Karen Graham, Contributor
Thyroid Nation

How to Live Through a Chronic Illness Relapse.

Sometimes, during a chronic illness, you will find yourself feeling quite well; “Tip Top”…“On Form”, if you will. It’s possible you will regain strength. You may be vibrant, clear thinking and task-orientated. You may resume physical activities, social engagements, and hobbies. This is not a bad thing. This is great. But may I advise…. approach any vigor with caution.

Recently, I started working out, after many years of not having the energy, or the inclination to walk 2 flights of stairs on most days. I rejoined the gym, and along with my husband I started a 1-hour workout that included a 15-minute stretch/yoga session, and 15 minutes of gentle aquasize/Aqua Zumba; three times a week. My workouts alternated between seated elliptical or static bike and weights.

Consider this: In my teens, I took three; 2-hour karate classes each week. One; 2-hour ballroom dancing class, and I rode my horse at least four times a week for 2 or more hours. I kept the field and stable clean and I rode my bicycle 20 miles on a Saturday.

It’s not like I came from a sedentary background. But getting back into the gym was a huge accomplishment for me, considering my health of late.

So, I made my return and I was going great guns, too. I even ventured into the gym on a 3rd and 4th day some weeks. I managed 3 months, missing only 2 sessions. I’m not going to lie. I often felt like a sack of crap the next day. But it was improving my strength and fitness, so I persevered. I felt extremely proud of myself. Hell, I even treated myself to a gym specific cell phone case and new work out clothes.

Then I got an infection. And Another infection. Swollen glands all over the back of my head and neck. I still have no diagnosis for that. My latest flare put me out of action for 3 weeks. The 1st of which I spent a fun-filled time in the bathroom after attempting the first 3 pills, from a 10-day course of antibiotics.

Needless to say, I took no more pills after that 3rd one. My doctor ran my C-Reactive Protein (CRP) blood test and it was up to 20. Much higher than it should be. But not a surprise. My T3 and T4 were both on the low side, even at 210 mg of NDT daily, split into two doses.

I was adding D3 at 5,000 daily and additional Ferritin. Aside from my thyroid levels, my other hormone levels were not stable either. My TSH was at 0.03! After this recent relapse, I’m still struggling with my spelling and speech. I’m jumbled, cannot think of the words to describe things. My memory has taken a small beating.

What does all this mean?

I took it as a warning to only work out 3 times a week maximum (or whatever works for you). For no more than an hour and a 10-minute yoga session to stretch out afterward. Don’t push too hard. And stop trying to impress yourself.

I haven’t tried to impress anyone else in at least 3 years. I discovered that I was more important than an entire world full of other people.

As quickly as you can regain pseudo-composure and normality, it is a sign that you can be back in the doldrums twice as quickly. After all, when was the last time any of us with a chronic illness actually felt 100% normal/OK/well? Our highs are considerably less great than someone who is not, or never has been ill.

I was actually starting to feel very low during my latest crash. I mean sad, unhappy, depressed almost. That hadn’t happened since I commenced NDT in 2013. I felt that I had possibly unstabilized my medication. The medicine I was taking as a sedentary person, now needs a total re-evaluation. I have completed the blood work to re-evaluate my levels and I will attend an appointment with my Bio-Identical Hormone team in late March. It takes over a month for some of the blood panels to be returned. At least here in Alberta. Of course, that means a $350 fee!

I knew I wasn’t invincible. But I was feeling hopeful that I may be on the right track, that the exercise was increasing my endorphins, metabolic rate and natural hormone output, therefore aiding my chronic illness recovery. Now I know I need to track and adjust my panels very carefully when adding or decreasing activity.

What I found out was that I was pushing too hard on the leg raises and I had probably taken one too may visit to the Steam Room. It was a massive learning curve. But it was just that. An educational experience. Something to be noted and learned from. A minor bump in the road. But during those 3 weeks of inability with feelings of weakness and failure, I felt like the jackhammer trying so very hard to resurface that very road, was breaking me apart.

I’m back in the gym now. OK, I’m on a decreased work out plan, but I’m feeling much improved, again full of positivity. And now I’m aware of the signs to slow or temporarily rest, I will be taking advantage of knowing them.


However invincible you feel today, you should always limit your activities and engagements. Level out. Take at least a day to recover after each physical activity or social outing.

It’s this simple; Don’t try and lift 200 lbs and run a marathon, when you can’t even stand up without pain, first thing in the morning.

Listen to your body. Go with your gut. Feeling off, weak, or less than able, is your human mechanism telling you to slow it the heck down, Bucko! Do enough to stabilize and maintain, increase if you feel able. BUT if you feel less than able, take a break. Regain your composure. Re-evaluate and re-structure. It’s all about give and take; being able when you can and not about forcing yourself both physically and mentally when you clearly cannot.

Chronic illness does not have to ruin your life. I won’t let it ruin mine.

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About the Author

Karen-Graham-ProfileKaren Graham HNC, was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s in 2013, Lupus in 2014 and Cushing’s Syndrome in 2015, all after
becoming chronically ill in 2011. On reflection, Karen now realizes that symptoms of her illness that she can remember, began as early as age nine. She has a background in Hairdressing, is Certified to teach Esthetics and studied Anatomy & Physiology and body treatments as part of her HNC in Esthetics/Beauty Therapy, which she gained at Kilmarnock College in Scotland. Her hobbies include writing a music blog as and looking after her Bantam Bulldog family. Articles by Karen are all written using personal experiences. All rights reserved. No use without express permission of the author.

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