Post-Hospital Update: The Dahlia
What. A. Week. What a painful, frustrating, terrifying, difficult week. But oh, how He can redeem anything and everything. Curious? Boy do I have a story for you all today...(I'll explain the flower picture later!)
This hospital stay was slightly less traumatic than my last one, but only slightly. Therefore, I'll save you all the gory details (I'm really saving myself from have to relive it all, to be honest...mental health, here...) and cut to the chase: after 3 nights in the hospital, I still have no definitive answers as to why I've gotten so, so much worse lately. While the running theory is still, as expected, chronic pancreatitis (with potential gallbladder issues), CP is EXCEPTIONALLY hard to "see" on tests (that is, unless you LITERALLY have a hole in your pancreas and it's leaking pancreatic fluid everywhere...which, by that point, you aren't gonna last long...), and, not surprisingly, all of the tests for me came back "normal." (SIDENOTE: this is precisely why pancreatic cancer is THE most deadly of cancers. It's so brutally hard to diagnose--because the pancreas is a "hidden organ," the majority of the organ being located behind the stomach--and, by the time they find it, it's eating into other organs or literally shutting down your body. Pleasant, huh?) While I'm glad they didn't find a gigantor tumor, I was honestly praying for something to show up...ANYTHING, really...because no diagnosis means no relief. No answers means no plan of action to attack the beast that's eating my insides.
The last MRI I had, I spent the ENTIRE 45 minutes praying. For something--anything!--to show up. For God to MOVE and WORK and let something show up so my doctors could do something--anything!--about it, be it surgery or medication (you know I'm in serious pain when I'm willing to take drugs...and yup, believe it or not, I DID while I was inpatient--chronic pancreatitis is NO JOKE, people. No joke at all). Part of me knew, though, the whole time I was laying there, that nothing would show up. This is the realist in me (or maybe the pessimist?!): I suffered for 20 years, literally watching my body fall apart and my life be stolen from me before my very eyes, all the while having tests come back "negative" and doctors telling me I'm "fine," all the while having this incredibly rare and bizarro cystic fibrosis mutation that doctors kept missing...because who thinks to test a 20 year old for CF?! Anyway...there was part of me--a big part of me--that KNEW instinctively that history was sort of repeating itself. My health has reached crisis point YET AGAIN, and no one can seem to find any reason as to why. So as I was laying there praying for answers and relief, I was also praying for courage and strength to face life, should I NOT get answers or relief. Either way, I needed to be prepared: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I came out of that MRI a different person. I guess 45 minutes of crashing and banging in your ears can mess with your head? Kidding (sorta). But all joking aside, as I made my way back into my annoying, self-adjusting hospital bed (seriously, though, WHO designs beds to SELF-ADJUST?! I would finally get comfortable and then WOOP there goes my bed, adjusting itself in the position it thinks I will be most comfortable. And people wonder why they sleep so poorly in hospitals...), I had this overwhelming, unexplainable sense of PEACE sweep over me. I was literally out of my mind exhausted and had red eyes from crying so much from pain, but I had this calm...this ridiculous sense of hope. Huh?!
A few hours (and a nap) later my doctor walked in with my results: yep, you guessed it (well, actually, I already told you...): NORMAL. All clear. I was fully expecting to feel a rock drop in my gut or feel a sense of hopelessness, knowing I would have to be discharged with this pain (they really just admitted me to have the tests expedited...there's nothing really they can do for CP except keep you hydrated and give you drugs if you will take them), but instead, to my shock, I was fine. Totally unshaken. Totally immovable. Why? Because The Lord had touched me as I was lying in that MRI machine. He spoke to my heart in such a powerful way. In fact, He's been speaking to me through other people for quite a while now...but I just couldn't let myself get my hopes up and risk having them crushed again...so I didn't listen. I didn't believe. I kept ignoring what they were saying...I couldn't be hurt again. I couldn't take it. After all, if you don't hope, you can't have your heart broken, right? What a miserable way to live...but that's how I've been living for the past 4 months. But then He touched me in that MRI. He reminded me of all the promises He's given me...and that I would be okay. I would see a better day. There would be an end to this pain...SOON. How? I have no clue. But it's not my job to figure that out...it's my job to TRUST.
They discharged me with no answers, yet again. But I had already been given something that overshadowed any answer I could have gotten: I had been given HOPE. FAITH. CONFIDENCE. Things I haven't felt in months...and, to this degree, ever. I had every single reason to be crying my eyes out and wailing at the top of my lungs, but instead I felt like I had been given a renewed sense of FIGHT...a fresh, powerful dose of courage to stand up and claim what's already mine. You see, I felt as if The Lord said to me "You've been so faithful, and you've trusted me through it all...but you've let the devil walk all over you. When he's come against you trying to steal and kill and destroy, you've sat back and let Him...sure, you've had a good attitude about it, and remembered my promise that I will work even that for good, but you've forgotten my other promise: that you WILL see my goodness in the land of the living." Psalm 27:13...this is a verse that I've not been able to think about for a long time now...for months I've avoided verses like "By His stripes we are healed," and "Ask and it shall be given unto you," and "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." I couldn't read these verses, or hear them, or think about them. I HAD believed. I HAD hoped. It was too painful...I just had to resign myself to a life of suffering and accept the fact that my healing wasn't physical, but of mind and spirit. However, little by little this had turned into "I don't matter," which is yet another lie straight from the devil himself. That my physical pain, my suffering, my hopes, dreams, desires, and ultimately, my life, didn't matter. As long as I was remaining faithful, that's all that mattered--and that's true...our trust and faithfulness is ALWAYS number one. But we DO matter. The Son of God DIED for us--I'd say He thinks we're pretty important! So why have I been letting the devil convince me that I DON'T matter? Why have I been allowing him to cause me to think my suffering and pain is ok? Now don't get me wrong--I'm not saying that we don't learn things through our trials...that God doesn't use each and EVERY thing we go through, good or bad, to draw us closer to Him: that is true (holding to my life verse, Romans 8:28!). BUT, Jesus also came so that we would have life, and LIFE ABUNDANT--so that we could be free...and I hadn't been able to think about physical freedom for a while. I've been trapped inside this broken body for so long...and this is how I was coping: by not thinking about it. But I heard Him as clear as anything as I was laying in the MRI bed: "Stand up and take what I bought for you. Fight, warrior...FIGHT."
Ever since then I've gotten my fight back...but in a new, profound, God-given way. I am so unwaveringly sure that this year long battle (that began last August with my kidney failure relapse) that's been so intense...it's finally ending. I will finally, at last see healing. And while I was saying it before, declaring it before...I feel as if almost I was trying to convince myself. Not this time. This time I KNOW I'm healing...I KNOW I will see a better day and it's so very close...why? I don't know. But I know that I know HE has written this on my heart. I don't need to know how it's going to happen...but I know it's going to...and SOON. I wrote this in my journal on Saturday night: "My feelings of confidence and hope...I've never been so sure about anything ever! This battle is ending for me...I declare it and feel it! I don't know how but this is ending. I am claiming God's victory over my life. NO MORE feelings of defeat and letting the devil walk all over me. I'm taking a stand with a new level of confidence and assurance--for HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL. I have this promise, and on the promise I will stand. God is going to work this week. I believe it. I feel it. I declare it and claim it in Jesus' Name. Amen." This new hope is extraordinary...the feeling that this battle really is, at last, ending. And the best part? IT'S ALREADY STARTED HAPPENING.
Since I got home from the hospital, I've seen unbelievable improvements in how I feel, compared to how I've been feeling for the past 4 months. In 4 short days:
-My appetite has returned...with a vengeance! I guess that's what happens when you consume only liquids for 4 months straight...I am pacing myself with what I am eating (trying...haha), but am so amazed at what my body can tolerate! THANK YOU GOD!
-Nausea is GONE (if that wasn't self-explanatory from my appetite returning).
-My pain is SIGNIFICANTLY better--it's definitely still there, but it's no longer crippling and keeping me up all night. It's also not bad enough to keep me from being able to eat (I'm still all liquids and pureed/blended food, but still!).
-My bloating...holy moly it's so much better. INSANELY BETTER! And my...other bathroom issues...are much improved as well ;)
-ENERGY! Holy moly my energy! Through the ROOF compared to what it's been for the past little while (I have been in school all summer and literally fighting my eyelids trying to write papers and read textbooks. I've been on TWO WALKS since returning home from the hospital!).
I've officially graduated to bowls of mush. Feat: pureed pumpkin, coconut yogurt, tomato paste, and superfood green powders to get my anti-inflammatory chlorophyll.
So what's changed? God gave me my fight back. I've pulled out ALL THE STOPS with herbs, supplements, and natural remedies for chronic pancreatitis and cholecystitis. I've left NO stone unturned. I had hesitated to start my pancreas/gallbladder treatment protocol until I had the formal diagnosis of CP and cholecystitis, just in case it was something else, but I'm not waiting any longer. He spoke this to me and laid it on my heart, to get up and fight for my life, regardless of what the tests say. I know my body...I know what's going on. I knew all along something wasn't right, even though doctors told me I was "fine" for 20 years...I knew my body and kept searching until I had a diagnosis--one that I FIGURED OUT. (Shameless plug to TRUST YOUR GUT/HEART! Oftentimes it's the Holy Spirit speaking to you.) And I can't sit back and wait until a test shows what I already know is going on before taking action. It may be too late it I do that. So I'm fighting. Just like I fought my kidney and liver failure. I'm fighting as hard as my little body can possibly fight. And it's working, all glory to GOD!
God has truly worked a miracle over the past 96 hours...and He's still working one. I'm in no way "healed" or better--I still have a LOOOONG way to go...but I've taken a huge step: the step that The Lord has been telling me to take for a while now...but I've been afraid. I couldn't get my heart broken again. I had lost hope in healing...I had given up. But where our strength fails, His truth speaks: perfect love casts out all fear.
Now back to the flower from the beginning of this post (told you I'd come back to it!). That's my amazing momma's garden. She planted that red flower (called a "dahlia") a year ago. She's been waiting and waiting and waiting for it to bloom, but it never did. A few months after she planted it, she checked the ground, and turns out groundhogs (or some kind of animal) had dug through the garden and eaten the bulbs. She had completely given up on it--stopped watering it, stopped waiting for it to one day show it's little bloom.
The day after we got home from the hospital, it had bloomed. I'm completely serious. It TOWERS over the other flowers in the garden, so strong, so stately, so stunning. You see the connection? How amazing is God?
I had given up. I had stopped waiting...but it's time to bloom. It's time to stand up and be strong.
I'll leave you with a verse that I've come across more than I can count the past 4 days (coincidence? There aren't any in the Christian life): Psalm 27:13: "Of this I am confident: that I will see your goodness in the land of the living." Hallelujah amen. We WILL see HIs goodness in the land of the living. Get up, warrior. It's time to FIGHT. God is moving. The season is changing. Come, Lord Jesus.