The year 2019 is almost over. Yay! I am so excited to start something new. Like the previous year, 2019 was full of health challenges that affected my work, hobbies, and mental health.
The last two years have been challenging. In 2018 I was diagnosed with Graves Disease. The year had me battling with thyroid hormones playing ping pong with my mind and body. My endocrinologists, I had two, put me on various medications, none of which seemed to work. My autoimmune system raged on attacking my thyroid, causing it to pump out hormones that cause anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, exhilaration, weight loss, etc. I had lost 30 pounds by the time of my surgery later that year.
I was dealing with this while starting with a new client on Wall Street, New York City. It was tough going. I broke down in tears one day, sitting on a Manhattan sidewalk, unable to move. The hormones had left me unable to move. I waited until I could move, speaking with my wife, who was desperate to help but could not as she was home in Princeton. Two days later, I was in the emergency room under observation for several hours. Fun times!
My healthcare team determined that the best course of action was a thyroidectomy. At the end of 2018, a surgeon slit my throat and removed my thyroid. The surgery was a success, but now I could look forward to the life of pill-popping Synthroid. Yay!
Recovery from that surgery was progressing nicely, but in 2019 when it rained, it led to torrential flooding. My immune system moved on from my thyroid to my eyes. The attack had started earlier in 2018, but we could only deal with one problem at a time. The Graves Eye Disease worsened in 2019, leading to proptosis; a fancy word for my eyes was bugging out of my head, Quasimodo style, which is not like Gangnam style.
The doctors tried treatment with medication, but the situation worsened, and in April of this year, just a week before my father died, I was treated with radiation and high dose steroids. For six weeks, my attentive, loving wife drove 90 minutes from our home to Philadelphia to the Will Eyes Institute in Philadelphia. Then she went me to work, where I did my best not to fall asleep. I was exhausted.
The mask they made for the treatments made me feel claustrophobic and anxious, so I was given a dose of Xanax for each and every visit. I was not allowed to drive.
My dad died during my second week of treatment. “If you stop your treatments now, you could make things worse”. I was not able to attend Dad’s funeral in the Caribbean. My hair fell out, and the skin around my eyes looked like a bad sunburn. All that weight I lost from the thyroid disease returned. Thank you, high dose steroids!
I started to see a therapist. I was struggling to think positive. We brainstormed about using exercise, but it’s hard to exercise when I have low energy, and I am exhausted from radiation treatments and the effects of steroids on my diabetes. We talked about using my photography to reduce stress, so I started doing more street photography since I walked around Center City between treatments anyway.
June came around, and I was told that the next course of treatment was orbital decompression surgery to reduce the pressure inside my eyes sockets. The eye muscles were swelling and putting pressure on my optic nerve, and there was a danger of blindness. The surgery would be scheduled for the first week of September. There were certain risks, but what could I do? I accepted the risk.
After surgery, I developed strabismus, a misalignment of both eyes, causing me to see double. Argh!!!
I was told the strabismus was temporary, but if it did not resolve on its own, “We can correct that”, said the surgeon. But we can’t do any more surgeries right away. I had just had surgery. I would have to wait until December, but with any luck, it could resolve itself. It did not.
Weeks and then months go by. I couldn’t drive. Well, I could have, but since I could see adequately only from just under two feet from my face, driving would indeed have been disastrous. Bhavna was back to driving me around to doctor appointments. The client reluctantly agreed to let me work from home. They don’t usually offer that to consultants. Without transportation, I was stuck inside by myself staring at a screen, unable to go out and interact with people. Unable to go hiking. By the end of each day, I was emotionally wiped.
Last week, on 18th December, I had my previous eye surgery for 2019. My strabismus was corrected, and a few weeks after recovery, I will be able to drive, go hiking, take my camera around the area. Relief. I have been released from my 14-week imprisonment.
I nearly wasn’t able to complete the CSA CCSK study course I started in August. I had to ask for an extension. I finally finished the course on Sunday. For the two weeks after surgery, I had spent the weekend mornings and afternoons watching the training videos and taking tests. So, good riddance 2019.