? As far as we know there is no relation. Right, a bit of a coincidence don’t you think!?. Again more medicine, strumazol for the thyroid and betablockers for calming the heart.

Damn, should be a fun Christmas. But my mind was already at ‘when can i work out again and get back to work?’, instead of realising what happened. The good thing though is a started feeling better, i was calmer, my heart wasn’t beating as hard anymore and my hands weren’t shaking (another symptom). I could move around and started sleeping better and things were looking better. But anyone with Graves, or any auto-immune disease, knows that this is just the start of the battle which i will tell in my next blog.

7 thoughts on “My Battle With Graves Disease, part 1

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