The Sickness

July 19, 2012

About two and a half years ago I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and pernicious anemia, two ailments that untreated can make you feel like a poop-popsicle on a hot August day. Both are not uncommon, but possibly serious conditions. Which was kind of hard for me to buy into, since pernicious anemia was explained to me as a vitamin B12 deficiency. (Because that’s what it is.)

If you’re anything like me you hear, “You tested a very low on vitamin B12, and we need to have a follow up appointment” on your physician’s call in voicemail dealie-ma-bob after your annual blood work, while you’re in Ohio for business for a week and you think, “Whatever, it’s a vitamin, guess I can’t skip my women’s one a day anymore.” And then you don’t call back. And then your physician calls you three more times, sounding increasingly agitated in her messages, the last one stating something like, “This is very serious, YOU ARE VERY SICK, you need to come see me.” And then you hit The Google and you see words strung together like “permanent nerve damage” and “dementia” and you think “shiiiiiiit” and make an appointment immediately.

So, yes, I have known for a while that my body is kind of reticent to do what it needs to do. My thyroid is lazy, and my absorby* parts eschew vitamins. Apparently my body thinks it can run on sunshine and unicorn juice, or something. This means that earlier this year, about mid-March, when I started feeling run down** I immediately made an appointment with my doctor. I marched into her office and said, “I think that my thyroid medication needs to be adjusted.” She looked at me and said, “Hmmm, maybe.”

And then she started saying words like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Scoleraderma, and Lupus. She sent me for blood work and then prescribed vitamin D (“So, rickets?” “No.”). She sent me for more blood work and then she prescribed a lot of vitamin C (“Scurvy? Am I a pirate?” “No.”) And then she sent me to a rheumatologist.

In the meantime I had a third race, just a 5k. It was a little warm, but the course was simple and at mile 2 I thought I was dying. My chest was tight, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I made Kelli and Spencer stop to walk. After that I made an appointment with a cardiologist. My father died before the age of 40 from a congenital heart defect and with my luck, I thought, I had it too and was a thud away from dying.

In short, I have seen all of the specialists this year – all of them.

The good(?) news? My heart is functional and awesome. And I have asthma, which is a diagnosis no one saw coming, least of all me. But it’s able to be controlled. I thought that asthma would feel like hyperventilating, in spite of having asthma as a child, apparently I’ve blocked out what it felt like. I had no idea that the steel band I was feeling, tightening across my chest, was asthma. I have an inhaler now, that I only need to use before and during runs, and I can’t believe how different it feels. It’s kind of scary, because I had myself convinced that the issue was not training hard enough, not being in good enough shape, or just not having the capacity for pain that other people must have. (i.e. “If this is how everyone feels when they run I am obviously just a weakling and I need to suck it up.” I’m a like a Jack Russell Terrier after a badger when I have a goal in mind, no silly chest pain was going to stop my pursuit of my running goals.)

I wish I could begin to explain how different my running experience is now. Finally, it feels right. It’s still hard, but now I feel like I can focus on distance, form, and cutting time off of my pace — something that wasn’t an option before. I don’t plan on being a fast runner, but now I feel like being an average runner is plausible. (Just don’t get me started on how annoyed I am that I’m this far into training and my stupid lungs held me back.)

The bad news is that I have other things going on that add up to “we’ll keep an eye on this, but for right now you’re fine.”

But you know what? For right now? I am fine, and that’s good enough for me.

*Totally a word, because I said so.
**Run Down = so tired I was frequently resting my head on tables in meetings, my skin was dry, my nails were breaking, running was getting harder instead of easier, I gained 10lbs in about 2 months, and my eyebrows were falling out.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: