A Journey to Health-Esteem

Sara’s Story

What was happening in your life and around you before you made the change?

In 2012, at only 24 years old, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. My case was very severe. The muscles in my calves were affected; it was difficult to walk without overwhelming pain. I was experiencing extreme hyperthyroidism, a resting heart rate of 120 BPM, hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, depression, anemia, weight loss, goiter, difficulty breathing, Graves Ophthalmolopathy and more. This illness effected my ability to work and essentially put my life on hold. I felt trapped and afraid. There is no cure for Graves Disease and at the time I was looking at a year or two on thyroid suppressants, eventual radiation and a lifetime on medication.

What change(s) did you decide to make? What was your “tipping point”, the moment you decided to make change(s)?

In January of 2013 I began to experience extreme digestive upset and pain. I had been unable to work for about 6 months at this point and experiencing new symptoms terrified me. I believed that I was powerless to change my declining health. My doctor and I discovered that gluten was the cause of these new symptoms, so I cut it out of my diet completely. I felt so much better incredibly quickly and I decided to use this as an opportunity to revamp my entire diet. I gave up processed junk food and began to eat a simple diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. I also started to live life very differently – welcomed meditation, yoga, journaling, positive self talk and more into my life. Today I only eat foods that will nourish my body and promote good help and I love to support local, New Brunswick farmers.

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them (who and what supported you)?

I achieved remission in October of 2013 and felt like my complicated journey with Graves Disease was over. Unfortunately, after accepting a very demanding, stressful job and putting my health on the back burner I relapsed in 2014. It’s been difficult to accept that Graves Disease is a permanent part of me, something I will have to manage and live with everyday. I needed to accept that remission or not my body is extra sensitive and I need to take special care to ensure that I protect my health.

My amazing doctors (family and endocrinologists) have been the greatest support system. I’ve also created a great team of family and friends; I wouldn’t be where I am today without my husband, my parents and sisters and wonderful friends.

Healthy, local foods have been absolutely imperative to my healing and I am lucky to live in New Brunswick where we have amazing local shops and farmers markets. This has been an important support system as well!

What are the results of your journey for you and those around you, both today and in the near future?

I write a blog at www.mshealthesteem.com. My articles are about self-love, acceptance, wellness and nutrition and discuss how I thrive with my chronic illness. I’ve also contributed to ICIDICI.com, a local, online community magazine, and I recently worked with Nova Scotia Organics. Through these mediums, I’ve been able to connect with people going through Graves Disease and other illnesses. It’s difficult to stay positive when facing a chronic illness which is why my website has had a great impact on their journeys. It’s amazing to connect with people experiencing similar things and create a positive experience for them. I also help people see that regardless of where they are in their health journey eating well and taking care of your incredible self is a positive step towards wellness.

Today I am in remission. My changes impacted my health so positively – I never needed radiation and I am currently not on medication. Though I will always have Graves Disease, I have accepted that it is a part of me and continue to receive the best possible medical care. I also continue to eat a health supporting diet high in local fruits and veggies and treat myself and my body with the utmost care.

I hope to continue to inspire others going through a chronic illness to eat well, love themselves through the difficult times and treat their bodies with the utmost kindness. I will continue to grow my website, collaborate with local companies and websites and connect with my audience!