This week’s blog post is a special guest post from Tabitha over at Living Faithfully with Autoimmune Disease.
If I’m honest with myself and others, I would say that I grew up in the worst environment that a child could be raised in. Between an abusive home life and five years being placed in foster care my life had not started out well, but I refused to accept the pattern of life and family that had been set before me.
It was 2014, I was in the stage of my life where I was just getting things figured out. I have a great family, I had a full-time job that I enjoyed most days. My personal and spiritual life was just starting to come together. I was active in the church, I had even been to Guatemala two times on mission trips.
I was extremely tired all of the time but, like a lot of people, I pushed through even when I felt like I could not. My doctor even put me on thyroid medication thinking that it may help but it did not. That year in 2014, I worked in the hospital in radiology and every year we were required to get the flu shot. That year, I contracted what I thought was the flu. On top of these symptoms, I had headaches daily and I was dizzy several times a day. My hands hurt all the time, with burning pain into my arms and agonizing pain in my palm and fingers. With all of this, I still pushed myself to go to work every day not knowing the seriousness of what was happening in my body.
My job became increasingly more difficult for me daily. I began noticing that my memory was not as good as it used to be and I was really embarrassed about it. It was so bad, I couldn’t even take a message over the phone and remember it accurately.
Life Began to Take A Turn
During this time, I had a swollen ankle that persisted for months and it was agony to walk on, even for a short distance. I would wake up with leg cramps that would last for hours at night time. I finally went to the doctor to see what was going on. The doctor dismissed it as water weight gain! I tried to take water pills to help and it didn’t help at all. I pushed through it as best I could until I couldn’t take the pain any longer. I went to an urgent care center hoping that the doctor would be able to tell me something different about my swollen ankle.
The doctor looked at my swollen ankle and told me she was going to run two test, one for gout and the other for a possible blood clot. The doctor came in the room after a short while and told me that she was 99% sure that I had a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), which is a blood clot in the deep veins of your leg, usually discovered in the calf of the leg. If I would have let this persist it would have been fatal.
I was in the hospital for a week undergoing tests and medication for the DVT. I was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, a disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks normal proteins in the blood. It can cause blood clots to form within the arteries, veins, and organs. I will be on Coumadin for the rest of my life to protect myself from blood clots. I have to be conscious of what I eat, be consistent with the vitamin K I take in and any change in my exercise or medication can affect my blood. I also have to check my INR with a prick of the finger every week.
Discovery of My Chronic Illness
Later that week, while I was still in the hospital, a PA came in, and she asked some random questions like did you have any problems with your pregnancies, does anyone in your family have Lupus? I knew very little of Lupus at this point in my life, in fact the only person that I knew of that had Lupus was my Aunt on my mother’s side of the family.
For most of my life, I had encountered fatigue, and unexplained illnesses, headaches, joint pain, burning pains and debilitating pain in my hands, and infertility but I really thought it was normal to just have pain.
Because I had been out sick so much and I had used up all my FMLA, my job let me go, and life at this point seemed to come crashing down, like most people we could not afford for me to be sick and especially for me to lose my job.
One day I went to the doctor because I noticed that my hands were blue, the resident came in and told me that I had something called Raynauds syndrome. Raynauds syndrome effects the fingers, toes, ears, and the tip of the nose. In Raynauds syndrome, the smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin constrict excessively in response to cold limiting blood supply to the affected area. Raynauds is heighten stress and at this point in my life with illnesses, losing my job and the financial burden we were under stress was a norm.
It has been a long battle because of the emotional challenges alone that come along with chronic illness. I have spent more nights in the hospital than I care to remember. I have had weekly visits with doctors and many diseases and problems have been unveiled over the last five years.
I have Lupus, mixed connective tissue disorder, APLS, pots syndrome, arrhythmia, bradycardia, tachycardia, left bundle branch block, arthritis, esophageal motility dysfunction, dysautonomia , chronic abdomen pain, blockages, gastroparesis, strictures throughout my intestines, brain fog, forgetfulness, fatigue, joint pain, low iron, dizziness, collapsed lungs, reoccurring pericarditis & pleurisy, arthritis in my joints and degenerative discs in L4-L5 and L1-L2, osteoporosis. My chest is also filled with inflammation they call that cosodrocondritis and I have what is called neurocardiogenic syncope, where my brain does not communicate with my heart to stay in rhythm.
I struggled with fear at first and I cried a lot of tears. I was angry and I wondered why this had to happen to me. I had everything I needed in my life, my little family, I was learning how to play guitar, I was going to college, I had a full-time job, I followed God. I had hopes and dreams and suddenly in a matter of a few months my life was turned upside down. People say don’t push yourself beyond your limits, and take care of you and at first that was really hard to handle for me but those words are so important. I have learned I have to take care of myself first before I can take care of others.
With all of this, I still have faith that one day God will heal me. Despite any illness I have faced thus far, I remember that I am never alone. I know that I have a specific purpose and special plan already laid out for me and no matter the challenges that I have, I can do all things with God because he gives me strength to do so. I have always been told that God would make a way when there seems to be no way and that is true, he has not let me down.
Chronic illness has changed my life dramatically and at times I have to be reminded gently that God is still doing a work in me. I have learned not to take my life for granted, but be thankful for today, because tomorrow is not promised to any one of us.
God has never left me. He has always provided for me according my needs, especially in my weakest moments. Even though I have chronic illnesses and all its’ unpredictable states, I still have hope. I still have dreams and I still plan on fulfilling them as long as I have God by my side.
I am not going to say that I am never afraid, I never worry, and I don’t have doubts because I do, just like so many people. There isn’t some kind of magic potion to take away all the worries and fear that come along with life or chronic illness but God gives me peace when I am worried and afraid. I think that if anything my illnesses have taught me it would be to lean in to God when it looks impossible. I have learned to talk to my Father and he listens. As much as I hate my illnesses I can honestly say that being sick has brought me closer to him.
About the author: Tabitha openly shares her journey with autoimmune disease with a Christian viewpoint on her blog and Instagram. She is married and has two teenage children. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experiences, strength and hope. You can find her at Living Faithfully with Autoimmune Disease.