A quick disclaimer: my health story is just that- a health story. I am not a medical professional.
So like most health stories, mine is chock-full of instances where seemingly separate issues were actually linked quite tightly to each other. (Almost like everything in the body is connected!) If this has happened to you, or if it is news to you, chances are you have extensive experience in dealing with mainstream Western medicine.
That’s where I was for over a decade, and that is the story I am going to tell here. I won’t be doing any bashing. I do believe that, for the most part, people are doing what they can to help. So I won’t be putting down traditional medicine or lambasting my rheumatologists. I will just be sharing how this rheumatoid arthritis deal has changed my life, mainly by teaching me things along the way.
Meanwhile, if you would like to see how adrenal fatigue essentially robbed me of my sanity and well-being, you can check out my post on that here: The Struggle is Real: How Mommy Stress Ruined my Life
On to the RA…
I grew up an athlete and an artist. I played soccer up through most of college and spent my free time making music. Basically, my life was gogogo nap. Gogogo nap.
When I was 22, I married the love of my life. At 23, we had our first child, a daughter. Our world was rocked of course, but once the shock of adding a tiny, helpless human to the mix wore off we planned to proceed as we always had. Gogogo nap. Gogogo nap.
That tiny, helpless human was about six weeks old when I woke up with excruciating pain in my thumb. It’s broken. It has to be, I thought. I relayed the information to my hard-working seminarian of a husband. I received the pity due my condition, but that didn’t assuage the confusion I felt. How did I break my thumb in my sleep?
The next day, my thumb pain was miraculously gone. A fact that would have made me happy if not for the crippling pain in my shoulder- the pain that wasn’t there yesterday.
And so it went. Each day the pain in one joint would disappear only to be replaced by pain in a different joint. Each day a little joy, a little confusion. And lest we forget, a little baby.
Without going into the details of numerous appointments, the first doctor named my condition: migratory arthritis. Then he ordered blood tests. After weeks of agony, blood tests, and the pain deciding to nestle into all my joints, the rheumatologist gave me the official word. I had rheumatoid arthritis.
During those weeks and months I had been unable to dress myself, get into a bathtub, latch/buckle/unlatch my daughter’s carseat. I was trapped in my house with my baby because I couldn’t drive her anywhere, and then I would go to work at a tutoring center where I would literally have to time out my bathroom breaks because of how long it took me to shuffle to the rear of the building and back. (Which caused my boss to chuckle. “Ha ha- I’m sorry, it’s just so funny. You’re so young and you walk like an old lady.” Yeah. Super funny.)
Anyhoo, I would limp down the grocery aisle and wave people around me like a car who just busted a tire. If I had hazard lights, I would have slapped them onto my back to help with the flow of traffic.
So when the rheumatologist gave us the option of a biologic drug that would stop the progression of the disease and alleviate the pain, Scott happily cashed his seminary graduation checks and we paid for the medicine.
I was on that medicine, along with a couple others, for years. As long as I was on the meds I could run, and workout and do all sorts of things. I got pregnant five more times, with two of my babies meeting Jesus long before I could meet them.
So if you are keeping score, that is: 1 husband, 1 church, 4 kids, 1 dog, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, protein c deficiency, Raynaud syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, 4 different meds and a partridge in a pear tree.
With each passing year the meds worked a little less and my pain grew as steadily as my brood. There had to be ways to alleviate the pain beyond just pharmaceuticals. So began my research.
That’s when I realized again that God is faithful and I was not alone.
Here’s an Idea: Let’s move North
A few years ago, we moved to Wisconsin. It’s a pretty cool story how it all happened, but that is for another time.
Shortly after moving to this beautiful state, I was flaring like crazy. If you don’t know this, stress is a major factor in inflammation. Like one of the big ones. And moving is stressful. Add in a few kids and the stress esculates. It stress-culates.
School had started and the oldest three were there for the day. My youngest daughter and I decided to explore the local scene and found a cute coffee shop. Long story short, she adhered herself to the grandfatherly man in front of us in line. We got to chatting and I spilled some of the information about my current condition. I didn’t have a rheumatologist, and I was reading obsessively about alternative ways to heal my disease holistically.
“Karen Hurd,” he said. “She’s the only one you need to talk to. Look her up.” Since this guy was a holistic dentist, I decided to take his advice. I made it to her website http://karenhurd.com. I set up an appointment and settled in one night to watch her DVD lecture on rheumatoid arthritis. The idea being that the DVD would answer some questions before our appointment so we could have more time to talk about the plan.
Scott’s assessment after the lecture: “That lady is a crazy, but I think she is right.” Mine: A strange concoction of fury and gratefulness. In the last decade I had spoken to numerous doctors who could only tell me I have an autoimmune disease because… I just do. This woman could tell me why my immune system was attacking my joints- and it wasn’t just “because.” I had an underlying issue. One that we could fix together- without meds, without supplements. Food and a few lifestyle changes. That was what I needed.
Childbirth Ain’t Nothin’
Often I mistake simplicity for ease. If you are thinking that right now, just don’t. The changes I have made are the hardest things I have ever had to do besides saying good bye to people I loved. Think back to when I first got the disease, add kids, adrenal fatigue and about ten years of added joint stress.
But I am making progress. I’ve had setbacks. Setbacks suck. Scott knows- he is my caretaker. But my hypothyroidism is gone. My Raynaud syndrome is outta here. I measure my progress and healing is coming. It isn’t easy and it isn’t instant, but it is right.
What I can offer you…
I don’t have much more to say, but this is perhaps the best part of the story:
- God can redeem anything and He wastes nothing.
- He can and will work through anything if we just let Him.
- You are not alone- not for a second.
- You can scream and cry and question, and He can handle it.
- When you are weak, God is strong
And for those of you with health issues…
This is what I have learned the hard way:
- You are valuable. Your body is broken, sure, but it can bring glory in that brokenness.
- You are smart. Fancy initials don’t make a person right. Do your research.
- It’s your health- don’t let someone else dictate it. Want to try something new? Give it a go. But try Karen Hurd first. 😉
- Don’t be discouraged if the magic solution, pill, elixir that worked for all these people doesn’t work for you. You are an individual. It will be okay.
- Being openminded about treatment does not require you to spend all your time/money/energy on chasing health. You can feel free to say, “Nope. That’s not for me.”
And don’t miss this: You can be healthy and miserable. Plenty of people are. You can experience healing and completely miss the Healer. Plenty of people do. Our time here is so short, so precious, but God is of more value, more worth, than anything we can attain here.
Our illness, weakness, brokenness is not the end of the story. It is not the victor. For those who are in Christ, we are more than conquerors. We are held by the Father through the blood of the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Your health is not your identity. You are so much more than that.