According to my children, Matt has now reached middle age. Fortunately, although I celebrated my birthday last week, I am “not THAT old yet”. As you might guess, I rely heavily on my children to maintain humility and perspective…
Even though this particular birthday was not instrumental in changing my worldly status (according to my children), every year on February 7th, I feel compelled to take an introspective look at my health and my life. I learned the hard way the year that I turned 30 that good health was a blessing not ever to be taken for granted. I was a typical young woman with a career and three young children—I thought that I was Superwoman—I was ready to conquer the world…
God seems to always have a way of placing perspective back into my life.
With a five year old, a two and a half year old, and an infant; I found my health deteriorating. I was frazzled, I was weak, and I felt as though I spent every day running a marathon but my steps simply kept getting more labored. Riddled with numerous infections, weak with anemia, exhausted beyond anything that I had ever known, I kept getting out of bed every morning and moving forward because that was my personality. When I could barely lift my youngest child, and I became short of breath when I read out loud to my middle daughter; I finally gave in and went to the doctor.
The anemia was easy to diagnose, but I knew that there was something else that was instigating my symptoms. I weighed in at 98 pounds with my boots on the day that I was diagnosed with an auto-immune system disease called Graves Disease. I left the doctor’s office and drove down to our river pasture ground. There, I sat amidst the grass and the trees and cried. Every once in a while, I would look up at the sky and simply ask “Why?”
I had never given a thought to my thyroid gland until it started trying to kill me. When Graves Disease manifests itself, your body becomes confused and starts to think that your thyroid gland is a foreign invader. What results is a perpetual battle that causes significantly elevated levels of thyroid hormone, and renders the patient in a constant state of hyperthyroidism. When I think of how I was during that time, I think of a frantic right-brained horse. During the worst times, I was perpetually out of breath and had a resting heart rate of over 120 beats per minute. Matt could literally take my pulse sitting across the room from me and watching the blood pulsate in my neck.
I started each day telling myself that God would never give me more than I could handle…There were certainly days when I was convinced that God overestimated my strength.
The responsibility that I felt for my family and my animals kept me going, getting me through the toughest days. The regimented schedule of the feed yard and my children’s needs helped me to focus and to move forward. My husband’s stalwart love and support eventually convinced me that I would again attain normalcy. I celebrated my 33rdbirthday in the nuclear medicine ward of the University of Omaha’s medical center undergoing a radiation treatment to destroy my thyroid gland. Normalcy was eventually attained, although due to additional complications with the radiation treatment it took much longer than I had ever imagined.
Two months ago, I celebrated having the first normal blood work in 7 years…
My journey with Graves has been one with many twists and turns, but it has ultimately brought me strength of character and a new perspective on life. Today, I take nothing for granted and I spend each day working to use my gifts to the fullest. I also have a deeper appreciation for the animals that I raise and the beef that they produce. They nourished my weak and anemic body, and have subsequently helped me to regain normal iron levels and the glow of good health.
I am celebrating a hemoglobin score of 12.8 while also maintaining a triglyceride level of 36, a cholesterol level of 151, an HDL of 76, and an LDL of 67. I am walking proof that a diet rich in beef can not only be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, but can also be an important factor in helping iron-challenged individuals regain good health. I believe that beef (and iron supplements made from cattle) played a key role in helping me to regain my physical strength after struggling with a chronic illness for many years.