Friday, December 21, 2012

Receiving My Test Results

Well, today I received "bad" good news.  I followed up with my GI doctor to find out the results of the EGD from a few weeks ago.  The good news is that I don't have cancer, Chrohn's disease, celiac disease, or H. Pylori.  The bad news is that we still don't know why I am frequently sick and hurting.

All of my symptoms seem to point to the broad category of "Irritable Bowel Syndrome," which basically means I have a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms and the medical community has no idea what is causing them.  


What's my plan of treatment?  A strict diet called FODMAP.  Since I have already been avoiding high fat, processed, and sugary foods, it's not a lot different from what I have been doing already.  However, my food options are narrower, and I will have to go gluten free again.  Apparently, it's the most successful plan of treatment for IBS available right now.

I know I should be thankful for what I do not have, but right now, I'm just discouraged to have spent thousands of dollars this past year on vague answers and an even vaguer solution.  

Changing my diet again just means more hassle and effort when I already struggle with chronic exhaustion and down days.  Living on a tight budget, going gluten free again is not going to be fun.  It's expensive!  Anyways, you get the point.  I'm feeling overwhelmed right now, and this isn't what I had hoped to hear.

However, I have two choices today as I spend the last few hours I have before the world ends (I kid!).  

I can choose to feel sorry for myself or I can acknowledge that I am discouraged and move on.  Life will continue.  It looks like my chronic illness is here to stay apart from miraculous healing (which I will still pray for), but nothing has really changed.  God is still in control.  I am still His daughter.  Our world is still broken, but this life is just a vapor.  I can choose to lay on the couch and comfort myself with forbidden foods, or I can pray for the grace to keep going and choose to live.

I choose to live.

Not in my strength... but in His.

Maybe, IBS is not really bad news as it would seem but a reminder each and every day that this world is not my home... that as this body fades away, my spirit is being strengthened and prepared for the fulness of what is to come.  I will not let IBS sow bitterness in my heart.  I will look to Jesus and walk beside Him on the good days when I can walk and let Him carry me on the bad days when I am down. I will not let an illness define who I am.  I am the daughter of a King, dearly loved and on a mission to tell of a loving Father who did not spare His most precious Son because He loved us so much.  A Son who became human and suffered just as we suffer and who lived and died to set us free from what binds us now.  This Christmas, I will choose to live because of this Son... my Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Nursery Lesson

Pax is a dare devil.  This kid started standing up on things at six months old.  Fast forward to the present, almost nine months of age, Paxman is a rock star.  He resourcefully tests anything that can move and turns it into a push along walker.  For example, if his sissy is dragging a huge basket of toys across our wooden floors, you can bet that Pax will track her down, grab on, jerk himself up, and walk behind her as if he has been doing this all of his life.  Our little guy is dying to be as "big" as Abby.

Learning to walk is his goal from the time he wakes up until the time he crashes these days.

This morning, Pax was actually using his walker to practice walking.  Novel idea, huh?  He was fast tracking back and forth in his bedroom until he tried to push it out the very uneven door opening between his bedroom and the hallway.  Crash!  Somehow, Paxman flipped upside down and landed with his back legs in the air half dangling over his upside down walk behind.

He screamed in anger and in pain.  I picked him up and sat him in my lap to assess the damage.  Any bleeding?  Nope.  Any bruises?  Not yet.  Before I could continue my assessment, Pax had squirmed out of my arms and was squealing in rage at his walker and crawling back towards it in determination to finish the job he had started.  He was going to push that thing through the doorway.


Failure was unacceptable.

By the time Pax reached his walk behind, he was no longer growling in frustration, he was squealing with delight.  What had started as a huge disappointment had become an even more fun toy.  With the walker flipped upside down, Pax now had better access to the wheels.  He stood proudly beside them and spinned them with his tiny fingers as fast as he could and giggled.

An instagram of Paxman soaring past me in our bedroom the other day

Failure was forgotten as it unearthed something new.  Something better than he would have thought of on his own without it.

As I'm watching my son in amusement, a light bulb went off in my head.  The same happens to us.  Sometimes, we're going head on with life pursuing our agenda, our goals, our dreams, and everything flips on us unexpectedly.  We end up wounded and frustrated.  We cry out in anger at God for messing up "our plans."  In His goodness and grace, our Father God picks us up, heals our wounds, and feeling comforted, we plunge back forward and begin going again.  As we face our failures in His light, the shame we once felt begins to fade away, and in the wake of our tragedy, we discover something new.  We discover that our failures were actually paving the way for a greater story, a better one than we could have planned ourselves.  We learn that, indeed, all things work out for good for those who love God and who are called according to His purposes.

1 Peter 5:10 

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Go forth dear child of God.  Blaze the trail Jesus has placed you on.  Do not fear your failures.  God is bigger than they are.  Be afraid not to live.  Go forth.  Your Father is good.  He is watching and listening.  He will comfort you when you fall then He will set you back on His course again.  You are part of a great story, precious believer.  The greatest story of all time.  Your life may seem like a failure right now as you try to follow after Jesus, but at the end of time, we'll look back in confidence and say that His story was greater than anything we could have planned on our own.  So for now, do not fear.  


Go live for Him.

Micah 7:7-8 

But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Journey with Chronic Pain

My tummy hurts.  A lot.  I'm over it.

I try not to complain.  I try not to have a bad attitude about it.

But, I'm really ready for relief.

My stomach has pretty much ached nonstop for over a year and a half now.

Nights are the worst.

I am tired.

Best I can remember, it started a few months before my pregnancy with Pax, and I told myself back then it would go away after Pax's birth.  Fast forward to three months post Pax's birth, I'm still hurting, so a surgeon removes my gallbladder.  Thankfully, it stopped the terrible attacks that I was having every night, but the ache never went away completely.  My little guy is 8 months old now.

Some days, I hurt a little, and the pain is nothing more than an annoying nag.  Other days, it lays me on my bathroom floor in a crumpled heap, and I cry in frustration because I hate being unable to take care of my family as well as I want to.  Chronic pain stinks.

I've been poked test after test about a billion times now (ok, maybe that's a little dramatic)... it's only been a million times.  I'm a bizarre health freak of a person when I eat.  I watch fat grams like an anorexic, and so far, no medicine has erased the discomfort.  Only a hard jog or a heating pad seem to bring any relief.   Weird.  I've lost so much weight that most of my pants sag in my seat, and most of my shirts hang some kind of crazy loose on my frame.  Not cool.

My conversations with doctors have gone like this.

Generic Doctor: What are your symptoms?

I name every GI symptom imaginable.

Generic Doctor: What causes your symptoms?


Generic Doctor: What makes it better?

Blank stare.

Generic Doctor:  Do you think it is just gas?

Are you serious?  I've had two babies!!!  I'm not a wimp.

Generic Doctor: I'll order some blood tests.  Let's do a scope.

So... great.  More tests.  More medical bills.  No answers yet.

But, tomorrow is the day.  I'm scheduled for an EGD (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy).  Fun stuff.

I know.  I'm being sarcastic.  I'm borderline complaining about it all.  It's hard not to complain a little.  Being physically handicapped for almost two years is frustrating.

Maybe you're struggling with chronic pain or know someone else who is.   I want to share with you what I have learned.

Chronic pain does take its toll on you and those around you.  Pretending it's not difficult is just living in denial.  It is hard for everyone involved.  It's humbling and frustrating for the person experiencing it, and it is exhausting and annoying for those who love them and want to support them well.

I've learned that I must live life now.  I'm only guaranteed now.  Not tomorrow.  I've learned that life must continue, even when I don't feel amazing, and God's grace is enough to keep me going.  The tummy ache may stop one day, and it may continue until I die at the ripe old age of 98.  Who knows what the future will hold?  Only God.  Not me.

I've learned that I must, I mean absolutely must, spend time with Jesus every day.  I need His Spirit to help me to love others when all I want to do is think about me.  Reading His Word fills my soul with peace and fuels me to serve out of His overflow when I only feel empty.  On my bad days, God usually feels a thousand miles away, and I need Scripture to remind me of His truths like God's love never changes and that God's power is made perfect in weakness.

I've learned to invest in my family's lives and to invest in others out of obedience to Christ- how I feel is too fickle and fleeting.  I've learned that I can still be faithful to make disciples of others, even when I feel less than ideal.  Sometimes, the days when I feel the worst are the very days I have seen God use me to most effectively reflect His goodness and glory.  That's pretty incredible stuff.  God is so good to use us, even at our worst.  

I've learned to simplify my life, my schedules, and re-shift my priorities to get rid of the excess that I never really needed anyway.  God gives us the grace we need to live out each day, and if we are totally maxed out EVERY day before we go to bed, maybe we are living our lives outside of His grace and are doing more than He has asked us to do.

I've learned to be flexible and to rest when needed.  I'm a type A, check off my list, and never budge from my schedule kind of person, and my chronic illness isn't considerate of my plans.  Bad days come and go unexpectedly, and I've had to learn to allow life to ebb and flow around them.  I've also surrounded myself with flexible people that understand when I have to cancel or postpone dates last minute.  There's a saying I like to tell myself, "Those that matter don't mind and those that mind don't matter."  People who truly care about me know that I am responsible and care about them too but that being chronically ill sometimes comes at inconvenient times.  In a way, a chronic illness can help weed out shallow relationships.  Fair weather friends are really not great friends at all.

Tomorrow, I'd appreciate prayers. 

After almost two years of not being "normal" anymore, I am ready to have a diagnosis and a plan of treatment.  Pray that the EGD is helpful and that the anesthesia doesn't completely kick my tail.  Pray that the procedure goes well and that the medical team that will be performing it is skilled and kind.  I have a history of debilitating nausea and vomiting following any anesthesia at all, and I am pretty much dreading tomorrow in every way.  Please pray that the anesthesiologist is able to help me control the unpleasant post-op symptoms and that I can leave the recovery area at a reasonable time.  Pray that God would give grace to my family as they cope with me being out for the day.

Thank you.  I believe that God is powerful and a healer.  Prayer matters.  Thank you for joining in my journey.

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