It makes sense that if I am writing a blog about having joy despite chronic health issues, that I would share my journey. So this post is Part 1 of my journey. I want to acknowledge from the beginning that this is my story and how I remember events. Someone else will likely remember things differently and that is OK. But from my memories, here is how things played out.
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I was an independent and easy-going child. When I got tired, put myself to bed (What child does that? None of my kids did!). And I have always been one who needed to get sufficient sleep.
In the health arena, I habitually got strep throat. I got it about 5 times each year. Why do I remember the number of times? Because my pediatrician’s rule was that if a child got strep throat 6 times per year, then they should have their tonsils out. Because of all the strep, I was on lots of antibiotics — which I’m sure hurt my digestive track (which is the majority of our immune system is located). But, I was truly sick and needed the antibiotics in order to get better. When I was 18 I asked to have my tonsils taken out. I had them out and the good news … I haven’t had strep throat since then.
I don’t remember anything really strange occurring during college. I had mono and that was rough. When I was 20 I developed a grade 1 malignant tumor on my jaw and had that removed (multiple surgeries involved with that). A year later I had a bone graft from my hip to my jaw — now that was painful! Healing from those surgeries are the first time that I can remember being so tired that I didn’t think I could work and go to college at the same time. Eventually I healed sufficiently and went back to working during both undergrad and grad school.
Chronic health issues begin – Married, then children
My first memorable time of mystery illness (meaning the doctors couldn’t give me a diagnosis) was when I was after the birth of our first child. Miss C was thankfully an easy child. Sleeping through the night by 6 weeks old and pleasant temperament. But my digestive system was whacked! I was suddenly having chronic diarrhea (sorry TMI :), but this is a blog about my health). I have very clear memories of dreading going to any store because I didn’t know
when I would urgently need a bathroom. It got to the point that I knew the location of every bathroom in any store (sad, but true). I would be almost running for the bathroom while lugging Miss C in her car seat. Again, thank goodness she was an easy baby.
I went to a gastroenterologist and he ran so many tests on me. Up, down, samples … don’t think about it too long :). And they all came back “normal” except one showed that I didn’t digest fats well — which I knew before we ever started the testing. His answer was, “Take Imodium A-D as needed.” This was the point that I realized that I am responsible for my health. The doctor was super nice and truly wanted to help me but he was out of resources and I was still suffering terribly. At this point I started reading and looking for answers on my own. Definitely experienced bouts of depression during this time period — wondering if I would ever be able to play with my child and enjoy life fully again.
Three years later, Mr K joined our family. He was not an easy baby. He cried and cried and cried. I can remember Miss C saying to me, “Mom, Mr K needs you.” I felt so helpless. The only time he wasn’t crying was when he was nursing. And I was still super sick. Each day I would get up and carefully eat breakfast — eating “healthy” foods — or so I thought. But within hours I would be so bloated that I had to wear pants that were 2 sizes larger than I really needed. Eventually I learned that if I ate anything sweet in the morning (even fruit) then I would immediately have to run to the bathroom. And most of the bloating was probably from gluten, but it was years before I figured that out.
Around this time I told a friend how much I was struggling and he immediately said that I should go see an oriental medicine lady in Salt Lake City. His mom had gone to her and had been helped a lot (I don’t remember what his mom’s issue was, specifically). I was extremely skeptical but as I like to say, “Desperation increases open-mindedness!” So I went to see her. She did iridology, looked at my fingernails, my skin, and did some accu-pressure. She made recommendations to changes in my diet.
I was very unsure what to think but decided to follow her suggestions and see what happened. She didn’t have me do anything really weird. One clear memory I have is of me driving home after the first appointment. My forearms hurt so badly that I had to take turns driving with one hand — using only one arm at a time. At my next appointment I asked her what internal body part forearms were related to. She said one is ascending colon and the other descending colon (I don’t remember which arm is related to which part). Well that very much fit what I was having issues with. And as I got better, my forearms wouldn’t hurt so much. Eventually I was really better. And how grateful I was!
My parents are reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. They very thoughtfully mailed a copy to me. In closing I am going to share two quotes — I’m sure I am not doing MLA format but you know what — I finished college long ago so as long as I am giving credit where credit is due, I feel good about it! 🙂
“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy. … Life is filled with challenges and adversity. Fear is inevitable, as is pain and eventually death. Take the return of the [his] prostate cancer — well, it does focus the mind.” (Desmond Tutu, p. 11)
I can relate to this quote, can you? As I have dealt with health challenges, I have slowed down (whether I wanted to or not) and reflected on what is most important in life. I’m grateful for those reflections. I feel like I have a pretty good focus on what is important and what is not.
How have your health challenges helped you focus on what is truly important? I would love for you to comment below.
2nd quote also from Desmond Tutu, p. 12 – “Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”
Does that quote resonate with anyone?
My journey, to be continued …
Wishing you peace, hope & joy