January 22, 2017. To most, it was probably just an ordinary Sunday. You might have gone to church, slept in, had brunch or whatever else it is that you usually do on a Sunday. But for me, this day was going to change my life.
As I mentioned in my first post, I have dealt with anxiety for quite a few years and with it has come, off and on, some bowel issues. These always seemed to resolve during times when I wasn’t stressed so I didn’t really think much of it. When I had mentioned it to doctors over the years, they always seemed to dismiss it as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or possible lactose intolerance and told me to try lactade, which I did without much success.
Fast forward to November 2016 and I was in my longest stretch of abdominal pain I had ever been. There were some concerning new symptoms that prompted me to visit my doctor again. I was found to have a bladder infection, given some antibiotics, and sent on my way. However, December came around, my antibiotics were done, and I still wasn’t feeling much better. More tests and bloodwork were ordered to check for possible kidney stones and gall bladder problems but my doctor wasn’t convinced that this was the issue. “I would like to order some stool samples because I think the problem sounds like its your bowels, possibly Crohn’s or Colitis.” “Thank you!” I felt like shouting at her. Finally a doctor was going to take me seriously and order the necessary tests to get a diagnosis. Sure enough, the stool tests didn’t look good and I was quickly referred to a surgeon to do a colonoscopy. With the date set for February 8, all I could do now was wait.
Those of you who have had to go through health crises know that waiting for an important test is never fun. As my pain continued, I began to worry, “What if it’s cancer?” Having just seen my aunt pass away from colon cancer, I knew it wasn’t something that I wanted. God was definitely putting me through the biggest test of faith yet. I began to cry out to him for a Christmas miracle. The miracle of healing. Well, Christmas came and went and I was still in pain and waiting for my colonoscopy. I knew that I couldn’t just sit around waiting and worrying so I signed up to go on the Young Adults retreat with my church in January. About a week before the retreat, I ended up getting sick with what we assumed was the flu. After resting and taking a few days off work, I decided, though nervous, that I was well enough to go. Let me tell you, it was only by God’s grace that I made it through the weekend. He knew I needed to be there to hear the worship and messages. I remember the lyrics of the songs the first night literally bringing me to tears and convicting me of the fact that I was trying to face my pain alone rather than letting God in. The next night the speaker talked about hearing the voice of God. More conviction and confessing on my part. I had been far too good at talking to God and not good enough at listening for his reply.
I arrived home Sunday afternoon (January 22) exhausted, but glad that I had gone. I had some snacks and visited with my parents, but as the afternoon wore on, I began to feel increasingly unwell again. Taking a hot water bottle with me to bed, I expected to sleep this off. However, sleep never came. After vomiting and feeling no relief, I decided to check my temperature. 101.6. Yeah, I was in trouble. If this was indeed Crohn’s, I knew from my Uncle who has it’s experience that the symptoms I was having could be very dangerous. By 6:30 we were on our way to the hospital. Let’s just say, we knew things were pretty serious when they got me in within 45 minutes. I was sent for a CT scan which confirmed that I did indeed have Crohn’s disease. In fact, I had what is called a functional obstruction and full blown infection from an abscess. According to the ER doctor, I would definitely not be going home that night. For someone who has always been afraid of hospitals, this sounded like a line straight out of my worst nightmare, and yet God gave me a peace that sustained me through all the needles, doses of antibiotics, and the colonoscopy that I had during my 9 days there. I am sure it was no coincidence that my nurse my first day at the hospital happened to be a member of our church. My prayers of finally being able to feel his love and peace were being answered as cards and gifts from friends and family poured in and fellow Christians were found among other patients (a 99 year old one, in fact!). Five days in to my stay, exhausted from lack of sleep, I broke down and God once again proved his faithfulness by getting me transferred to a private room free of charge where I was able to stay until my discharge. This was definitely not what I had in mind, but God was sustaining and has continued to sustain me.
After coming home from the hospital, I was messaged by a girl from high school who also has Crohn’s and been on all the medications they are going to try me on. It’s amazing seeing how God begins preparing important connections for us years before we know we need them. I still hope for a miracle of complete healing. My journey with this disease has only just begun and there are some pretty scary medications that I would rather not have to be on long term. Avoiding surgery would also be nice. I am learning, however, that my job is just to tell God my fears, trust that he is in control, thank him for the ways he has come through in the past, is coming through in the present, and will come through again in the future, patiently waiting for his intervention.
To conclude… a passage that sums up the lesson I am learning:
“I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
-2 Corinthians 12:7-10