As I lay in bed less than a week after my rushed procedure to figure out what was wrong with me, I struggled to answer my phone, get up to go to the bathroom, and eat two (not three) meals a day. The nausea had overcome my body to the point that even the thought of food made me sick. I’d set up a nice prop for my legs/knees at the end of my bed, opened my blinds, and managed to grab my laptop to turn on my favorite comfort show, friends, expending all my energy for the next few hours.
In an out of consciousness and then awoken by the occasional tv laughter, I finally looked over to see it was past noon. If I couldn’t make it to the couch now, it probably made more sense to just stay in bed all day because the journey was so exhausting. I grabbed my water, fuzzy blanket, phone, and book to be sure I didn’t have to make more trips later and plopped myself down on the couch to take yet another nap.
Around 3 pm my boyfriend called from Africa. He’s currently working at a youth center in Mekele, Ethiopia coaching kids, teaching English, and leading bible studies 6 days a week. We typically liked to connect via video call although I had started to become hesitant. I hadn’t showered in a few days, my teeth were unbrushed (toothpaste made me more nauseous), and I had caught a glimpse of myself during my trek into the living room – I knew I was in rough shape. He’s sweet so of course didn’t mention my disheveled mess but later told me it scared him to the point of almost purchasing an $1,800 ticket home the following day. He proceeded to ask how I was feeling, as if my image didn’t share enough. Bluffing to try to hold it together, I responded “fine” and he proceeded to encourage me to get up and try to eat something. With the reward of a story (he’s a great storyteller), he convinced me to eat some applesauce. Afterwards, I quickly fell back asleep to his calming voice.
An hour or so later, I was woken up by my phone ringing, this time it was my doctor – we’re now 5 days after my initial procedure. She informed me that I had a bacterial infection that was making me nauseous and promptly put me on a pharmacy of medications. I drove to the store as soon as they were ready – gagging the whole way.
At this point, I had lost 20 pounds to my 5’8 130 pound stature. My legs were stick straight, shoulder blades excessively protruding, and if I were to sit down I needed some serious cushion for my boney concave butt. With sunken in cheeks and pale skin, I preferred baggy clothes and a baseball cap on my rare journey out of the house to cover what remained of me.
From here – it only got worse.
My sweet mom arrived in town shortly after my cousin confirmed his concern for me and need for potential hospitalization. She drove us back to Pittsburgh where I remained for the next 7 weeks. I struggled so much that reaching for a cup of water on the table was too much to handle. Water bottles, faith that God had a plan through all this mess, and the assistance of family kept me alive.
At this point, I was told by doctors it was a waiting game. They said sometimes it can take up to 3 months to recover. This news upset me, feeling weary from the previous 3 week struggle, and I cried myself to sleep. I’ve never experienced such intense pain for a prolonged period like this before. When asked what the pain was like, as I started to come out of it 6 weeks later, I was hesitant. The idea of reliving it made me anxious and fearful because chances are (doctors said) it will happen again.
My diagnosis was for an autoimmune disease, that would be with me lifelong. Doctors stressed that there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Since the diagnosis, I’ve been put on bi-monthly injections with the request to come in for infusions. I obliged to the injections to get me out of bed. What caught me off guard was the fact that my healthcare team cared little about the natural tools I had known to be tied directly to health and wellness. No questions were asked about my stress leading up to this, nutritional habits, or exercise routine.
I’ve since felt in my heart that this is not a lifelong diagnosis. Instead, I am confident that this happened for a reason – triggered by reasons I know and felt building in late 2018, early 2019. I’m confident it was my body’s reaction to the severe emotional trauma I experienced earlier in the year. The trauma I am still dealing with and am not ready to share, as of yet, as I’m first trying to wrap my head around my plan of attack to get my body to stop attacking itself.
Through this valley, I’ve already learned a lot about God’s faithfulness, myself, and others. Did you know that more people suffer from autoimmune diseases than breast cancer and heart disease combined? Around 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease. The annual cost is estimated to be $100 billion. Whereas for cancers, the cost is $57 billion.
I’ve always known part of my purpose is to wholeheartedly share my journey – encouraging others to be authentic with theirs and create the space for us to go deeper. I didn’t know my story would include all that’s transpired this past year. I do know that from it, God is making me stronger. He is faithful and is equipping me for the plans He has for me and I am more committed to helping others because of it. As I continue to heal, I plan to get involved with some nonprofits that are now near and dear to my heart from the trauma experience. In the meantime, I will continue the work to make significant lifestyle changes to sync my body back up so that I can be the exception and not the rule.
I’m grateful this experience has given me the opportunity to be a student again. As I continue to learn more about health and wellness, I look forward to sharing my insights with y’all. And as we walk down the road of healing (both individually and collectively) I will share more of my journey in hopes that it will help others in their healing process as well. Thanks for listening to my story and encouraging me along the way. May God bless you!