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?

Living.

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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