As many of you know, my husband suffered through Graves’ Disease. It was one of the worst things he has ever been through and it was devastating to watch. One of the more rewarding aspects of having opened up about our family’s struggles with thyroid disorders is meeting other people who have been through the same things. Connecting with them and sharing with them has been so helpful to me, and I hope that it’s helpful to you as well. I am honored to introduce you to Camilla Bevington: an incredible woman who was faced with the harshness of Graves’ Disease at a young age. Her story will undoubtedly give you hope and courage as you face your own struggles or as you care for your children who are battling thyroid disorders. ~Blythe aka Thyroid Mom
I’m absolutely thrilled to have been asked by Blythe to write my first ever guest blog – to appear here on thyroidmom.com – Blythe’s story is inspiring with not only herself, but her husband and their two children too, all living with thyroid conditions.
More and more as I am now embarking in to my 30s, I am noticing just how common a thyroid condition is – colleagues, family and friends (two of my friends developing hypothyroidism during pregnancy!).
Everyone’s story is different. Everyone’s side effects can be more severe than others. And guaranteed everyone coping with a thyroid condition will at times have felt alone, poorly and low, and experienced a feeling like the world simply does not understand. There’s no easy fix with having a thyroid condition, as I found out from my own experience…
Nearly 11 years ago, when I was just 20-years old, the most important things in my life were my friends, shopping for fashion, starting my career and going on holidays. Never in a million years did I think all of this would be severely interrupted and affected, when suddenly, out of nowhere, I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease.
(I HATE the terms Graves’ Disease – why does it have to refer to as being 6-ft under!)
So, what symptoms did I have? I hadn’t felt “right” for a little while, but I could never put my finger on what the problem was. I realized that my periods were absent – I hadn’t bled for three months and I knew I wasn’t pregnant. So naturally, I thought I’d better make a visit to see my GP.
He must have seen something I didn’t, because I was sent straight away for a blood test, and then called back to the hospital (or surgery, as we call it in England) the very next day to give me my diagnosis. (There is something rather frightening when the doctor rings your home to call you in to the surgery because there is a medical problem – and even more so when your Mum answers the phone and also becomes a bundle of worry.)
My Graves’ Disease was so bad that my body was in shut down, and I needed immediate medical attention. I was devastated. I had no idea what anything meant, and all I knew at this point was that I was clearly very poorly.
My Doctor gave me a small prescription of Carbimazole straight away, as well as beta blockers to control my excessively high blood pressure, whilst he referred to me to see an Endocrinologist from here on…
My world felt like it had turned upside down and so unexpectedly. Some of my friends at the time were commenting on the fact I was going to lose weight (as though that was a good thing!) and they were wrong. I suffered side effects that eventually led me to lose all of my confidence and to barely leave the house other than for work.
Six weeks passed and I had made no progress. For the next 18 months, I was passed along many endocrinologists and had countless blood tests every few weeks. My dosage was constantly being changed. Treatment wasn’t working and having seen top thyroid specialists throughout the process, no one knew what to do with me and my health was now at severe risk.
By this point, I had gained four stone in weight from the drugs (1 stone is about 14 pounds). I had lost a lot of hair – my hair thinned drastically. My eyes had also started to protrude. My head was constantly fuzzy and I felt as though I had flu-like symptoms all the time. My neck felt so puffy too. My heart felt like it was constantly racing and my hands were always shaking.
Regarding my weight, hair, eyes, broken nails, poor skin etc, I remember asking so many questions about what I could to help – but I could never get a straight answer. Everything was about trial and error, which was mentally draining.
My confidence suffered, and having just started my career in magazine publishing (including some of the world’s top fashion magazines) made my confidence lower even more. I only made efforts to go to work, and I’d always make excuses why I rarely went out for drinks after work with colleagues, and my social life outside of work was minimal. I felt disgusting to look at, and so incredibly depressed.
Now that my health was at risk I was offered one solution – to stop the function of my thyroid altogether. I opted for Radioactive Iodine, as it was less invasive than surgery, but it still came with its side effects. I was in isolation for a week, and there was a whole list of things I could and couldn’t do for a while.
It took about 6 months for my body to become leveled out, and I was still seen every 4-6 weeks for a check-up and a blood test. I was starting to take thyroxine, and my prescription dosage gradually increased every visit.
I slowly began to finally feel well again. My body showed signs of being happy again. I was able to lose a bit of weight which gave me the encouragement to join a weight loss and fitness plan, allowing me to (slowly but surely) lose all of the weight I had gained. My neck wasn’t puffy and my eyes were no longer protruding.
I felt like a new person again, and no longer depressed. Even my skin, hair and nails all seemed to be better and I began to plan holidays again! I was in a happy relationship too and the world began to feel like my friend again.
My body now behaves like someone who has hypothyroidism, and I take a high dosage of thyroxine every day. Oh how the tables had turned!
Don’t get me wrong – I totally have days where I’m so tired, I feel sluggish and have those days when I just can’t function at all.
I just encourage myself to keep going, and look after myself as best as I can. Even if that means some nights going to bed really early and having 10-12 hours sleep, or if I have over indulged on a Saturday night I know I need to be extra careful with my diet for the few days after.
The best advice I can give to any fellow thyroid sufferer is to maintain a busy lifestyle – to keep your mind and body energized – and to look after yourself in terms of diet and exercise. I don’t say that to maintain a desirable figure, but because fitness and eating the right foods help us feel good mentally. To know I am looking after myself as best as I can means that I’m giving my body the best chance (especially if I want to have children some day).
I enjoy following food bloggers who give me new recipes to try, using foods that are really good for us.
If you are mid-treatment, and struggling to find your thyroid-feet, please do not give up hope. I want you to be reassured that you will be okay. I had a few years of battles, and when I came out the other side I worked hard to become happy and healthy again.
Last year I even took part in the London Marathon, comfortably jogging the whole 26.2 miles in 5 hours 20 minutes.
Running the marathon was the hardest achievement of my life and something I never thought I’d ever do. I got quite a lot of resistance from close friends and family before I committed to running the race, but I am so glad I did such a challenge. Camilla 1 Thyroid 0!!
I may not run another marathon (!), but I still enjoy the occasional run and other fitness challenges (i.e. bike rides, pole dancing, boot camp etc) to keep myself active and mentally energized.
Life couldn’t be better – I’m so fortunate that I’m now married to the amazing boy who saw me through all my trials and tribulations, we have seen so many wonderful places in the world and I have the most amazing friends and family that I surround myself with on a regular basis. I now write my blog (www.flamingomonroe.com) which is my hobby, and what I also like to class as self-therapy!
I’ve worked hard in my career to get to where I’m at and it ticks all of the job satisfaction boxes. I work in quite a demanding magazine industry where some days are long and hectic, and you also come across people who are rude and too big for their boots – but I’ve had one too many reality checks in life to know what’s important and to learn the meaning of perspective.
I’m not thinking about having children yet, but I know it’s not too far in the distant future. I’ve got a few holidays planned this year and next and I want to absorb as much time as possible with just me and my husband! But when that time comes, I am already mentally prepared that it may not be the easiest journey, and that regular monitoring and adjustment may be required throughout the process. I believe in destiny and I will leave my trust and faith in the hands of Mother Nature and of course the doctors. I’m a fairly level-headed person and what will be, will be.
I was asked by the British Thyroid Foundation to create a short film about my experiences, and as a way of reaching out to other sufferers of both hyperthyroidism as well as hypothyroidism. Thyroid conditions are not just about “is that the one where you get fat or skinny” – that narrow-minded thought drives me mad – but it’s because of the lack of understanding there is amongst those who simply don’t know enough. And that is partly why I want to share my story with as many people as possible, to avoid us thyroid sufferers ever feeling alone.
Please read more of my story, and watch my short film (as well as other inspiring short films) by visiting www.flamingomonroe.com/2015/03/12/you-got-a-problem-thyroid/.
I hope that my story and experiences are of help and inspiration to you and to any loved ones who may be suffering.
Thank you so much for reading, and thank you so much to Blythe for featuring me at thyroidmom.com. I live in London, UK, so be sure to follow my blog (www.flamingomonroe.com) and on Facebook too (www.facebook.com/flamingomonroe). And if you really like me you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram too (@camillamanders).
Camilla Bevington (aka Flamingo Monroe), Guest Blogger for Thyroid Mom