Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fear of the Unknown

I'm in a gray area right now, and I don't like it one bit. After months and months of feeling just plain bad, I finally took myself to the doctor at the beginning of the month. I suspected that I had anemia, based on my nearly constant exhaustion, along with the muscle fatigue that I was feeling when I attempted any type of workout. At first, I chalked it up to the approximately 3, 500 races that I trained for and finished since the beginning of 2012, including 3 half marathons and a half Ironman last year. I figured that I had run my body into the ground, that I had exhausted every resource that it had available to it, and that my body was staging a revolt. But after Augusta, I gave myself several months of time off and lighter workouts, hoping that my body would heal up and I would be back to fighting form eventually. Of course, in my advanced age, I knew that it would take some time to get there.

But month after month, nothing ever changed. Training for St. Anthony's got more and more difficult with each passing week, each workout - no matter how big or small - felt like a Herculean task. I was tired all the time, and no amount of caffeine perked me up. I had insomnia, which I naturally thought was the reason for my constant zombie state. But then I started to notice other symptoms, things that I had never really experienced before: profuse sweating during and after my workouts, even when the temperatures were COLD, shortness of breath, excessively dry skin and lips, weird muscle aches, the list goes on.

I assumed I had exercise-induced asthma. I assumed I had anemia. I assumed I had overtrained myself into oblivion.

The doctor did a full set of blood tests - 4 vials of my blood's worth - and the results came back really great. Perfect cholesterol levels, perfect glucose levels, perfect B12 levels. But then there was my thyroid levels. The initial FT4 screening came back at .06, way into the hyper range. The low end of normal starts at .50. Now I have an answer. 

When I say I am in a gray area, I mean that I have to wait another few weeks to get some more specific thyroid tests, and then we go from there. But, being the type of person that I am, I have done huge amounts of Internet research on Hyperthyroidism, and while I am relieved that all of these things that I had been - and continue to - experiencing are part of a real issue, I am scared to death. Ahead of me, I am looking at massive diet changes, copious amounts of medications for the rest of my life, and the possibility of having to have my entire thyroid gland surgically removed. I have never had a real health issue to deal with in my entire life, except for a fractured vertebra, and again, I am scared. I am scared about these changes that I will be forced to make.

Despite all of this, I have been loyally working to complete my runstreak. I have run every single day this month so far, at least 1.5 miles. It is difficult, it hurts, it is hard to breathe (though my asthma inhaler does help), and I feel like less than half of the athlete that I used to be. Many mornings, while running, I hold back tears when I think about how it used to be nothing for me to go out and run 5 miles, and now I can barely make it around the block. I am angry at my body for failing me just when I was learning how to take advantage of its every talent and resource. And for now, I don't know how to fix it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm on the other end of the range, I'm hypothyroid. Luckily, no surgery or anything, but after the months of feeling awful, feeling cold, tired, skin feeling dry right after putting lotion on it, and needing a nap constantly--even in the middle of a run, I am very careful to take my meds every morning. It was a relief to find out that the fogged brain was not permanent, that I would be able to move on--and you will too after this period of uncertainty. The worst part is feeling like crap, now you know you can start feeling better.
    You have kept me moving by all of your posts and determination, I might have given up otherwise. Keep on running, at least just a bit, you'll need those muscles when you start to feel better.