“Through my journey, I’ve met some of the most caring, compassionate and supportive people I’ve ever known,” shared Pesonen. “I’ve been touched deeply by people from around the world that I have never met, and never will. I’ve gotten to know medical researchers whose dedication to advancing medicine is paving the way for better treatment and patient outcomes. I have a newfound appreciation for my family and friends. Best of all, I’ve never felt better.”
Pesonen recalls what it was like to have her doctor tell her that she has Graves ’ disease.
“She explained that my blood work and nuclear medicine test showed I had an autoimmune disease that causes an overactive thyroid. Until then, I had no idea what that little butterfly gland in your neck even did, or why it was so important. Little did I know I was about to get an important lesson. And so began my seven year journey with Graves’ disease.”
What is Graves’ Disease?
According to Pesonen, common symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, heat intolerance, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle fatigue and lightheadedness.
“I experienced all of them,” she said. “Of the three treatment options available, I chose anti-thyroid medication. These medicines help return your thyroid hormone levels to normal. It took awhile but I began to feel well again. My symptoms disappeared, and I was home free. Or so I thought.”
Pesonen began to notice changes in her facial appearance and brought it to her endocrinologist’s attention.
“My endocrinologist had warned me to look for eye symptoms, such as an ache behind the eye, a gritty sensation on the surface, and worst of all, eye protrusion and eyelid retraction. Not all Graves’ patients experience eye complications. Looking at a vacation photo in March of 2006 left no doubt in my mind—I needed to see my doctor right away.”
And then Pesonen started looking for support as well as a way to give back.
“What I really wanted was to hear first-hand from people who were living with Graves’ Disease, coping with symptoms, and researching treatment options. I had so many questions. I thought, maybe I could help others through my own experience. So I decided to start a Graves’ Disease blog and shared my own story. Through blogging, it didn’t take long for me to realize how connected we are in a world made smaller by the internet.”
Pesonen said there are recurring themes to the questions and comments people post. Which inspired her to write a “Top five tips to share” to help newly-diagnosed patients.
“During treatment with medication I found it difficult to maintain normal thyroid hormone levels. My sputtering thyroid resulted in an ever-changing dosage of medicine. Some people have great success on medication, while others don’t. After seven years, I was ready for a change.”
“I’d gone to patient forums hosted jointly by the Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Foundation and the Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan. It was there I learned a lot about two other treatment options, including Radioactive Iodine treatment and thyroidectomy surgery. After getting a second opinion, and asking many patients about their experience with surgery, I made the decision to have my thyroid removed. I stayed on medication long enough to have normal labs, then scheduled my surgery. That was in December of 2012.”
Since then, Pesonen is feeling better. She is currently taking Synthroid, a replacement thyroid hormone, once a day.
“Graves’ Disease taught me a lot about myself, and even more about the generosity and compassion of others. Best of all, I’ve met wonderful people along the way. It is without question a life-altering experience. Today, I’m much stronger because of it. My road to today was filled with many ups and downs, but I am grateful to have the successful outcome I did. I hope I’ve helped even one more person by sharing my story during autoimmune disease awareness month.”
To learn more about Pesonen and her top five tips for newly-diagnosed patients with Graves’ Disease please click here.