Author  & Topic Introduction

My name is Luana Shafer and I am a recent MA graduate in Professional Writing and Rhetoric from George Mason University. During my MA program, I developed an interest in the rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) field, specifically in ways to study the rhetoric of Graves' disease.

After my mom was diagnosed with Graves' disease (hyperthyroidism), an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid, in early 2017, I began to research the rhetoric of patient experience with diagnosis and symptom explanations. This led into a thesis and seminar paper specifically on the rhetoric of Graves' disease and patient experiences during their diagnosis process, building out of an IRB-approved study of interviews I conducted with those who have experience with the condition.

Some of the things I found most interesting in this research were the positive outlooks many patients have with the disease and the determination to make their "new normal" as similar to their previous lifestyle as possible. Especially within the Graves' community, many patients enter into discussions with positive energy and hope for the future by not allowing the illness to define their life and character.

Of course, the research raised more questions than answers in some ways as well. Big questions still loom for me, such as: how have medical advances in the treatment of Graves', such as radioactive iodine (RAI) therapy, changed the patient experience? I was able to interview patients who were treated mainly with anti-thyroid drugs (ATD) such as methimazole, but more recent studies suggest that RAI is a more reliable and permanent form of treatment for patients suffering from hyperthyroidism. Does this treatment improve patient care and experience and what are the, if any, drawbacks with this more permanent treatment?

I plan to continue this work in the RHM field and expand on my thesis topic in the future. I'm looking forward to beginning some conversations with my Special Social Media Session as well.

Consider reading these posts.

Social Media Special Session: Reflections and Community Engagement
Social Media Special Session: Graves’ Disease Research
STC HealthMed on Social Media

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