The story of my Graves disease and how it has affected my life and my family – Dan Beresford
In 2019 I planned to have a big year on the bike and to target the Crocodile Trophy which was my big goal in October. The year was going well and my racing was the best its ever been. I got so fit I finally won my masters category and got 8th Overall at the AMB100 in Canberra, also coming second overall in the bigfoot marathon 2 weeks earlier.
So I was very much ready for the 8-day stage race in Queensland called the Crocodile Trophy (the longest-running MTB marathon stage race in the world).
I had an absolute cracker of a race by winning 7 stages in my Category but suffering a mechanical on stage 3 cost me a 5 hr time penalty. I managed to claw my way back up the GC standings by the end of the race and stood on the podium in second place in my Category and 19th overall. A far cry from my 4th Overall in the 2017 and first Australian!
Dan Beresford presenting the winners of the 2019 Crocodile Trophy with oil paintings he created for the event.
I found myself not wanting to ride the bike anymore…
But after the race things started to go downhill from there and having the same desires in life I always had just diminished.
I found myself not wanting to ride the bike anymore and doing the things I normally loved to do was now a burden on my life. I found work really tough to deal with and over the next few months my body started to change in ways I could not explain.
I would get terribly sore leg muscles and they would be so painful I would struggle to get out of bed in the morning which sometimes I would have to crawl to eventually get myself off the ground. This would come and go but eventually, it started to affect my work throughout the days as I’m a Motor Technician and being on my feet all day was just unbearable.
I soon found myself suffering from insomnia and only having 1 hr sleep a night for about 2 months just crippled me.
But I always shrugged it off and told myself I am just run down and need to rest but it never got better.
I soon suffered cold sweats at night, and I would just wake up soaked to the bone with no explanation.
I would suffer terrible anxiety and I was a terrible Dad as my patience would run thin with my Girls. My girls would always hate me coming home because I was always cranky, and the smallest thing would set me off.
Soon depression set in and I was in denial about it as I always thought I had control of my life. I can remember just breaking down in tears at work and feeling the weight on my shoulders was just too great. I felt trapped and isolated from life and I seriously just wanted to die sometimes.
Now those thoughts were not normal but I found myself thinking it. I was at the lowest of lows at this point and every day was a struggle just to function and groundhog day was real. I had to work to feed the family and pay my mortgage but my family never knew what I was going through.
In his spare time, Dan creates incredible oil paintings that capture scenes of mountain biking, running and the Australian landscape.
This went on for months but one day I decided to dust off the cobwebs on my mountain bike and I took a slow ride along the river in Wagga. I noticed on my Wahoo computer that my heart rate was 200BPM? I thought it was playing up so I stopped and checked my pulse, yep it was racing like crazy as my maximum recorded heart rate was only 195BPM!
That night I checked my resting heart rate and found it around 75-80BPM, my real resting rate is 42 when fit.
I had also lost 8KG without even training or any exercise which was crazy to me.
I then said to myself “that’s it!”. Off to the doctors, I went and I told him everything that was happening.
He quickly got blood tests done and within 2 days I got called in to see him and go over my results. “You have Hypothyroidism!” he said.
Hypothyroidism is where your own body attacks your Thyroid and upsets the hormone levels in your body. I suppose the best way to describe the thyroid is that it is like your computer for your body, just like your car has a computer to keep it running fine.
I then went to see a specialist and was getting ultrasounds and scans to check my thyroid and see what’s going on. It comes to my attention that I have now been diagnosed with Graves Disease!
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). Although a number of disorders may result in hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease is a common cause.
I noticed on my Wahoo computer that my heart rate was 200BPM?
Oil paint on canvas by Dan Beresford
I started on drugs to block the overproduction of my hormones and every month I get a blood test and adjust the medication as needed. After a few weeks, I started sleeping and feeling a lot better in myself and I was starting to see life different again. I started to feel happy again and my relationship with my wife and kids dramatically changed for the better. I wanted to live and do things again, be with my girls and do the simple things in life that felt impossible before.
My doctor says I would have been dealing with this disorder for a while, even for a couple of years now but something set it off. Maybe the physical and mentally tough race like the Crocodile Trophy just tipped me over the edge.
Graves is not common in men but it can be inherited and it just so happens my Grandmother had it.
Life has certainly thrown a curveball but I’m determined to live with this and get my life back. Graves will stay with me and may come back but if the medication doesn’t work down the track surgery may be an option, but I don’t want my thyroid taken out.
I feel great now but I still have some bad days but they are getting less and less as the drugs do their job. I finally got motivated to ride a bike again and started dreaming of doing the 2021 Croc Trophy which is a passion of mine. I’ve not felt this for a while and I feel within myself that things are looking better every day. I’m very unfit but that just makes me more determined to be back where I was 12 months ago. You never know, I might be fitter than I ever was?
I feel great now but I still have some bad days but they are getting less and less as the drugs do their job.
Dan Beresford during the 2019 Crocodile Trophy.
The biggest life lesson I have learnt out of this debilitating condition is, no matter how fit you are, how healthy you eat and being fitter than the most average person is that we never know our real future and what life has for us. I will take on these hurdles in life and I will never give up, as I know I will get better. Cycling is my passion and the support I have had from my sponsors during this time is wonderful as Blackchrone has had my back during this trying time!
I see life different again now and I smile every day but finding my passion for cycling and racing again has lit the fire again!
Onwards and upwards!
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I hope someone may take something away from my story and Its ok to talk to someone as sometimes when you feel bad it may not just be a bad day but maybe something more dramatic! Just talk to your doctor if life seems a struggle.