Sunday, May 21, 2017

4 years

4 years ago today(well technically yesterday, since I've stayed up so late), I arrived back on US soil. I was full of anticipation, hope and excitement for all that was to come. What I did not anticipate was the loneliness, darkness, grief, anxiety, and shock I would face over the next year.

I felt that I was no longer wanted by people who wanted to know everything while I was overseas, my friends had moved on(as they should've)- both literally and figuratively, and I was left with the ashes, expecting to create something beautiful and new out of dust, but it was impossible. I remembered last night that this day was here, and stumbled upon this blog post. I BURST into tears.

I've noticed... on Facebook, many respond to my happy, exciting posts, but few do anything with my challenging posts. I'm not putting this up for attention. I'm putting it here 1) to process a bit. and 2) because it HAPPENED and many of you had no idea.

I felt like I wasn't allowed to mourn my loss- and it was a LOSS, in SO many ways. I had SEVERAL people tell me 'Welcome back to the REAL world'. I still shake my head, let out a sigh, while my eyes fill with tears, thinking... wow.. if you only knew what the REAL world really looked like.

That's EXACTLY why I struggle with this anniversary. Because I DO know what they 'REAL' WORLD looks like, and I am haunted by its beauty, by those I've left behind and truly truly wished I could bring home with me, and not just the poverty I've seen with my own eyes, by those babies who will never be adopted because they are HIV positive, and the patients we lost to conditions that are 100% preventable and treatable, but also I was amazed by the fact that these people who had NOTHING.. and I mean NOTHING, were HAPPIER than I'd ever been in my entire life, and likely happier than I ever will be.

I struggle because I left my heart behind 4 years ago. I find pieces of it from time to time- in the eyes of my students, when I truly get to know someone and can call them 'friend'... but- it's certainly far from whole. My heart is in Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, and Guinea. It is with each of my dear friends and their kids, who stood by me in some of the darkest days of my life, and never gave up. It is in the patients I saw die and my patients who I saw walk the gangway with a new lease on life.

4 years- it feels like it was just yesterday, and it feels like a lifetime ago.

Friday, April 14, 2017

But... It's Friday....

I have a hard time each Good Friday. I loved the ship because they gave us time and SPACE around this time to process and reflect on this day. At home, there are very few of these opportunities.

I'm having trouble today because I wanted to go to a Good Friday service, but my body had other plans. All over Facebook, people are posting 'it's Friday, but Sunday is coming'. I love that visual and, most of the time, it's exactly what I need to hear, but this time of the year... no. I need to reflect. I need to remember. If we don't remember what happens on Friday, what happens on Sunday won't be nearly as meaningful.

Jesus was TORTURED. He went through the most gruesome death and it was horrific. What made it worse was what happened after. Jesus was separated from God, not just physically, but spiritually. He literally went to Hell to take on our sins and FOUGHT for us!!! True- Sunday IS coming and that is a MIRACLE... but... today is Friday- the darkest day in history. The day for which Jesus was created.

I am so grateful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

So Much to Say

I have so much to say, but just don't know if I have the words to say it... I am going to try... but please know this was hard to write.

As most of you know, if you've been reading this for any length of time, the last year and a half have been a bit of a ride. I went to Kenya, and basically came back at the very beginning chronic condition. A year and a half later, I have all 4 of my doctors baffled. Nobody knows what's going on. Each time we thought we had an idea, months after we began a treatment and saw improvement, I would deteriorate, sometimes rapidly, sometimes over time. The last year has been the hardest. The first months were very scary, but the last year has been far worse. 

The minute I realized I was losing weight, at times 5 pounds in a day, I knew something was very, very wrong. My doctors didn't meet my fears, however. At the beginning of all of this, I packed on 20+ lbs in weeks, and my doctor said I must be eating too many carbs. I know my body... I don't gain weight like that. Now, we have the opposite problem. I am making sure to get enough calories, after my adventure I'm losing 5 lbs a day for a bit, but my doctors said it must be because I've restricted my diet so much. They didn't take me seriously until I got near the 60 lb mark in a year, and I stressed that most of it was in the last 7 months.

This has all been hard on me, as I've always bee a heavier person, so most of me wants to rejoice in the ease of the weight loss. I have literally done NOTHING to lose the weight... but as I near the 'normal BMI' zone, I begin to fear what I think all people with chronic GI conditions(if we can still call it that) fear... becoming underweight. Sure, it's not really reasonable for me to think about it and the potential to need feeding tubes and the whole shebang; we aren't there....but I've seen it happen to people.  I also fear the opposite. I don't want to one day put back on the 60+ lbs I've lost... 

The tricky part is that whenever somebody tells me "Wow! you looks so great!" All of this floods into my mind. I did nothing to get here, I'm scared of what is happening and nobody knows what IS happening... what if it doesn't stop... I've learned to just smile and say thank you, because people don't really want to hear that the loss is because I'm sick and we don't know why. So I just brave a smile and say thanks, even though, more often than not, I am choking back tears of fear.

I'm going to be very real... being single during this whole process has been gut wrenchingly brutal. My family is busy dealing with everyday life of their own, my friends are all either married with their own kids, across the country or world, or busy with their careers and lives. Many do the best they can, but I find myself feeling more alone than ever, when faced with all of this. I hold on to every shred of hope, every comfort that God offers me and provides me...and boy has he provided me peace and comfort when I have needed it. But there are days, when I wish I could've gone through this during a different season of life. One where I had more tangible support. And while it's hard, I am thankful I don't have more responsibilities to other people right now, because I can hardly take care of me some days, let alone others, or little people who would rely on me. But, maybe that's part of the lesson to be learned- joy through trials no matter what the circumstances. 

This week, I go in for GI procedure 5 in 15 months. I'm finding myself more anxious  thanks like to admit, given I won't be put under and don't even need to prep, except for a clear liquid diet. I think I am most afraid of getting my hopes up that we might finally get an answer, only to be told once again ,"We have no idea why this is happening." I envy your prayers over the next week or two, while I wait. Waiting is not my suit, but I am truly trying to choose JOY over fear.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Magic Watch

The ‘Magic Watch’ is on its way out. I was planning to tell its tale regardless, but now that it is on its deathbed, it seemed especially important that I share the story of my ‘Magic Watch’ and what it represents, as well as the chapter of my life it represents, as  it comes to a close.

Before I picked this watch out at Target, the idea of the ‘Magic Watch’ existed, but was not a full-fledged belief amongst my students. Once I got this beautiful mint green watch, which apparently is not in fact waterproof, as I was led to believe, as almost all water resistant banded and digital clocks are these days, the legend seemed to become more alive than ever.

When I worked at Goddard, often my students would feel homesick. This is to be expected when you work with children from ages 6 weeks all the way up through 5 years old, with some school-agers sprinkled in from time to time. The youngest children can’t communicate their feelings of missing their parents, but kids as young as 1.5 years old have taken to the ‘Magic Watch’. Often, if a child would cry for their mom, or simply ask when their parent was going to return, I would deploy the ‘Magic Watch’s ‘ powers.

When a child showed distress or concern about when their parents would return, I would often either kneel down, or if the time was right, sit down with them and say, “Look at my watch. It’s magic. It tells me when mom and dad are coming back!” This would immediately catch their attention. I would then go through our day together so far. I would say, “Did we have center time when you came to school this morning?” and they will often shyly say, “Well… yes?” “Great! Did we have snack after that?””Mhmm…” “Did we have circle time?" "Yep!" " Did we have outside time after that?” “Yes.” “Are we at center time now?” “Mhmmm..” “Wow! So our day is already almost half way over! Next we will have lunch(looking at them for awareness), then nap time, then snack, then outside time, then Mom or Dad will be here super soon after that!!! That’s crazy!” Sometimes the kids would look at me and say, “How did you know that?” and I would say, “Well, my ‘Magic Watch’ told me, of course!”  For my smallest students, this doesn’t always work, but when it does, it DOES. They often will run up to me and grab the watch immediately upon my arrival in their classroom and ask, “Mommy come soon?” and I will sit down and go through the process with them. Often throughout playtime at the end of the day, kids would run up to me, "Is my mommy( or daddy) coming soon?" "Oh! She's on her way! I can tell, she's heading this way now!" Each and every time they would gleefully head back to playing with no problem.

At first, it was simply a way to get one child to calm down. Then, it became a tradition. When I left my job, I wondered, “Who is going to carry the torch? Who will have the ‘Magic Watch’?” The kids truly loved it, and I was actually worried that some of the kids would have issues understanding either where the ‘Magic Watch’ was, or why other watches couldn’t tell when mommy and daddy were coming/other teachers wouldn’t have a clue what that was all about. Then I realized, with one teacher’s going, comes another.

Before me, I am sure there was another great teacher/ floater who had an equally great way to help her students cope with different struggles the kids faced on a daily basis and clung to. Then that teacher left, and I came. This watch has been a constant reminder of what I left behind. When I looked down and saw that my watch wasn’t working properly and was waterlogged today, I both almost burst into tears, and realized that the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. This watch may need to be replaced fairly soon after it was bought, but I will always keep it as a reminder of a job I loved, and more so of all of my precious ‘babies’ that I have left behind.

Honestly, I didn’t realize all that I loved about my job until about 2 weeks before my last day. I stopped just going through the motions and truly soaked up every single moment with my students. I have seen some of these kids turn from tiny infants to vibrant, excitable, walking and talking toddlers. I’ve seen some of these kids go from small toddlers who could barely talk, to full-blown preschoolers, who blow me away with the kinds of imaginary play scenarios they come up with and conversations we have with each other. I’ve seen students that were in that especially challenging phase of toddlerhood grow out of it into that beautiful, exciting phase, and they are so excited about exploring the world and people around them. I’ve seen tiny bumbling toddlers learn their shapes, colors, ABCs, and basic language skills- it doesn’t’ get much more exciting than that. I’ve seen kids with special needs begin to soar with the support their teachers and our school offered them. I’ve seen teachers grow into truly great leaders of their classrooms, when they were brand new and still feeling it out when we first met. I’ve had my fair share of hard days, frustrations, and tears, but at the end, it was all so worth it. These people have become my family. These children were much more than just children I looked after, but I truly knew all 130+ children. I knew more than just their names, but what they loved, how they operated, what made them excited, what made them upset, who their friends were, how to get them down for nap, how well they usually eat, how well they sleep, and each of their little quirks that made each of them them.

My coworkers truly became so much more than just coworkers. Over the semesters, I was in and out so much, that I didn’t realize what I had. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to be there the whole summer. True, sometimes we were a bit of a dysfunctional family, but we were family. When I had a hard day, I didn’t have to hide it from my bosses, but I knew they would support me in any way they possibly could. I knew at any moment I had a handful of ladies I could go and talk to if I needed to about anything under the sun- from serious life issues, to silly funny happenings of my life. There were so many genuine people I met under that roof, who truly cared about me and what was going on in my life. I feel so blessed, as I have worked in places where it truly felt like nobody was there for anything but to get paid, which creates an apathetic work environment. This was far from that- so many of these teachers truly love the kids they teach and it shows.  I grew to love so many of my coworkers and my only regret is not spending more time getting to know some of them sooner. I was so jaded by my life outside of work, I didn’t see the people I had right in front of me until I was halfway out of the door.

It is incredibly bittersweet saying goodbye to this place that has become a ‘home’ to me.  I am so excited for the opportunities that are headed down the pike for me. I will begin this next semester on this coming Wednesday, when the teachers head back to school. I will start off in a Kindergarten classroom, which is both terrifying and sooooo exciting! I have such fond memories of Kindergarten and can’t wait to get going with my new mentor and students. It’s hard that I won’t be with my old mentor, as we expected, but it will be a good opportunity for me to stretch myself and challenge myself. In October, I will return to my 1st grade classroom with my old mentor teacher, which will be quite an adjustment to return to my old environment, but will be very exciting as well. Changes are coming and change is always difficult for me, but that’s basically the type of field I am entering. One that changes constantly and you have to adapt to each school year. I’ll get a new wave of students each year and say goodbye to these students that I have connected deeply with, then gain a new set of students, praying you have not only taught them, but touched their lives as much as they have touched yours. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Last Year

Warning: Some of this has been said before, but some of it has not. This is more of a processing post than anything, but also to fill you in a bit on what's going on. Proceed. 

One year ago, this picture that hangs next to my bed was taken. I held this sweet little thing while his mama got her wisdom teeth pulled in the trailer right in front of me. I remember seeing the love this mama had for her little guy and knowing she was giving him the best life possible.

The week and a half we spent in Kenya was heart wrenching, as we told a mother of 6 that she had HIV, which likely meant many of her children, if not all of them, did too. We told a very young girl she was expecting a baby, which was not welcome news, as there was a potential rape involved. There was so much heartache, but for me there was so much joy as well. For those we were able to treat, even with something as simple as Tylenol, I knew we were doing what we needed to do there. I was able to make the day of a child with a glitterwand, as they waited for treatment. I was able to provide resources and show mamas how to hold baby while we stuck them to see if they had malaria, which would make the child comfortable, but also secure and safe. I got to spend time with the school kids during their recess, who thought bubbles, and especially sticky bubbles, were the greatest thing in the world and shrieked with joy every single time I waved the wand or blew the bubbles their way.

Was it perfect and without its bumps in the road? No. It never is. But I loved every minute of Kenya. I honestly didn't want to come home. It felt impossible readjusting to the 'first world grind' and 'problems' after being where I had been. Many of my teammates struggled deeply with the trip, The structure, the lack of being busy, but I loved simply being back on the continent I love, in a new culture, and simply being. I think if I knew what was going to happen in the year following, or heck even the days after arriving home, I would've soaked it up even more than I did. This picture is a bittersweet reminder of the 'me' that was 'before' the return home. Before it all 'hit the fan' if you will.

I wrote some of this on my post 'Through the Storm', but there is more detail and more about what is going on now...
On the trip home from Kenya, I felt pretty queasy, but I thought that maybe we all caught something. I wasn't the only one with the 'mouth sweats', as we affectionately dubbed them on our trip. I took Zofran and was ok. I remember sleeping like a ROCK, once allowing myself to sleep, but having some serious GI issues over the next week- particularly the first several days back. I checked in with the team to see if anyone else was having issues, but nobody else did. I realized it probably wasn't a bug after a few days. It eased up, but still, I would be overcome with waves of nausea or other issues randomly throughout the week. After a month of this, I realized I wasn't ok. I had a very scary symptom- I'll spare you all of the details- that happened more than once. Finally, I asked my mom if this was normal. She said I needed to go to the doctor. When your mother, who is a nurse, says you need to go to the doctor, you need to go to the doctor.

My doctor immediately went for the obvious assumption and wanted to test me for parasites and other weird illnesses that could've taken me over during my travels in Kenya. I didn't eat anything PARTICULARLY weird, though I did eat sugarcane off of the street. I then got yelled at for doing that and didn't do it again. I was honestly rooting for it to be a parasite of some kind, so that we could just treat it and be done. After several tests and a couple of weeks, we discovered that I did not have a parasite or any tropical illness we could find. Since there was nothing my General Practitioner could find and I was NOT getting better, but weaker, she referred me to my GI specialist.

I told him how I had been feeling and his first response was basically, "You are far too young to be having these symptoms and for me to take this lightly. We are going to do a round of testing to see what is going on. From the sounds of it, I am going to guess that it is something fairly mild, such as Ulcerative Procitis, and will be in remission in a few weeks or months, but we need to get in there to really see what is going on." We scheduled my first Colonoscopy, and the games began. The first test was within 2 weeks of my appointment. He made it clear we needed to get in ASAP to be sure something wasn't wrong.

At first, I felt okay about it all, but then my doctors words stuck to me. 'You are too young for me not to make sure its not something else.' Something else? Like what? Cancer?  Then my mind had a good old time with me. Colon cancer runs in our family, but not until we are in our 50s... normally. The doctor didn't at all see what he expected. He said everything actually looked really good considering my symptoms. He said he still suspected Proctitis, which would be the best case scenario, but we would have to wait for the results to find out what's truly happening.

The 14 days of waiting for my results felt like an eternity. The first 7 were fine, but the second 7, I began planning for the worst. 'What if I do have cancer? What will I do? How will I finish school...' And it went on and on and on. This was all in the middle of the semester, which just made it even more fun. Day 14 hit, and I still had no results, so I called. They couldn't tell me over the phone, but they had been mailed. They were mailed to my parents address, not mine, so I had my dad take a picture of the results. Colitis.

The world was upside down, but my doctor saw me 2 days after I got my results and got me medication right away. I felt like a new person. I had energy for the first time in weeks, I didn't feel like I would pass out at any moment. I felt like a new girl. That lasted only about 3 weeks. Then I started feeling gross again. I scheduled a follow-up, but nobody told me my doctor couldn't make it. Another doctor was free, however, and I NEEDED a follow-up, because I was NOT doing well and truly needed intervention asap. This doctor ended up taking over my care. It had been about 6 weeks since my first bout of testing and he wasn't comfortable with my progress. He was nervous that I was getting worse, so he scheduled me for an endoscopy, to figure out what was making me so nauseous all of the time, and a flex sigmoidoscopy to be sure I hadn't gotten markedly worse.

When we did the procedure, my doctor was much more thorough. On the first procedure, only 1 biopsy was taken. This time I think I counted over 6 biopsies were taken. We tested for all kinds of things. Nothing came up positive. Again the wait was torture, but I was insanely frustrated when 'non-conclusive inflammation and gastropothy' came up. Basically means 'there's something weird going on, but we don't know what'.

We put me on acid reducer after acid reducer. We thought we found the right one, then it failed. Nausea came and went daily, until I decided to cut out gluten and all sugars(except natural sugars) from my diet. In January, my doctor said he suspects I have IBS, so we started treating for that. I did well until about late March, then other parts of my body started falling apart. We messed with dosages, did all we could think of. I began PT for my back in May, which everyone has been saying is unrelated, but I truly think is related somehow. I have also had tendinitis in my foot for over 7 months and will finally start PT on that this week.

Now, in July, a whole year later, i feel like we are back at square 1. I present with almost the exact symptoms I had when we started- give or take a few. I am headed back for another round of testing (endoscopy and colonoscopy) on Tuesday. I truly hope that this time there are answers. Answers that can be fixed easily and without anything that will spin my life off of its course more than it already has.  I am very tired and incredibly ready to have more good days than bad. I am ready to be better.

Teams at Mosaic have been leaving to go all around the world for the last few weeks in order to serve different organizations who are making a huge impact in their communities and spreading the word of God. The Kenya team left last night. I am both so excited for them and heartbroken. I really thought when I got on the plane headed back to the states last year that I would be headed back this year. My heart breaks because I truly feel called to go all over the world, but I know now is not the time, no matter how much I wish it was. I know that when God calls me, I will be ready to go, whether it be with a huge pack of medication and materials on hand, or free from all of this.

My heart still longs to be somewhere else; far from the day to day routines. I know August will be full of adventures, new relationships, and the choice of whether I will make my classrooms a place where extraordinary things happen, or where we fall into the grind, and simply survive, until the next big thing comes down the pike.

I am certain big things are going to happen over the next year. I am just hoping that my health issues will soon be a thing of that past that helped grow me into a stronger person, not one that put limits on who I am and what I can do.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Seedlings

Something you may or may not know about me is that I LOVE to write. I don't often get much time to do it, but I truly love to capture my thoughts, feelings, and wondering and put them down in some way. That being said, I think it may be time for me to revive the blog a bit. I will try to space out the heavy stuff with some lighter more random posts until I decide what I want from my blog. For now... here's what's been going through my head today.

A little over a week ago, I had a day off. I decided to orchestrate this day in a way that would allow me time to take care of the garden. After some thought, I decided to germinate my seeds before planting, as my roommate and owner of the house was out of town and I didn't want to randomly plant things without consulting her. Plus, I wasn't sure if we were clear of our last frost and many of my plants need a SOLID 65+ temp outside before they can be safely transplanted.  I decided to make a bit of a nursery in my basement.

At Walmart and Aldi, I went a bit crazy with the seed buying. But, I figured it would be way better to overbuy and germinate, transplant and overproduce, having tons of produce to work with for only about $20, than undershoot and have to buy produce all summer. Overshoot I did. I bought over 16 different kinds of plants from watermelon to cantaloupe, jalapenos, cilantro, basil, variations of tomatoes, beets, carrots, okra, cucumbers, squashes, if it grows in the summer, chances are I have it. I also got some mescaline and broccoli we will grow later in the summer, got some lettuces(I don't even like lettuce or salad, but I figured maybe I would if I grew it?), We are golden.

I got these awesome cardboard containers from Aldi for super cheap, and an organic seed starter from Aldi as well(GO ALDI). I filled each cup with dirt, planted according to the direction, and mayyyy have added more seeds than recommended. Hey- I want them to grow! I can thin them out later. I put them in aluminum baking pans I have and put them over by the window sill. The waiting game began.

Daily, I'd go check and see how my little 'babies' were doing. Now, you may think that's crazy. But, truly... I feel like they are my little seedlings and I am responsible for them. I nearly dropped them the other day, and I was MORE scared than if I almost dropped an infant. No. I am not kidding. Crazy, I know.

You may be wondering where this hankering to garden even comes from. Well, part of it comes from living on water for 2.5 years, which means...well.. there's not even a remote possibility of gardening for yourselves, part of it comes from memories of going to my grandpa's garden as a child and helping him, loving to see the process, the rewards for all of the hard work. He was a bit of a master gardener, and spent his days working the land- all day every day from my young memories. They now live in an apartment and he still has a small 'container garden' on his balcony. It makes me smile. It's in my blood.

Last year I randomly decided to plant a couple of things late in the season and they went beautiful. It became an escape from the mundane and everyday life, so I just would go and work after coming home from work or CrossFit. Now, I can't exercise, but have this huge desire to garden. So, I figure this is a great way to trick my body into working hard;) It also turns out, I'm kinda good at this whole gardening thing. I have good instincts, and I love to do it. I did a huge project last semester on gardening in schools, so I used some of my research to launch my garden this year.

I am hoping that by the time the weather warms up enough for my plants to be transplanted, I have a game plan in place with my roommate and we can decide where everything will go and the best course of action for all of my little seedlings.

At first, they didn't budge. I was nervous. I knew it takes time for these things to grow. But on day 4, my lettuce plant sprouted. I about fell over I was SO excited. 2 days later on day 6, my beets sprouted. Slowly, but surely, they were all starting to sprout! By day 7, 5 sprouted, day 9, 8 sprouted, and by the end of day 10, 12, almost 13 had sprouted and some were growing strong.

I couldn't help but be completely captivated by the entire process. How.... how does this seed... this guarded, shielded, protected thing that seems dead and lifeless. Like it could NEVER be anything ever again, become something. How, once I bury it in dirt, tend to it, and water it, feed it, and shine light on it, does it suddenly spring life from its little self. Then it not only does this, but I can literally see growth throughout the day. I cannot help but see the parallels in my own life in this. With so much mess happening, so much hurt, so many dreams shattered and doors closed, I can't help but see the hope that is coming. The hope that could literally be a day away. I just have to take care of myself, feed myself(both literally and spiritually), and work on getting myself in the ideal conditions to grow and THRIVE. I've gotten so used to just surviving and being in a shell... that's not what we're called to.

God is so good and so cool to create the world this way. He creates new life from something dead every day in something as insignificant as a plant. Something that is living, but has no feelings, thoughts, can't act on it's own, but God designed it this way to grow and gain life from death. How much more does he want US to be able to LIVE and THRIVE and GROW? The bible tells us to consider the flowers of the field- God feeds them and 'clothes' them, why are we so worried about what we will eat, drink, wear. Stop worrying about tomorrow, it has enough worries of it's own.

I have so much to work on and learn from this, but isn't it INCREDIBLE that God has brought all of this to me from a SEED.. in my basement... amazing. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Through the Storm

I looked at my blog and realized how long it has laid stagnant. This makes me sad, but I realize why this is the case. I simply didn't know what to say here without baring my soul. So. I decided maybe it was time to do just that.

This was not written without much thought, hesitation, and fear. But, I realized that by putting this out into the world, I might be able to help more people. This is not written for pity, but with the hopes that if someone else is going through something like this, they will find a ray of hope, find someone they can talk to about what they are going through, and see that despite it all, there is light in the dark.

After I returned home from Kenya, I thought I had a stomach bug. I rested extra and took it easy, but it just wouldn't pass. I returned to work and things were just not going well for me. I didn't feel well and it became clear a few weeks later that something was terribly wrong. I went to the doctor, was put through a gamut of testing, referred to a GI doctor, put through another stream of testing. The doctor told me that I was too young to be exhibiting these symptoms and we needed to test IMMEDIATELY... My heart dropped... this meant one thing in my mind... he feared the worst.

The weeks between this conversation and testing were terrifying. So many thoughts ran through my mind. Would I have to go through chemo at the age of 27. Would my life ever be the way it was before; crossfitting and doing yoga at least once a week, eating whatever I want, using my body for every day tasks, as well as for fun hobbies.  Would my quality of life ever be what it was before? So far, all of the answers have been no.

I went into my first round of testing, with a friend by my side, who I am so thankful for. I went under hoping for the best. I came out and my doctor told me there was no sign of cancer. I could breathe for the first time in weeks. There was nothing pointing to anything horrific, but a biopsy was taken and I would receive my results in 7-14 days. I breathed and for about 7 days I went about my life as normal.

On about day 8, it began to hit me again. What if they found something wrong? What if the results come back with something worse than the original thought, which was something fairly minor, easily treated, for which I would be in remission in a matter of weeks. I was wrecked and had to lean in to God. I had been functioning on MY strength, but that was completely exhausted. It was gone. During this time, I had changed jobs due to plenty of circumstances, started my new placement for school, started a new semester, had so much going on to juggle on top of all of this. I was done and I was at the bottom. God picked me up, dusted me off, and got me through those long, long days.

I finally got my letter in the mail. My dad texted me the results, as I couldn't get them immediately when they were sent. The office wouldn't say my results over the phone, which should've been my first sign, but once I saw the results, my heart completely dropped. I got them after an appointment elsewhere, and I sat in my car SOBBING. I immediately began texting friends asking for prayer. This road was going to be rough. I'd done my research. I knew that this meant.

Ulcerative Colitis. I called the doctor's office and they wanted me to come in immediately for a consult. The day I got my diagnosis is both a blur and a day that I remember vividly. I went to Starbucks, because I had SO much work to get done, then drove home, sobbing the whole way home.  I got home and said, "I don't have time to feel." So, I shut myself down and got busy.

I went to my doctor only 4 days later. He started me on heavy steroids immediately. The day after I began, I automatically had my energy back. I almost cried I was so excited. I would get so tired during the day, it was overwhelming. I would climb the stairs and feel like I'd climbed Everest. I'd be winded from walking from my car to the front door of church. I would feel like I was going to pass out from walking down the hall at school. Now that I felt better, I went back to crossfit for a day, but couldn't keep up, got so frustrated with my body. Then, it all came crashing down.

Suddenly, it all stopped working. I had new symptoms, things weren't working the way there supposed to, I went back to the doctor, ended up switching doctors due to a scheduling flubb.... loonnnnng story short, we did more testing, found more issues, began treating them, then began trial and error. One med didn't work, so we tried a new one. New symptoms show up, switch meds, see a new specialist for another weird symptom, try a new med, add a new med for a new condition that rears its head, switch meds, add a new med..... the beat goes on.

Things have felt... impossible at times. There have been days that were so suffocation overwhelming and I didn't know how I would get through them. But, through it all, I truly believe God was right there by my side, holding me, supporting me. Even when those I needed failed me, he held me. When I felt my singleness more than ever, which for those who have chronic illnesses... it's so hard... he reminded me that I was not alone. When I had needs, He always provided for me. In my hardest, darkest days and nights, he always got me through, made me stronger, and has made me a stronger, better person at the end of the day.

If I could be healed right now, I would take it, but I would not take this all back, because it taught me who my true friends are, taught me that my church community truly supports me and is there, taught me that God is my rock and the only thing I can depend on at the end of the day, and that in the darkest of nights, there is always a light.

The past two days have been a challenge for me, as I've been reminded constantly of my yearning to return overseas. I went to an Arts Integration Conference at UMBC yesterday and one of the tracks I went to was focused on Kenya and using Global partnerships for arts integration and utilizing them to further your student's educational experiences. The presenter invited us to join her in Kenya this summer. Mosaic also has several trips abroad this summer, one of which I applied to. It became clear last week when my body completely failed me that I absolutely cannot go anywhere anytime soon outside of the US. If I have an emergency, I need to be able to get a hold of my doctor and be close to a pharmacy if needed. I need to be able to rest comfortably, and need to be able to take care of myself. Things that are a luxury in Kenya and Haiti.  It is attainable in Poland, but the travel itself would do me in.

My heart completely shatters with the idea that I will never return overseas due to this illness. But, it gives me motivation to get better, take care of myself, and heal.  In the meantime, I realize... I am in the middle of an incredible community at my school(s), have some incredible opportunities, I just joined an honor society with my department... I have so many opportunities. I need to be sure I'm not so far sighted that I lose site of what is here now. That's deadly.

If you got to the end of this... thank you. If you are going through something and ever need to talk... please don't hesitate to reach out. This journey has been so hard and going through it alone at times has made it feel impossible. You are NOT alone... God is ALWAYS there, and I am more than willing to stand by you...

Also, if you're reading this and are up for it... please keep me in your prayers. I thought this would be over by now, but we are 6 months in and have no end in sight. I'm very tired, but have faith that it will resolve soon. I'm tired, I'm worn, but I know God will be by my side through all of it and pull me through.