In honor of National Thyroid Awareness Month Jessica Gabbard recently took some time to share about her thyroid journey, as well as her crusade to help educate people about Graves’ thyroid eye disease.
Q: Please share your thyroid journey from diagnosis, to treatment.
A: I was officially diagnosed in April 2009 after months of my heart constantly racing, rapid weight loss like anywhere from 15+lbs a month. There was a more visible symptom that was what had eventually convinced me to get tested. My eyes were protruding very badly.
Doctors suspected Graves ’ disease, also with the Eye Disease, then after taking my blood pressure and seeing it was 200/40, they told my mom to take me to the E.R. immediately, that I was going into a thyroid storm, which can be life-threatening. There they ran more tests, got me on medicine to try to lower my blood pressure & heart rate, and also said they suspected Graves’ Disease. The tests came back and it was conclusive, it was Graves’.
Q: What do you want to say to readers who have thyroid and autoimmune conditions like Graves?
A: To keep going to your doctor to keep your levels in order. Also, finding a good support system for what you’re going through. Families and friends are great but sometimes, to be able to talk with others who know almost exactly what you’re going through, can really make all the difference.
Q: Who has helped you through your journey to being a healthy, better person?
A: First and foremost, God definitely. My boyfriend Jeff has also been there for me before and after being diagnosed.
Q: What do you hope people take away from your story?
A: Obviously my prime message that I’d like to get out there is that if you haven’t already, to please get tested. Also, never give up. This disease does not have to define us or how our lives will end up. We can still be happy and live our lives to the max. Always be grateful for your life and everything you have. It can all be taken away in an instant.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add that I didn't ask?
A: I love raising awareness for this disease and so far since finding this peace and faith within myself, and acceptance of this disease, I have started a Graves Disease & Thyroid Awareness & Support Group on Facebook.
With the help of several others this past summer we held a benefit to raise Awareness for Graves’ Disease and other thyroid-related disorders. All profits made were given to The Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Foundation which will help in educating, support & helping to fund research.
In 2013 we will continue to raise support with the second annual motorcycle run, scheduled for August 10. I’d like to thank Theo Rossi and Kim Coates who are on ‘Sons of Anarchy’ as well as Jimmy Kay with ‘Two Wheel Thunder TV.’ They have been such a support and encouragement to me in raising awareness.
I would also like to thank all my friends and family who have been there for me since being diagnosed, but also those who supported and helped in making the first Annual Graves Disease & Thyroid Awareness ride successful. Without all that help and support from so many wonderful people, it never would've happened.