When University of Colorado student Michaela Cui dropped from 120 to 85 pounds, her doctors lectured her about being anorexic.
“I told them I wasn’t and I would eat and eat, I would eat huge bowls of ice cream,” she said to Lakes District News.
Then other symptoms led doctors to diagnose her with Graves Disease in 2010, an auto-immune disorder that leads to over activity of the thyroid gland and includes symptoms of hyperactivity, depression, excessive sweating, heat intolerance, weight loss despite increased appetite and muscle weakness.
With treatment Cui said that she is feeling much better but said she still has her good days and her bad days.
After graduating from the University of Colorado with an aerospace engineering degree this spring Cui embarked on another challenge. She decided to complete a 3,000 mile charity bike ride which she called ‘Greater than Graves’ to raise funds for the Graves Disease and Thyroid Foundation.
Cui’s friend Chris Dougna, who also recently completed a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Colorado decided to join her on the ride.
Cui’s mom Debra is driving a support vehicle during the 3,000 mile route from Anchorage, Alaska to San Francisco.
“I want to let other people know that being diagnosed with Graves Disease doesn’t mean you have to just sit back and do nothing, you can get outside …… having Graves Disease is a hardship and it effects everything even your mental well being but you can continue on with your life. There are a million other things worse than Graves Disease so you have to make the best of what you got,” Cui said.
To date Cui said they have managed to raise approximately $6,000 but more important to her is the awareness they are raising and talking to others about the disease.
“You can’t pay for awareness,” she said.
“It was a challenge just getting used to riding 150 kilometres a day,” Cui said.
“With Graves Disease my muscles are also weakened so I don’t get as fit as Chris does, and I ride at a slower pace …. you just have to get through each day,” she said.
The longest day so far had been the ride from Haines Junction to Haines.
“It was an 11 hour day of riding ….the ride was uphill for 10 hours and downhill for one,” laughed Dougna.
“When you are biking through you have to stop,” Cui laughed.
Motels in a number of towns have donated rooms to them for the night otherwise they pitch a tent.
The pair arrived in Burns Lake last Tuesday and spent Wednesday relaxing and gearing up to begin the remainder of their ride.
A room was not donated to them in Burns Lake, so they chose to camp at the Burns Lake Municipal Campground.
“Hungry Hill was a challenge,” said Dougna. After leaving Burns Lake the pair planned to ride to Fort Fraser, down to Prince George and then to Whistler and Vancouver.
“We plan to end the ride after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco ….. what better ending is there than that ….. I have always wanted to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge,” said Dougna.
To follow the ‘Greater than Graves’ ride or to help by donating go to www.greaterthangraves.com.