“I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” –Blessed Mother Teresa
It’s been a rough two years for me. I’ve had some health problems, and no one has really been able to help. My doctors have all shuffled me from one to the other, all claiming that my problems were not their problems (professionally speaking). I went from never feeling bad, to feeling bad every couple of months. I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), Epstein Barr Virus, severe vitamin deficiency, and–my personal favorite–depression. All were treated (I even had a surgical procedure for the PCOS), yet I never felt better. I would be healthy and energetic for a few months, then I would get sick for a few months.
Then, shortly after my grandfather’s death, I woke up one morning extremely dizzy, with blurred vision, a pounding in my head, muffled hearing, and left-sided numbness. I got out of bed, then fell against a wall. As scary as that episode was, it was the best thing that could have happened. It sent me to the ER–which found nothing. I was told that I had an anxiety attack. (I don’t know how one wakes up with anxiety–apparently that was one hell of a nightmare.) But, the ER doctor had me follow-up with a neurologist a few days later, who ran a battery of testing, including MRIs, CT scans, a VEP, and a lumbar puncture.
After one month of testing and waiting, I finally got an answer last week. The neurologist came into the examination room, looked at my husband and myself, and proceeded to show us numbers and test results that I didn’t understand. But, even though I didn’t understand his medical terminology, I did understand his facial expressions. His face betrayed his professionalism; he had bad news. What was his “bad news?”
I have multiple sclerosis.
He waited for me to fall apart–I didn’t. He waited for tears–there were none. I actually smiled. He probably thinks I’m crazy. It’s okay…the jury’s still out on that one anyway. Of course I smiled, how could I not? I had been told for years that nothing was wrong with me. In my heart I always knew that there was something; I always knew that the doctors were missing something big. Now, I had an answer. It wasn’t an opinion, it wasn’t a maybe, it was a definitive diagnosis, complete with scientific proof to back it up.
So, my response was a simple one. “Okay. What do we do now?”
He began to talk about specialists, medications, more testing. While he was writing notes all over my file, I was concentrating on a small plaque on the wall. Now, I’ve been in many different doctor’s offices over the past few years, and besides our local Catholic hospital, none have ever had anything spiritual in the rooms. So, it really caught my attention when I saw this quote:
“Lay your burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain you; never will He allow the upright to stumble.” (Psalms 55:22)
There was something extremely comforting about this quote being in my doctor’s office. Just a few days earlier, I had prayed that God would send me faithful doctors–doctors that surrender to Him, who know that they are instruments of Him, not gods themselves. It was as though God was showing me that those prayers were being answered.
Since that appointment, I have felt peace. I now have an answer; all of the pieces of my medical puzzle are finally falling into place. I am confident that this is all part of God’s divine plan for me, whatever that may be. I know He is with me, especially when I feel most alone. And, I know with Him, I will be fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some moments of fear, and I have had moments of sadness. It’s hard not to get sorrowful when you see terms such as chronic illness, daily injections, IV infusions, etc. It’s hard not to be fearful when you see that you can possibly end up blind or lose the use of one of your limbs. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But it needs to be swallowed. This is my life now. I’m not ignorant to what this disease is. I’ve researched it extensively in the last week, and I plan on continuing to research. I firmly believe knowledge is power, and I plan to be a multiple sclerosis scholar.
I will fight this thing. As of now, there is no cure for MS, but there are medications that I can take and lifestyle changes that I can make to slow down the progression of the disease. I’m a stubborn woman (just ask The Husband), and I already know how to fight (I’ve been fighting for The Older Boy for years), now I’m just going to have to make myself a priority. And, to be honest with you, that will be the hardest part. I’m so used to doing so much for others, often denying myself, that this will definitely be a change. I’ll have to rest when my body tells me to, make time for exercise, and give up my pride and say “no” sometimes. I am not Super Woman, and I cannot do it all. (Maybe this is God’s way of showing me that?)
I am so incredibly fortunate. I have an amazing support system of family, friends, and–of course–my wonderful Men In Black. Actually, the same day that I got my diagnosis, The Husband and I went to see our priest, where I received the Anointing of the Sick, Communion, and ashes–yes, I got my diagnosis on Ash Wednesday, how’s that for a start to Lent? I have been told by countless people that they have been praying for me, and that is incredibly humbling. There is no greater thing we can do for each other than pray. To know that others (some even strangers to me) have spoken to God about me fills my heart with an indescribable warmth. I found out that one of my CCD students has me as her prayer petition when she prays with her family each night. Wow…I have no response to that. What a beautiful, beautiful child! A woman who works at The Younger Boy’s school came up to me, gave me a big hug, and gave me her sympathies–I didn’t even know who she was. The Older Boy’s CCD class prayed for me. My grandmother’s rosary group prayed for me. My priests are praying for me. My family is praying for me.
With that kind of support and love, how can I be sad? I am honored. I am humbled. I am grateful.
I know, with God’s help, I will get through this–whatever His definition of “through this” is. As a good priest friend reminded me, “Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.’ (Matthew 26: 39)”
But as You will, Lord. As You will…
For more information on multiple sclerosis, visit www.nationalmssociety.org.