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. 

1 comment:

  1. Sweet Michelle I'm so sorry that you have had so much to deal with. I totally understand your journey and I am here if you ever need to talk. I understand going through it as single woman and finding out who your friends are. I too have learned to lean on God and gotten so much closer to him through my journey I have been and will continue to pray for you and I love you