Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Continuing Saga-My Life Part 2

Within weeks of my birth, my pediatrician was concerned about my large head (yes, my sister lovingly referred to me as “bubblehead”). The doctor told my parents that I was probably a “water baby” and would be mentally retarded. At six weeks old, I underwent what is now considered to be a barbaric medical procedure, a pneumoencephalogram (trust me, you do not want to know). I was wrapped in a papoose, sedated, and then sedated again as I apparently was quite a little fighter! (Some things never change). And the procedure was performed. The test showed nothing except an “enlarged frontal lobe” and my parents were sent home with me and no more information.

I dealt with a lot of sickness as a child. Frequent stomach aches, fatigue, miscellaneous complaints of joint pain, headaches, etc. I got motion sick all the time. I caught every bug that came around. I had horrible allergies. I missed a LOT of school. I was diagnosed with my first ulcer in junior high, had my tonsils removed in 9th grade and spent many weeks in various braces or on crutches for different orthopedic conditions during high school. I am certain that my mother’s propensity for being a hypochondriac didn’t help matters any. I saw a few doctors, had many tests and several abnormal results, but nothing definitive.

When I became an adult I still dealt with fatigue and some occasional joint pain, and I hated not getting any answers from doctors, disliked taking medication, and never liked the doctor’s insinuations that I was crazy. In an effort to avoid being labeled a hypochondriac like my mom, I toughed it out and stopped going to the doctors for the most part unless absolutely necessary. I went through two rather difficult pregnancies and passed my 1st kidney stone while pregnant with my daughter; other than that things weren’t too bad.

Fast forward to 1998, Chad was doing well in his job as a union carpenter, and I was in the electrician’s union apprenticeship program. We were well on our way to having our best financial year ever, our marriage was growing stronger and the kids both were in school and daycare. We were living the “American Dream.” Exercise had given me more energy and helped me to be stronger for my job. I had been bodybuilding pretty seriously for about 2 years at this point and was in the best condition of my life. By most people’s standards our life was going well. And then the bottom fell out. In February of 1998, I started having some back pain. Within a couple of weeks it had gotten pretty bad. I assumed I pulled a muscle during a workout session, and cut back a little. Another week passed and the pain grew worse. I stopped working out all together.  After a couple of weeks of total rest, I was still in constant pain. It was getting hard to carry heavy tools, climb ladders and even sit for prolonged periods. Fatigue crept back in, which I attributed to my having stopped working out. In March I competed in a bench press contest that I had signed up for before the pain started. It would be the last time I would go to Gold’s Gym to work out. The period of time between March and May is a whirlwind of doctors and tests and bad news. All we really knew was that I was now in constant pain, and not just my back, but all of my joints. I suffered with debilitating fatigue, daily headaches and extreme, unexplained, weight loss. (I was down to about 90 lbs at my lowest). May 26, 1998 was my last day at work. Doctors had very few answers. We knew that it was some sort of autoimmune condition plaguing my body, but not much else.

Around this same time, God, who is rich in mercy, sent a faithful servant to the job site on which Chad had been working. Chad had been warned by fellow workers that this Jesus freak was coming and he talked about Jesus and the Bible all the time. If memory serves, they worked together, side-by-side for only two weeks. During that time Chad heard about Christ and was invited to church repeatedly. Chad would come home and tell me all about Christ. (I now find this amusing that God choose my unsaved husband to be the first to share the Gospel with me!) We were told to come to church for prayer. We were told stories of God’s miraculous healing powers. We were desperate. I felt horrible and we had tried everything else, so we packed up the kids and headed to church on the 3rd Sunday in June, 1998, ready to give this God-thing a try, and hoping to get our lives back to ‘normal’.

By this time I could barely walk. I was so weak I needed help to walk more than a few steps. I used a cane. Chad took over all the chores and shopping and most of the care of the kids while I found myself unable to get out of bed more than a few hours a day. Those were dark days. Doctors flat out told me they didn’t know my prognosis and had no clue if I would live or not.

We walked out of church that morning different.  We didn’t fully understand what we had just heard, but we both wanted to know more. We went there that day seeking a healing, but instead found The Healer. Our lives were forever changed. Within weeks, we were at church every time the doors were open. We couldn’t get enough of the Word of God. We had recognized our sinfulness, our utter hopelessness apart from Christ and need for repentance.

As I started to understand God’s word more and more, my dark days slowly started to get better. I started feeling physically better too, as the medicine helped to control the condition (which they have named many things over the years, but that is for a different post). Two months after our first visit to church we bought our first home to be closer to family because we needed the extra support. Just a couple of short months later, just before Christmas 1998, we withdrew our children from public school and began homeschooling them. One cannot truly put into words what one experiences when the Light of the World shines upon your heart and your eyes are opened to the Truth, but Chad and I had begun the journey to discovering what it meant to love selflessly. We no longer wanted both of us working constantly while someone else taught our children. Not knowing my prognosis gave me an urgent desire to spend as much time as possible with my children. It is amazing how clear your priorities become when you get a glimpse of the fact that tomorrow truly is promised to no one.

It has now been a little over 14 years since our first encounter with God. My! How far we have traveled; at times it seems we have chased our tails and gone in circles, but overall I am amazed at all that God has allowed us to go through in order that we might know and trust Him more fully. I won’t bore you with all the medical details, but I have been through a lot these past few years. I have had over a dozen surgeries, tried numerous medications, gone through more medical tests than most people will undergo in a lifetime, and been humbled to receive love, support and prayers from the Body of Christ as a whole. I will give you a rundown of what I currently deal with in the way of medical issues. Most significantly, in 2009 doctors found a 5 ½ inch long tumor in my abdomen. In order to get the tumor out, 7 inches of the nerve running down the front of my leg had to be removed, leaving my left leg partially paralyzed. I am able to walk with the use of a full-length leg brace. I am still suffering from an autoimmune disease, which doctors eventually decided was ankylosing spondylitis. I have more than a dozen bulging discs from spinal degeneration, leaving me in constant pain. I am currently dealing with numbness in both feet from inflammation in my lower spine as well. The underlying condition is also to blame for my ongoing stomach issues and my diagnosis of autoimmune inner ear disease (cause tinnitus and hearing loss). Along with all that I have the more common issues of high cholesterol and migraines, I have had 14 kidney stones and also mild heart palpitations, called PVCs.  (There may be more, but I don’t want to scare you off!)

Some days are harder than others, both physically and emotionally, but one thing that remains constant is the love of a Father who never lets me down like my earthly one did. I hope to share my journey through struggles, faith, understanding, and, well, just life! Hopefully God can use this blog to encourage both you and me in our walk for His glory and our sanctification.

Have a blessed day! Thanks for reading!

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