I’ve just recently discovered that two bloggers, Morning Glory from Seeds From My Garden and Lei from My Many Colored Days, host something called “Woman to Woman” a couple of times a month. A topic is posted and women who want to can blog about that topic and link to the host sites.
The topic for today is “Enduring health problems – either your own, a spouse’s or a child’s.”
Up on the very top of my sidebar is a list of “Pages” — posts whose links stay there. I wrote extensively there about my experiences with transverse myelitis, or TM. In fact, one of my reasons for starting this blog was to have an outreach for others with TM.
Transverse myelitis basically either a virus or an auto-immune response to some stimulus which causes demyelination , or damage to the myelin sheath around nerves in the spine. What symptoms one has depends on where along the spine the damage occurred: the higher the attack, the worse the symptoms.
Mine started with one arm feeling a little funny, like I had slept on it wrong. Within about three hours that arm was totally numb, both legs and my lower torso were numb, I couldn’t walk on my own, and I was having bathroom-related problems. I was in the hospital for eight days and had multitudes of tests run before finally receiving a diagnosis — for something I had never heard of before.
It was a scary time. For the first couple of weeks I hardly had energy to do anything. Even taking a little sponge bath in the hospital and sitting up in a chair so the nurses could change my bed was exhausting — I’d be broken out in a sweat and crawling back into bed when they got done. We faced a number of questions: would I get better, completely or partially? We were home schooling at the time: would we be able to continue? How would I take care of my children, the youngest of whom was not quite two? The medical community really couldn’t give us an answers: my neurologist said, “You’ll probably gain everything back within two years: if not, you’ll be used to it by then.” I thought, “NO WAY, not acceptable. I can’t live with this.”
Well, with time and God’s help, you can learn to live with a lot of things. 🙂 Within a few months I went from walking with a walker, then a cane, then walking wobbily on my own. My lower left arm and lower legs are still numb. I can’t feel heat or coldness or pain in right foot. My balance is one of my worst problems, worse when I am standing still than walking. Bathroom issues are better but still a consideration. Fatigue is a major factor many TMers report — just can’t “go” like we used to. In the early days I would have to save up energy — if we had something planned I would have to rest up the day before and crash the day after. That’s better now, but I do still run out of steam earlier than others, earlier than I would like. Then there is a whole list of little odd symptoms — in fact, one post simmering on the back burner I’d like to put into words some day is about some of the weird, odd issues resulting from TM.
One of the things I hated most about all of this was the effect on my family. I think as homemakers we tend to take our everyday tasks for granted and feel that they are not really important in the grand scheme of things. But when all of a sudden you can’t do those things, it adds a tremendous burden to the rest of the family. We did have many people from church volunteer to bring meals, watch the kids, do some cleaning, and that was a great help. But you know how it is — there is almost more to do than can be kept up with as it is, then take a functioning member of the family out, and that’s a cause for stress. It did make me value my contribution to the family more, and it was one of the strongest motivators to get better. Even with all the stress, though, I saw the Lord minister to my family in special ways. Here’s one example: Jason’s Sunday School lesson that next Sunday morning was on Romans 8:28 — it had just been in the plan, the teacher had no idea what had happened. When Jeremy began to question why all of this was happening, Jason shared what he had learned in Sunday School.
One of my first responses spiritually was, of course, to cry out to the Lord for help. Next I began to ask Him if there was anything wrong, any sin that was causing this. I don’t believe every illness is a direct result of a person’s sin (see John 9:1-3), but sometimes He does use illness as a chatsisement or a means to get someone’s attention and turn them back to Himself. At the very least I certainly didn’t want anything blocking or hindering answer to prayer (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:1-2). We followed James 5:14-15 and called the Pastor and a few men to come and pray with us and anoint me with oil.
Then it was just a matter of every day going through the challenges of that day, seeking the Lord, resting in Him, wrestling with fear, with unanswered prayer, limitations, reasons for suffering in this world in the first place.
I read something of Spurgeon’s once in which he wrote about the verses in Hebrews 12:
26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.”
27 This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe…
I would love to find that again, but he said something along the lines that sometimes God shakes up our world to let loose the temporal things which can be shaken and to focus us on that which “cannot be shaken.” When all the props are pulled out from under us and we can only lean on God, we find Him more than sufficient.
I wrote the following near the end of my page titled Onset:
As a Christian, of course I look at life through a certain “lens” or world view. I don’t remember for sure, but I don’t think I ever asked, “Why me?” If we have to ask that, we should ask, “Why anybody?” I believe that God created the world and people perfectly, but when sin entered the world, God’s creation was marred and will bear the consequences until the day He redeems it. So, the short answer to why disease and disability and pain and suffering are in the world is that it is a fallen world. We’re not in heaven yet, where “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21: 4).
I believe that God has a purpose for everything He allows. He’s not capricious or whimsical in His dealings with us. “But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” (Lamentations 3:32-33). Whatever He does allow, He promises His grace for (II Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”) and He promises that it will work out for our good (Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”)
I can say, with the Apostle Paul:
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice [more than thrice in my case], that it might depart from me.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:8-9).