Callie…..I met her parents before she was ever a speck in their eyes. Her family and my family were neighbors and her mom, Lesley, and I were pregnant at the same time with the girls It was lovely! Callie was born a couple of weeks before my daughter, Victoria. We raised our big girls together, so I’ve been blessed to know this family for over 20 years. Please read the story that spurred on my desire to have this Lyme Disease Series. I’m so proud of this young lady and her testimony is one that only God could orchestrate! If you have ANY questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will personally put you in touch with Lesley and she can share the details of how God chose an unconventional method to heal this sweet beauty of a crapola disease!
There’s No Suffering without Glory
I’m sure if you’ve been keeping up with the Lyme series on Brandi’s blog up to this point, you know quite a bit of my story and a significant amount of information about Chronic Lyme Disease. So while my blog post is going to be based on Lyme awareness and my personal battle with the disease, I’m hoping that the greater message that will come across is that no suffering occurs in vain when it is for the glory of God.
Before I delve into all of the medical mess, I want to give a little background information to those reading this. I grew up in a Christian home, and at age seven I knew that I was dearly loved by the Father, that I loved Him in return, and that I desperately wanted Jesus to rid me of my sin debt so I could spend my eternity with Him. I want to be clear, that I came to know Jesus as my Savior long before I had any medical issues.
My journey with Chronic Lyme Disease began in sixth grade when I began to faint at completely random times. I eventually reached the point where I was fainting roughly ten times a day. My symptoms only continued to increase from there. At age 13 my knee pain was so severe that I received steroid shots in both knees-and yes, shots in the knee are as awful as they sound. As I proceeded into eighth grade, my back, shoulder, and neck pain began to develop. By the end of my eight grade year my pain was so severe that I was physically incapable of opening my bottom locker, I relied on others to open my locker for me.
This next symptom, for me, is the hardest one to reflect upon. This is the point where I began to experience what I now know to be “Lyme rage”. During this time I was so unkind to my family, and even a couple of close friends. I don’t exaggerate when I say one of my family members could look at me, and I would begin to feel myself getting angry. I lived life in state of unjustified, uncontrollable anger. The worst part is that I could feel myself getting angry so I would try to assess why I was so mad, and even after I couldn’t find a single reason I found myself unable to stop the anger from welling up inside of me. Needless to say, my family is a really fantastic group of people for not only dealing with me during this time, but continually showing me grace and love.
At this point I was angry, sore, and dizzy. I continued on and my symptoms grew worse and I continued to be given misdiagnoses and pills. Luckily I have a really awesome mom who went above and beyond for four years, ignoring ten misinformed doctors to find the only Chronic Lyme Disease expert in the area. We found this doctor sometime around my sophomore year of high school. I’m not sure if anyone picked up on this idea from my mom’s post, but GOD’S TIMING IS PERFECT. Right before we discovered this doctor, I went to church camp. While I know it’s super cheesy, going to camp allowed me a much needed break from distractions and afforded me the opportunity to learn what it actually meant to be a Christian. You’re probably thinking that you haven’t heard much about my walk with Christ until just now-and you’re right. That’s because at age seven, most of us aren’t dwelling in sin that requires us to make an extreme life change. In fact, I made no changes at all as the years passed and my spiritual growth was completely stagnant. Fortunately attending camp presented the Spirit with an opportunity to convict me while I wasn’t distracted by soccer, school, or being sick. I became aware that I behaved well and made good choices because I have strict parents and that’s how they raised me to act, not because I was trying to live a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). My eyes were opened to what being a Christian actually entailed as well as actually believing that He had a plan for my illness. Up until this point when I asked I would half-heartedly respond that God had a plan for it. After learning what it meant to really follow and pursue Christ, I was finally able to fully grasp the concept that I was enduring this trial for a purpose.
God blessed me by allowing me to understand that He had a plan for this illness right before I entered into the most difficult time in my life. I can never communicate how gracious He is for doing so, this enabled to rely on Him wholly during this time. My physical difficulties began when I started taking some very strong oral antibiotics to fight off the Lyme. I reached the point where I was taking roughly 15 pills a day. During Lyme treatment with antibiotics your body can respond in weird ways, and oftentimes you have to go through phases of feeling worse before you can feel any better. For me this meant I would wake up for school in the morning and be unable sit up. I’m not exaggerating when I say I couldn’t move. There would be days that I would make it to school, but I would be sitting in my desk and I would be in so much pain that I would be on the verge of tears or would literally be unable to hold my head up without using my hands because of how badly my neck hurt. Because of how many and how strong the pills were that I was taking, I really struggled to keep anything down. I threw up almost daily-which defeated the purpose of taking the pills. Because I couldn’t keep all of the pills down, my doctor decided to pursue a different route.
This was the time in my life that I ended up getting two PICC lines. PICC lines are inserted into your arm and run through your vein, all the way to your heart. This allows IV medicine to be dropped directly into your heart so that it can reach your entire body much faster. As much fun as this sounds already, the entire process can became twice as great as my body began responding to the medicine. Random parts of my body would go numb, as much one entire side of my body would lose all feeling. I would also start shaking uncontrollably. At this point Lyme rage was taken over by random crying. I am completely serious when I say that I would be bawling, but telling my parents that I wasn’t sure why I was crying. While switching to IV antibiotics prevented me from throwing up medicine, the antibiotics were still so strong that I continued to get sick regularly. During the really rough times I typically ran a fever of 103°F. All of the physical turmoil the antibiotics put me through left me overly weak. I had to sleep on an air mattress in our living room because it was too difficult for me to walk from my room to the bathroom. My mom even had to sleep next to me on the couch because it was unsafe for me to be left alone all throughout the night. Because of this I missed 50 days of school from August to December of my senior year.
During this time we began to notice a pattern with my body’s response to antibiotics, after about two weeks I would become allergic and I would need to switch medicines. This happened with roughly five different medications. Eventually I ran out of possible medicines to use to treat Lyme. While contemplating our PICC line options, my PICC line got clogged. For PICC line users clogs, infections, and blood clots will force you to remove your line…so at the time this clog was a big deal. We were able to go to the ER and have it unclogged. In hindsight, the clog was more than likely God’s kind way of telling me to take it out. So naturally my skills of perception were not up to par and missed this, even after 5 failed medications and a clog. The night after I got my PICC line unclogged I ended up getting a blood clot and spending a week in the hospital. The PICC line was removed and my mom and I had no idea what type of treatment to pursue next, we felt as if we had exhausted all of our options.
After a lot of prayer, God led us to a small homeopathic clinic that is about 12 hours away from our home in good ‘ole western Kentucky. I will not delve into the details of the treatment that I received because you can receive that information by contacting my mom or me, but I will tell you that after only three days I was feeling better than I had in years. Total healing continues for several years after the initial treatment, and two years later I am still continually improving and adjusting to life as a healthy college student.
Fairly often, well-meaning friends will ask about my experience with Lyme and say, “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible! I bet you wish you had found that homeopathic clinic sooner.” or “I bet you wish you could erase that from your past.” My answer is always no. I don’t answer this way because I am trying to get attention or appear more “religious”, I answer the way I do because without this season of sickness and trial in my life, I would be a vastly different person. This time of suffering and trial made it very clear that God was directing me towards a specific profession in order to carry out His will. How many 18 year-olds are able to confidently say that they know what profession they want to pursue? I also cannot stress enough how pivotal of a rule this illness played in not only becoming the person that I am today, but becoming so firmly rooted in my relationship with Jesus. I’ve thought about where my walk with Christ would be without those six years several times and every single time I end up thinking the same thing: thank goodness I was sick. God was able to use something so dark to shed light into my life and draw me near to Himself. While I was also awakened to the profession I need to pursue in order to bring Him glory, my time of sickness allowed for me to see how I can use this experience to glorify Him and bring healing to others even before I’ve attended graduate school. Which is why I agreed to write this for Brandi’s blog. God has used my mom and I to personally share healing and the gospel with over 300 people in the US, Canada, and Norway. So while I do want you to come away from this post with new knowledge about Chronic Lyme Disease, I want you to be more impacted by the idea that whatever hardships you encounter can be used to bring God glory and reveal a purpose for your life that is far beyond what you could have ever conceived.