My body no longer works as well as it did seventeen years ago. In the two-year period I have just described, I was diagnosed with lupus, heart disease, gall bladder disease, lung cancer, and colon cancer. Since that time, I have had or still have:
• bladder cancer
• sclerotic mesenteritis
• trigeminal neuralgia
• peripheral neuropathy
• debilitating arthritis
• chronic spinal disc problems
• numerous tendon and muscle tears
• loss of balance due to inner ear damage
• double vision
• Sjogren’s syndrome
• GE RD
• esophageal spasm and erosions
• bursitis in hips, knees, and shoulders
• Plantar fascitis
• Morton’s neuromas
• de Quervain’s syndrome
• repeated skin cancers requiring surgeries
• a host of other maladies
The last time an intern finished taking my history, I told him that I was really just a test patient who was there to see if he was gullible enough to believe my story. When I lay it out sickness by sickness, I am overwhelmed myself. But I continue to live through new unexpected diagnoses and have learned to do well at being chronically ill while coping with acute illness when it arises.
Rick likes to point out that God wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and body. These illnesses have affected only my body; my heart, soul, and mind are still readily available for loving God. Since loving Him and His other children remains our major task here on earth, I am still in good shape. I rejoice in being able to carry out this assignment. Even at times when I am not able to walk or care for myself physically, I can pray for others in confidence that my heavenly Father listens and hears.
In addition to this blessing, I am able to participate remarkably fully in the world most of the time. I can walk by myself, sometimes with a cane. Most days I still cook, play the piano, and use a computer. I watched my children graduate from high school, college, and graduate school. I occasionally have the energy to attend concerts to watch them play music. Our small Bible study group meets weekly at our house, and I usually make it to church. I love to bake and send treats to friends, family, and Rick’s students. I talk to friends and family daily. People love me, and I love them.
I spend a lot of time hanging out at hospitals and doctors’ offices and often see people who struggle with much more difficult physical problems than mine. I do not have diabetes or liver disease or kidney failure or congestive heart failure. My lungs function remarkably well, considering my struggles with lung cancer. I have so much to be thankful for!
I am a person who has illnesses, but illnesses do not define me. God defined me before I was born. My life is full of fun, and yours can be as well, whether you are a person facing illness or the loving caregiver of a person facing illness. I hope to use my experiences to teach you about navigating the healthcare system, managing family and friendship relationships, living a “healthy” life, and growing your relationship with God through the adversity of illness. My prayer is that my story will help you make your story more joyful.
Taken from page 28-30 of Doing Well at Being Sick: Living with Chronic and Acute Illness ©2010 by Wendy Wallace. Used by permission of Discovery House Publishers, Box 3566, Grand Rapids, MI 49501. All Rights Reserved.
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