This post is going to be a bit different than my normal race recap or product review. I want to share my experience with listening to my body & how it helped me these last few months.
I started noticing something was off after I was sick in November. I did Javelina 100k at the end of October, ran the Los Coyotes Ragnar Trail with Team SweatPink and then was sick for a few weeks (including a trip to the super smoky Bay Area). I thought it was just a normal cold & it seemed to be.
In December I had some issues with breathing while running, I was chalking it up to being out of shape after being sick. But it was starting to get worse. I could run as much as 3 miles straight but on the longer runs, I felt like I was breathing through a straw. My neck and shoulders were so tight & I was having trouble catching my breath while just sitting on the couch.
I was starting to get nervous which of course increased the anxiety I was already feeling. Towards the end of December I finally made an appointment to see my doctor but I couldn’t get in until late February so I waited & things started to get worse.
I was feeling fine for the most part, except for my heart would race occasionally when I was just sitting down, the neck & shoulder pain was getting worse & I was still having issues with my breathing, mostly when running but sometimes at rest as well. I would have to think about breathing something I should not have to do.
Finally after one of my runs, where it was really bad, I said something on Instagram and some people offered up some explanations, iron deficiency, too much sugar, gluten intolerance &/or other allergies. So in early January I reached out to my doctor via email & asked if we could do some blood tests because it was still over 6 weeks until my office appointment. She agreed that was too long to wait and I went into the lab to get some blood work.
What came back was that I was slightly anemic but that wasn’t my doctors biggest concern. The bigger issue was that my thyroid levels were way off. I got 3 calls from the doctors office that day and an appointment to see an endocrinologist.
I went back to get more blood drawn to do more thyroid specific tests. I was googling everything, initially I couldn’t tell if it was hyper or hypo thyroid but as the test results came back, I was able to determine it was most likely more hyper.
So what is hyperthyroidism? It occurs when your thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine.
Symptoms can include:
- Unintentional weight loss, even when your appetite and food intake stay the same or increase
- Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) — commonly more than 100 beats a minute
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Pounding of your heart (palpitations)
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety and irritability
- Tremor — usually a fine trembling in your hands and fingers
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns, especially more frequent bowel movements
- An enlarged thyroid gland (goiter), which may appear as a swelling at the base of your neck
- Fatigue, muscle weakness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Skin thinning
- Fine, brittle hair
I had some of these symptoms, the racing heart, the anxiety & nervousness (this had been going on for a while, I literally had to lay back in the front seat any time I drove with Sean because of anxiety that we were going to get into an accident.) and a slight tremor in my hands.
When I saw the endocrinologist, she said that you didn’t have to have all the symptoms but that by the results of my tests & what I was telling her, she was pretty sure that I had a hyper thyroid & more specifically Graves Disease.
Graves Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid. With this disease, your immune system attacks the thyroid and causes it to make more thyroid hormone than your body needs. It is unknown why it occurs, but it is very common, with more than 3 million cases every year in the US. It is treatable & I’m pretty sure that I caught my issues pretty early in the process.
My doctor ordered a few more blood tests to confirm her diagnosis but she put me on a pill called methIMAzole immediately to help with the symptoms. She said there were a few side affects to watch out for, specifically a rash but I seem to be ok and I’ve been on the medication for 3 weeks now and feel so much better!
The endocrinologist was shocked that I had done Surf City a few weeks prior to my appointment. She was like most people wouldn’t have been able to finish. Well as Sean said, I’m not most people. And in talking with my primary care doc she agreed. Most of the people that they see are not exercising & they have to tell them to vs someone like myself that has a long history of endurance training.
I’ll be honest, running was scary during that time, but I didn’t completely stop. I cut back but still kept moving. Before my appointment with the specialist I googled hyper thyroid & running what seemed like a million times. I found maybe 2 -3 posts that did not have info that I wanted to hear. It took me a year to get back to running, I lost 10 pounds in a week (I didn’t lose any weight during the 2 months I was dealing with these issues), I couldn’t even run a 5k.
I had just gotten into OCC in Chamonix & the Vermont 100k. I had a bunch of races already on the schedule and I was super nervous I wouldn’t be able to run them. But I could walk forever & feel good so I knew I might have to go slower, but I could still go.
It’s been 3 weeks since my diagnosis & I have 7 races in the next 5 weeks on my schedule. I might not be super fast, but I will finish each and every one!
I wanted to write this blog to share my experience, which was very different from the very few blog posts I was able to find about running with hyperthyroidism & /or Graves. I don’t know the background on the 2 ladies who shared their experience, where they like me with lots and lots of races of all distances on their resumes or where they beginners? I don’t know.
Now, this is is my personal experience, I have continued to run/walk/hike/spin, etc. throughout this whole experience. I have my doctor’s blessing to run/walk LA Marathon which she thinks will be a good indicator to see where I am after 5 weeks on meds. I didn’t tell her I was doing a 24 hour race the week before, oops! LOL
If you experience anything similar to what I did, I fully recommend visiting your doctor to discuss and do tests if necessary. I am grateful that my doctor listened to me & gave me the opportunity to have testing done without an office visit. I really believe that if I had waited things could have been a lot worse.
If you have or had Graves/Hyperthyroid, I would love to hear your experience.