I have been happily married for 31 years to my best friend, Doug, who is a lieutenant on our city’s fire department. We live in central Illinois and have been blessed with three amazing children, two adorable grandchildren, and expecting another precious grandchild in a few weeks. Fortunately, I was able to leave the workforce when our youngest child was an infant and become a stay-at-home Mom. Now that my children are grown, I enjoy spending more time researching family genealogy while helping others with their lineage and spoiling the grandkids! Whenever schedule allows, you will find us camping or enjoying life with our family and friends.
As I reflect back on my life, I realize I have experienced several times of struggle (don’t we all?). Yet the most difficult life experience for me has been battling chronic health issues over the past sixteen years. Nothing like living life, raising three busy children on a fire family schedule (solo parenting every third day plus some!), managing the household while hubby works full-time plus a second job, and BAM!!! My body basically shuts down. I can barely get dressed without needing to rest. If I can get to the living room from our bedroom, I have to take a break. I barely am able to get the three kids out the door to meet the bus in the mornings and I am back on the couch. The next time I awake, it is mid-afternoon and the kids are running up the stairs. Another day of school. Another day I have slept. No housework. No meals. No nothing, except sleep. Life goes on, but I am missing it. I was diagnosed with severe anemia in 2000. I was told it was so critical I could’ve died if I was in a serious accident where I lost any blood or if I required surgery. Routine meds were given, but only minimal improvement. I endured chronic fatigue. My local specialist referred me to a top-notch facility. Between the two I had several bone marrow biopsies, an array of extensive tests, and it had become more than just anemia. But what was it? No answers. I continued to struggle. I made myself move. It was a constant fight to do daily activities that we all take for granted. A trip to the grocery store meant a day of sleeping to recover. I declined many social invitations because I had to save what little energy I had to try my best to care for our children.
Many times I wanted to shout Jesus’s words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Of course I wasn’t nearly enduring what Jesus had. I wasn’t being crucified. But there were many days I felt like screaming, wondering if anyone knew my pain. Not physical pain, but pain of the undiagnosed illness. The pain of seeing the look on people’s faces, giving me that oh, so familiar look of “it’s all in her head.” (At least that’s how I perceived it, and I was beginning to think they might be right. Except for the abnormal bloodwork.) Having to decline volunteer opportunities that supported my kids’ activities and kept me from being amongst my parenting peers was becoming routine. If I was employed outside the home, I would’ve been fired or had to quit. I couldn’t function. I felt lazy. Worthless. Crazy. Depressed. Maybe it was in my head! What was wrong with me?!?! I had kids to raise. I had a house to upkeep. I had a life to live. I had a husband…oh, yes. The husband. My soulmate. My best friend.
Ever wonder why someone enters or, in my case, re-enters your life when you least expect it? Well, my husband came back into my life 35 years ago and was an answer to my prayers. The particulars of that time made our chance reunion a “God thing,” and we were married three years later. Little did I know then how great of a gift God had blessed me with. He has been a husband who has been my greatest encourager, my full-time prayer warrior, and my strongest rock! He supported me to become a full-time Mom, working two jobs so I could be at home with our kids. My husband was the one insisting I get tests, tests, and more tests when I was too weak to even care anymore. He was the one who believed in me. Sometimes we tend to think God is going to strike as a lightning bolt in some dramatic way revealing His help. But I knew during all this that God’s help was beside me the whole time. My husband. My Godly husband. When I couldn’t get out of bed to attend church, my husband was going and seeking prayers on my behalf. When I couldn’t stand long enough to fix a family meal, my husband was there cooking…cleaning…taking care of the kids. Did I mention he worked two full-time jobs?!?! God’s help was ever present! It has been a long, stressful journey. Remember when I said I wanted to scream? Well, I didn’t. I relied on one of my favorite passages.
Philippians 4:6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
I put my situation in God’s hands and trusted in Him. Eight YEARS after the beginning of my health struggles was God’s timing. He worked on my behalf through my aunt, who lives a state away. She is not in my daily life (although she is in my daily prayers.) I say this because this is an example of how God works through others. My aunt was enjoying a casual day socializing with friends, one of whom was a doctor. She begins discussing my case with him. Remind you, she had not seen me recently, had not been nearby to witness my struggles, but still thought of me to seek professional advice for me! (Thank you, God, for making my aunt my angel!)
After discussion, this doctor friend mentions a specialist friend he knows and tells my aunt to have me call for an appointment. So she did, and I did. I must admit I did only with an unenthusiastic attitude, dreading the once again “we aren’t sure what is going on but something definitely is not normal” and being discouraged again. But I did call, and my husband and I traveled four hours away for another appointment. In a nutshell, I saw that doctor on a Tuesday. He spent an hour with us, ordered more extensive testing, including another biopsy, and sent us home. Three days later, on a Friday night at 10 p.m – yes P.M.- we woke to a phone call. I dreaded answering. Only bad news comes that late at night. But, Hallelujah! It was GOOD NEWS! I had a diagnosis! A very, very rare bone marrow failure disorder. It wasn’t curable, but at that moment I was just grateful to have a name for my illness. I wasn’t crazy! I was sick. Seriously sick, but there was treatment. My first words after hanging up? “Thank you, God!” Thank you to my aunt, who had cared enough and believed in me to discuss my situation, which lead me to this brilliant doctor who had an answer! You can’t imagine the relief. The gratefulness in my soul. Now another eight years later, I am doing so much better. I was told without treatment I may have only survived 5 years! I occasionally experience some bad days, but nothing like before. I must not overdo, but I am functioning well. I am not “cured,” but I am getting treatment. My calendar is full of medical appointments, but I can live life! I am appreciative of being able to walk without needing to rest, to do housework, and to play with my grandkids. God is good!
I can’t imagine not having my faith during this time. I knew there was a purpose for my struggles. Not only did my prayer life bring me strength, but continuous prayer brought me closer to God. In a busy, hectic family life sometimes routines get so frazzled that we tend to put God last. God put a major halt on my chaos. God brought me to my knees. God was first! Through this, I changed. Things that used to be so important aren’t. Things I used to worry about are no longer worth my energy. My illness has brought amazing new friends into my life, who understand and encourage me. I don’t normally like to discuss my illness; however, there is a lesson amongst my trials. My hope is that I might be an encouragement for others who may be struggling. God is ever present. Don’t give up. Have hope. Lean on Him. Appreciate your family. Thank God every day for the “angels” in your life. Be grateful for things most take for granted. (Yes, being physically able to clean the bathroom is a blessing!) I also learned that He doesn’t expect perfection. We can truly survive in an unkept home with casual meals. We Moms don’t have to be SuperMoms. We do need God! Make Him your first! As long as our homes are filled with faith, hope, and love, we are blessed!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7.
God is good. All the time. As you struggle and pray, ALWAYS rejoice in the Lord!
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