Can’t earn it

Advent 3

I want to give you an update on my health, and some really deep thoughts that I’ve had about it. I’ll start with a potted history and bring you up to date with where I am now. Then will come the deep thoughts 🙂

In 2016 I decided that I was really sick of feeling tired all the time and I was going to look into my health in a big way and get things going well. I checked for intolerances (and found salicylates) and allergies (sulphites), I went to a specialist about my sinuses and dealt with them so that they are generally clear. And I still wasn’t feeling that much better.

My wonderful and awesome GP decided to give me a whole slew of blood tests and we found that my thyroid was overactive. That put a whole new machine into operation. A run of specialist appointments and a medication that brought it under control. And I went from dragging myself through each day, hardly able to move, feeling stressed and burnt out and fatigued and awful to feeling pretty much normal.

I was excited to be feeling well again. I was told that the thyroid usually settles itself down after a couple of months and then I’d be OK. But my thyroid didn’t settle. It remained slightly overactive even after eighteen months. It was time to do something definitive.

The definitive option we decided on was radioactive iodine therapy. There was a chance with this therapy that we could kill off the thyroid gland just enough but not too much. No more overactivity but it wouldn’t be under active either. And I could have the correct amount of thyroid hormone in my blood stream without any medications.

So we did that back in June of this year. When I went to the specialist afterwards she was confident that we’d done what we needed to do. Everything would be good. A couple more blood tests to check levels and then only one test needed each year to keep a check on things.

All good, right? Turns out, not so much.

Over the last few months, very gradually, I’ve been feeling worse and worse. My energy has gone down. My weight has gone up. And it’s all been very gradual. I’ve been a bit like that frog in the pot of slowly boiling water.

I tried to do something about how I felt. I kept exercising. Hoping that exercise would speed up my metabolism, and build my fitness, and help me out. I listened to uplifting music and read uplifting books to help with the dullness and the depression I was feeling. I prayed and I made sure I rested once a week and I paced myself to keep within my energy levels. I found jobs that I could do to keep the businesses moving forward even though I wasn’t feeling energetic, and I put systems in place so that I wouldn’t forget the important things that I needed to do. But I kept feeling worse.

My biggest fear was that I’d have the last blood test, go to the doctor and be told, ‘your thyroid levels are low, but not low enough for medication, you just need to try harder.’ So instead of getting a blood test, I just tried harder and harder.

Finally the blood test day turned up. I joked with the pathologist that I’d be finished with this one. That this would be my last test for a year. I was all good.

I was seriously in denial. I don’t know how I could have even thought I was good. But I did. I thought that this low energy level was how life was going to be. And that I should be grateful for it.

The next day my specialist rang in a panic. She told me that I had almost no thyroid hormone left in my body. That she was seriously worried about my brain function. That I shouldn’t drive a car. That she didn’t know how I was standing upright. And she faxed a prescription through to the pharmacy closest to me so I could start taking medication straight away. I was to come and see her the next morning so she could get me on some faster acting stuff as well.

If you want detail, I had no measurable T3 and very, very little T4. And my TSH which should be lower than 4 was at 98. I was quite literally slowing to a stop.

When I took my first fast acting T3 tablet it was like giving a drooping plant water. My body lapped it up. Within half an hour I felt human again. The headache I didn’t really know I had, left. My brain cleared. My eyes could see better. My muscles worked again. My sore throat was no longer sore. I could walk, I could dance, I felt like singing. I suddenly knew how sick I had been.

And how foolish I had been to think I could fix this problem by myself.

My body needed T3. No amount of exercise, diet, or rest would have been able to fix that. My thyroid gland is dead, it is not making what I need. And without T3 I was also dying.

Once I was given what I needed, I immediately came back to life.

Now, you all know I’m a Christian, and this situation is the best illustration I have for what I believe about salvation.

We might think that we can work our way into being good people. That we can somehow build up to being good enough for God. So we do good things, we go the extra mile, we treat people as we’d like to be treated. And all of these things are good things.

But if we keep doing that we will wear ourselves out, and believe me, we will die. Because good works are not what our souls need. “Spirituality” is not what our souls need. We can’t do it for ourselves. We do not have the capacity to bridge this gap, to solve this problem. And it doesn’t matter how hard we try, we will die trying.

We need Jesus. He has paid the price for us to get us to God. He is the righteousness we can’t get for ourselves. He is our spiritual T3.

With Jesus we will live.

Without Jesus we will die.

It’s as simple, and as difficult as that.

It’s not that our good works are bad. They are good. But they are not what we need. And they will never be enough.

If you are a Christian like me, then praise God with me that Jesus has bridged the gap and given us what we need.

If you are not, let me tell you, God loves you. He wants you to know him. And he’s given his all to give you all that you need to get to him. You will die without him, you won’t die if you depend on him. Feel free to ask me about it. I’d love to tell you.

Or get yourself along to a church this Christmas. You will give any Christian the best Christmas present in the world by asking them about Jesus.

So where am I now? I’m at the beginning of another long process. My thyroid levels will stabilise over the next couple of years. I will be taking thyroid hormone for the rest of my life and right now I’m very happy with that outcome. It will mean that my levels stay just right – not too high, and not too low. I’ve tried both, I don’t like either. I want some stability now and this is the way to get it.

And I look forward to what I’ll be able to do fitness-wise, business-wise, life-wise with a body that’s working like it should. I’m excited. It’s lovely to have energy again.

A blessed and happy Christmas to you all.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

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I-Day

radioactive image
This is a 3D illustration of an electromagnetic field in a nuclear radioactive core. Nothing to do with me, actually, but much prettier than the other pictures to do with radioactivity so I chose this one.

‘Good Camp Morning!’ Caleb  bounds into the kitchen and smiles at Moz, ‘and Good Radioactive Morning’ he says to me. And that’s all you need to know about us today, really.

The boys are off to a Scripture Union camp called Dcypher. It’s a camp for high school-aged computer gamers. They get together, link all the computers, and fight, race, and compete with each other for a few days. They also spend time away from the computers, chatting, playing games outside, and performing engineering challenges, all the good stuff.

It’s a great camp because the campers have time with adults from their world, people who understand gaming, and as well as that they are taught balance and discuss life lessons. They even do cosplay. My son who is over six feet tall is dressing up as a dwarf.

And as for me, well, we’ve come up with some theme songs for my day today. The first is Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, the next is Standing Too Close by Thandi Phoenix  and then there’s Don’t Stand So Close to Me by the Police. (I just watched the video clip for that one, it’s disturbing.)

Yes, today is the day for the radioactive iodine therapy. Not D-day but I-day. At lunch time today I will head into hospital, and as far as I understand it, I will swallow a capsule, and then go home. But I will be harmfully radioactive for the next five days or so (some gamma and mostly alpha radiation) and I should stand at least a metre away from any people I meet so that I don’t shoot them with harmful radiation.

I have thought about this course of action a lot, and talked to a lot of people, including more than one medical practitioner. I believe this is the right thing for me to do for my health at this time.

And the timing has worked out very well. I need to stay away from people for a while, and the boys will be away for the same amount of time. They get a camp, I get a retreat, everybody’s happy.

If you are a praying person, I covet your prayers for the camp, and also prayers that I get exactly the right dose of iodine to kill off my thyroid enough that it is no longer producing harmful quantities of thyroid hormone, but that it is still producing some hormone, so that I don’t need to take additional medication. That is the absolute best outcome we can hope for, so that’s what I’m praying for.

Have a great weekend everyone! See you on the other side.

Grateful on International Women’s Day

IWD-2018
This is me and my colleagues today. I’m centre back with the dark glasses 🙂

I’m sick. Not that you’d know it to look at me.

I’ll explain.

In May 2016 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. Good name that. Tells you exactly where you’re going.

Graves is an autoimmune disease where your body develops antibodies that attack your thyroid. But they attack it in such a way that it makes your thyroid work harder.

This affects everything. It makes your heart beat faster, your digestive system work faster, your body heat up more, and so on, and so on.

It means you can’t rest. You can be sitting on the couch, or lying in bed and even sleeping, but your heart is beating like you’re running a race. So you become very tired.

And you eat like there’s no tomorrow because your body is using up everything that you put into it.

And your brain! It starts working faster too. You become anxious about everything and you can’t stop working because it all needs to be done and it-all-needs-to-be-done-right-now.

You start to feel like you’re going crazy.

So like I said, I was diagnosed with this in May of 2016, and I was immediately given medicine, and the symptoms went away (though I personally had trouble stopping all the overeating). And you simply wouldn’t know I was sick.

But the antibodies are still there. So every six weeks or so I have a blood test to make sure that my thyroid hormone levels are within the limits they should be, and every three or so months we check on the antibodies to see if they’ve decreased. That’s another blood test.

My antibodies have decreased, but not quite enough, so we’ll be doing some fun stuff to fix the problem ‘definitively’ as my specialist says. Basically kill my thyroid gland. But you’ll hear about that later in the year.

What I wanted to say today was that it hit me how blessed I am to be in a country where the government is paying for all the blood tests I’ve had. Where I can go into a clean and safe place, and I have the choice of pathology centres so I can choose one that is convenient for whatever I happen to be doing that day, and I can have my blood taken quickly and easily (and mostly painlessly). The blood goes to a trustworthy laboratory and the results are available within the week.

All this is just amazing. A blessing beyond compare.

So yes, I’m sick. But I’m so grateful for the blessings in this country that mean that my illness is no more than a slight inconvenience.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world could work together to provide this kind of healthcare and safety to others? To the poor and needy?

On this International Women’s Day I am so aware of the women who can’t give birth safely, who can’t feed their families, who work themselves to the bone from age 5 or so to feed their parents and siblings, who have to carry water for kilometres in order to drink and cook with it. In short, all those who are so much worse off than me.

I encourage you today, if you can, to give a little – a few dollars, a coffee’s worth, to help some women somewhere in the world, and we’ll see if we can’t make this world a better place.