At the age of 10, I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease.
I struggled to understand my own body, which didn’t work the way I had grown accustomed to. My heart raced too fast, my metabolism outpaced me, sleep evaded me, and I was constantly sick.
Medication sometimes helped control the symptoms, but more often than not, it didn’t. It wasn’t until I was 16 that we actually treated my Graves’ disease by irradiating my thyroid. It took five more years to balance my thyroid levels with the right dose of medication. Thankfully, my levels stayed normal after that, with fluctuations as expected during pregnancy.
I was in high school when I wrote the passage below, and the words still chill me now.
My heart aches for my teenage self and how difficult it was to make it through. I hope that other young teens who have to deal with thyroid disease or thyroid cancer know that there are many of us out there who can relate. The emotional and mental toll of the disease should not be overlooked, especially in teenagers who have a double whammy of puberty and teenage hormones.
Graves’ Disease, Personified
Mr. Robert Graves was the man who discovered Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is a thyroid condition; it is a chronic illness that I have been dealing with for the past six years of my life. In my mind I have made up a terrible characterization, I have put a face, body and soul right along side of something I hate most about my life.
Mr. Robert Graves is one crazy old man. He’s big, tall and extremely cruel. He wears an ugly mask and only I know what lies behind it, a mean madman. Behind the mask his face is disfigured, each one of his facial attributes not quite fitting the other. His eyes are the color of ice, the iciest blue I have ever seen. His stare is colder, crueler and even less relenting than the frozen waters of Alaska. His cold glare chills you to the bone and will even make your teeth chatter. His complexion is pale and pasty. His forehead is long and deeply penetrated with wrinkles; his dark, mysterious thick eyebrows stick up and intertwine every time he grins. His dark, thin hair is slowly receding. His long thick nose is crooked towards the end, it looks as though it has been broken and glued back together again in little, tiny pieces. His cheeks are ghostly, pale and red, chapped by the cold weather and high winds. His ears stick out, appearing as though he could stick them in you like a cold, piercing knife. His lips are thin and rough to the touch; they feel like sandpaper against your skin. His teeth are slowly rotting away, half of them already in decay. His chin juts out appearing as a huge rock in the seawater; his cleft was put there to make him seem as though he were smart. He breathes on you whether you are awake or sleeping and surprisingly his breath is warm like the desert sun.
Mr. Graves is gigantic in stature; his chest is broad and wide in span. His enormous beer belly gut sticks out and hangs loosely far over the rim of his pants. Below, his legs hang and dangle as though he was a puppet, long and thick matching the rest of his body. His arms are big and doughy, his palms large enough to hold a small kitten. His fingers are long enough to wrap around someone’s throat in one solitary stroke. His fingernails are long and unruly and in many ways can all alone describe his personality. Underneath lie loads of decay, they get crustier day by day. His small feet do not fit the remainder of his body; they look like someone stuck them there by mistake. And a big mistake that was, Mr. Robert Graves uses them greatly to his advantage.
He sneaks up behind you like an insignificant ant and the worst part about it is that you never hear him coming. You never have enough time to protect yourself, let alone fear. He creeps up on you when you least expect it and he will pound you into the ground, beating you into a little pulp.
He is horrible, annoying, time consuming and dirty. He is hurtful, painful and dreadful. He is a dark, black and gray lurking shadow. He’s scary, unpredictable, nerve wrecking and sadly true. He is an unhappy man inflicting pain upon others to keep up his sick drive. Just when you thought you were having a bad enough day he will capture you and trust me you shall never get away. He does what he wishes with one thing in mind, to drive you crazy and make your mind go insane. He will curse your body and fry your brain; you will feel like an egg sautéing up on his silver platter. Before he consumes you though he will make you suffer for an intolerable amount of time, until you can no longer hold on in pain. You will feel as though you are nothing but butter slipping through his mighty powerful fingers.
He will speed up your heart and make it beat so hard you will feel it from your hair down your body through your toes. Mr. Graves is a two-sided devil inside so make sure he doesn’t take over your body. He is like a cosmic breeze that will tear you apart, he will give you a rush from finish to start. Your mind will rage and he will tear you apart like no other kind. He will candy coat his words and it seems all right but if you fall into his trap you will be lucky to make it through the night. He grabs, ties, thrusts you down like tape, that’s Mr. Graves, no hope for escape.
You never really know for sure when he comes or goes or which is which. Even though he might leave for awhile I can ensure you he will be back so beware, take extra caution and care, do not let him drag you to the ground. Run, scream, kick, and hold on to life just as long as you can. He may even come to you as no alarm, but when he does reach you he shall do you great harm and remember, he will not stop until the job is done.