Friday, May 15, 2015

The Butterfly in my Throat : Strength in Weakness

"I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me."  
2 Corinthians 12:9 

New Endocrinologist.
I was being treated by my primary care doctor for a short period of time. My monthly blood work results were getting a little better, but my symptoms kept coming and I wasn't feeling well. I was referred to a new endocrinologist. (Endo #4!) He practiced under the University of Connecticut. He had a world of knowledge, and was able to summon all kinds of thyroid research at the tip of a hat. After reading all of my records, he was not happy with my care and how I had refused treatment after all these years. We discussed all kinds of research and options. I was dosed up to the eyeballs on methimazole (50-60mgs daily), metoprolol (150mgs a day), and aspirin. 

Yoga and Strength.
I was seriously weak. I could not exercise or handle walking for long periods of time. I had a cane that I used occasionally.  As mentioned before, I had a problem lifting myself off chairs and walking up stairs. It took me 10 minutes to walk up a small flight of stairs and I was always so scared when I knelt on the ground and couldn't stand back up. 

In January of 2013, I found an AM/PM yoga DVD that my sister had purchased and I decided to give it a try, as a last resort. I started with the PM practice because it was gentle, and all on the floor. I remember the first time I finished the practice and I was resting in the final pose, tears streamed down my face. I did not even understand why I was crying. I was so intrigued by the practice, that I kept trying it, relying heavily on the PM practice. The AM practice was tougher for me and most of the postures were unattainable. It was an intense cardiovascular workout for me at the time, but I tried to do it every day. For every inhale that the instructor would take, I would take 5 inhales and exhales. Nevertheless, I did the practice nearly every day, feeling strength rise up inside my body. Every week, a new posture from the DVD became apart of my practice. After a month and a half, I felt I had nearly mastered the AM/PM practices and I was now bored with it. I was able to start moving better and walking upstairs became easier and easier. I started doing Pilates. I started doing low impact cardio workouts. I remember the day I was able to do a jumping jack; I ran into my parents' bedroom and showed them. 

I moved onto new yoga practices that I could find online, namely Yoga with Adriene. They challenged my body more and more, and I felt stronger than I had been in years. I stuck with the practice, constantly reading about postures and how they benefitted the body. I relied on my yoga practice to help relieve my pains, strengthen my body, help my flexibility, and ease my anxiety. I am so grateful for the practice.

Autumn Virus. 
The year was mostly uneventful. I was teaching voice lessons on and off all year as my only source of income, since I was still too weak and foggy for a legitimate job. I was very lethargic all summer, but pushed through it and still enjoyed it. I still practiced yoga, and occasionally worked out. I was able to walk normally again and walk up stairs again. I was able to pick myself up off the floor without pushing off or hanging onto anything. I still suffered with anxieties and symptoms, but it felt like my normal life. I was excited for my autumn. I craved all of the fall activities. I joined a choir, hoping to ease my way into more excitement and responsibility. I was able to attend a big faire in Massachusetts with my family, but a few days after the event, I came down with a little "cold." Soon, my throat started to hurt, the lymph nodes in my neck all swelled, and I was full blown 'sick as a dog.'

No treatment was making me feel better, no amount of stretching, no time in the sun, no tea... nothing. I finally went to an urgent care center where they discovered that I had mono, my white blood cells were low, and my liver and spleen were very enlarged. I was instructed to go to an emergency room. The doctors there were concerned that my anti-thyroid medications were the cause of my low white blood cells, so I was taken off of them, and needed a followup with my primary care doctor. After a week without my thyroid medicines, I woke up with heart palpitations and went back to the emergency room. My heart was jumping at a resting bpm of 125 and I was put back on the medications. 

Emergency Room - Oct 2013

I thought mono simply made a patient feel very tired. I was basically bed-ridden for two months. I had severe pains in my body, mostly in my legs, which was alleviated temporarily by compression socks. My throat, lips, and tongue swelled, my abdomen was always hurting from the enlarged spleen and liver. I lived on advil and tylenol to keep the fever and pains at bay. I lived on baby food. 

I was so disappointed - I had to quit teaching lessons, and I quit the choir I had joined. I missed my entire autumn. I got sick when the leaves were green and started feeling better by the time everything was grey and snow was in the forecast. By early December, the virus was basically gone, but it had left me wretched. I was plagued with anxiety, 24 hours a day. I barely slept, I couldn't be left alone, I was afraid to drive anywhere, and I was physically exhausted and weak. 

I remember the night I was making Christmas postcards for my friends. I was up late, (since I was too afraid to sleep), sitting in the kitchen working. It was 3am. I began to feel the lethargy deep inside. I was so tired, so overwhelmed with anxiety and fear, and I began to cry. I felt hopeless. There was no light at the end of the tunnel in my mind. I broke down and prayed, "God, help me." Immediately, images of yoga, healthy food, sunlight, and other things appeared in my mind. I realized I had received an answer to prayer. Sure, my disease was going to do whatever it did best, but I had control over my food, my exercise, my sleep, my sunlight, etc...  I realized I had not laughed in a long time. That was going to change. 

Disease and sickness can and does make you wretched and strips you down completely. A person cannot rely on medication alone. Fight the good fight and resist the urge to slip into despair and darkness, where hope does not exist. 

This song became my prayer: 

"All my soul is troubled, All my will is worn,
Tired and discouraged, trampled on and torn,
Every breath a battle, Every step a war,
My heart, a broken vessel, 
This night an angry storm. 

When sadness crashes like an ocean,
when fear is deeper than the sea,
when I am swallowed by the darkness,
Will you come and anchor me?

I cannot see through this, 
Can you be my eyes?
I'm completely hopeless,
Can you shine a light?
I have no more strength left, 
Can you stand and fight?
I'm dying in this doubt,
Can you be my faith tonight?

Hold me still and hold me close,
Until it all passes away. 
I beg you not to let go,
All I really have to know
is that you are here and I am not alone." 
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. 

Be blessed and be well,

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