My journey through illness has been long and hard, and while it’s changed me I haven’t truly allowed it to slow me down. There have been certain things that I have been forced to modify, but I thought that if I could keep my pace, continue my career, be all things that are supposed to comprise a person in life, it somehow meant that I was winning this battle. I was still me.
But that’s no longer the case. Yesterday I was sitting in the IV room at my doctor’s office, receiving a two hour amino acid drip. I receive these twice per week, and historically I would have had my head buried in my computer, multitasking and working away. Much of my life has been spent this way – multitasking and working away.
Yesterday was different. There was a man sitting next to me, also receiving an IV, who needed to talk. He had been struggling with unexplainable loss of function of his arms, legs, and eyes for some time and had started blacking out. No one could help him or tell him what was happeneing, until he found my doctor, and he was now recovering and doing well.
He needed to tell his story, and I realize that I needed to listen. I reminded him that there is support everywhere in this world, and he reminded me that I’m not alone. There are so many people suffering, and I’m no longer content keeping my head buried in the computer to make sure I get my work done, while sitting amongst suffering that I might help ease, even if only a little.
I’ve read of many with serious illness over the years write of the gifts they have gained through disease. People with cancer have said that if they could change things, remove the cancer and continue living the life they had before it, they wouldn’t go back. Even on their death beds. I can say the same of my journey. I have panicked and struggled and fought it for so long thinking I had to in order to remain me. But it’s through this process that I have actually found myself.
I was forced to peel away the nonessential, instead focusing my limited energy on the truly important things. My family and my faith matter to me. Helping people matters to me. Everything else has been a distraction for too many reasons to list. I no longer have time to analyze or even care about the why’s.
This doesn’t mean that I want to be sick; it means that I like my life more now, even with these challenges, than I ever did before. I have more peace and love, and on most days I have more faith than fear.
How did it all start? I had a horrible case of food poisoning in Belize in 2005. I thought I was going to die. I was delusional and dizzy and was throwing up with diarrhea for days. Someone gave me some white pills that helped, and I eventually recovered and returned to the states.
The following year my immune system went haywire. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease, and my digestive system just sort of stopped working. I couldn’t work for over a year and stayed in bed most of the time. There were a lot more diagnoses and related conditions and doctors and treatments. It’s been a long road to recovery, and I thought I was mostly there, but realize that those parasites from that food poisoning have probably been with me all along as things have now reached a point of crisis with infection, inflammation, and significant weight loss.
But would I go back? I can’t say I would, even as I stand in the unknown. The unknown is a scary place, and I have to remind myself constantly that it doesn’t mean something terrible will happen. People get better all the time, like my new friend Darren, who received an IV next to me yesterday.
I was supposed to meet my board of directors today for some meetings and a big dinner. Instead, I am getting a colonoscopy and endoscopy. There were new developments yesterday and my GI doctor asked me to come in today for these procedures. Life is truly what happenes while you are making other plans.
I humbly ask for prayers as I go through the procedures, for my safety but also that she finds useful information that will help me heal. I’ve maybe been too obsessed with finding answers and am struggling to live in this unknown space. It reminds me that none of this is in my hands but God’s. Today I strive to remember I am subject only to God’s laws, and his vision is greater than mine. I have faith in his plan.
I think we all need support, someone to listen and provide advice and lessons learned, because it’s not just my path. It’s all of ours, and suffering is eased through community support and shared wisdom.
I thought I would lose myself through disease but realize I have become a more authentic me I may never have otherwise known. I would like to hear stories from others about illness and the rollercoaster of emotions and life changes that it can bring. I promise to pray for everyone that writes on this blog or to me personally, and I humbly ask that each of you do the same for me.