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Ride the Bumps

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Hallelujah. The medicine must be working because today I managed to put money into the parking meter before simply walking away -- like I did twice this past month to the tune of $50. Well -- er -- slight confession: I did walk away, but then somehow I remembered my mistake while only halfway down the block. The parking police have no mercy, this I know from experience.

So much has been slipping my mind these days. I really thought I was going nuts at 46 years old, and frankly, I'm being kind with the adjective.

The good news is that I have not crossed the threshold of insanity. The more distressing news is that I have Graves disease, an autoimmune disease where your thyroid produces too much hormone. Forgetfulness has actually been the least of the symptoms. Hyperthyroidism causes jitteriness, which explains why I broke a favorite coffee mug and wedding plate, both on the same night. Drat. Why was I so darn hot at night? The kind of hot no fresh air or nakedness cools. Why were my eyes stinging and how come my skin hurt when lying on 400-threadcount sheets? And why oh why was I so anxious, unable to speak on the phone because I had trouble catching my breath? My heart raced and jumped even while sitting still. Why, too, was I dropping weight, suddenly fitting into pants I hadn't worn in three years? Okay, I could live with this side effect because I ate ice cream every day and still the pounds fell away.

I am lucky that I have a manageable problem, a condition that will be treated with medicine and perhaps some holistic care, too. Lots of people live completely normal lives with Graves. And I'm expected to fall into this category. Still... Having a diagnosis, a real disease, is jarring. Somehow I don't feel as young and vibrant because I am at the middle place in life where things happen. Minor bumps along the road if you're fortunate, worse if life takes another turn. I am trying hard to keep my confidence even though I still don't feel like my old self. My job is this: to shift my mindset from patient to person.

Yesterday, I was catching up with a dear college friend and I asked about her rheumatoid arthritis, also an autoimmune disease. "Oh, I forgot all about it," she answered, half-surprised herself by her response. Once it had preoccupied her every waking day, stressing her to the max even though stress exacerbates any autoimmune disease. This is especially true for women, who according to WedMD "make up nearly 8 of every 10 people with an autoimmune disorder."

Here's the point: When life puts a bump in the road, you've got to grind the gears, sidestep the potholes as smoothly as possible, and keep going forward. If my friend was able to move away from the grip of her condition, then so can I.

Any sort of health scare triggers old fears for me, memories of my first husband's diagnosis of brain cancer and the nearly seven rollercoaster years that followed. His cancer began in the most innocuous of ways -- with hiccupping and burping. I wouldn't even call this a bump, more like a tick. That is... until things turned very badly, and he developed grotesque and terrifying symptoms. I never want to relive this time.

Which is all the more reason not to put the brakes on, but to live as before... in the precious present.

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