Life With Chronic Illness And The Blessings Therein

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Illness is something as natural to me as breathing. Or struggling to breathe.

I’ve spent my life on the far side of wellness. I was, by all accounts, born healthy but this changed just four months later when I came down with a high fever. My father, a drunken abusive man, decided for whatever reason that he wasn’t going to allow Mama to take me to the doctor. And he didn’t, not for days.

Daddy controlled the car, the keys, the wallet, and she had no phone. There were no neighbors to help. She was trapped and alone. So she sat up with me, sleeping only in snatches, as she prayed and worked around the clock to confront my illness and bring down the fever that continued to rage. She begged, threatened, and pleaded trying to convince him of the necessity of medical care. Finally, irritated by her pleading, he threw 25cents and the keys at her and told her to “Take the d*&% kid to the doctor!!”

I’ve no idea how she managed but she did. She got me there, they rush examined me, and among other things, told her that “This child will have every allergy in the book.”

That was the beginning of my life with chronic illness.

A few years later, I was diagnosed with 84 allergens. But long before that, other symptoms manifested; the most serious of which was a tendency for every single infection to head directly to my lungs.

I spent my childhood in and out of the hospital. One illness after another. Multiple bouts of antibiotics, sometimes up to five times in a row. Allergy shots. Many complications. I nearly died multiple times.

The complications of the illness were many: dozens upon dozens of bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, which I still struggle with today. Scarred weakened lungs. Sinus problems became the norm, a norm that has plagued me my entire life. Where others get headaches, I get so sick I can’t hold my head up. At times, my white blood count has soared dangerously high from a sinus infection. Listlessness, burns inside and outside of my nostrils happen regularly, along with pain and nausea.

At 13, probably due to all of the stress all the illness was bringing to bear on my body (not to mention the emotional stress I constantly lived under), I developed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease; since one autoimmune disease opens the way for others, I developed may others also.

At 18, I was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler; the damage from that accident affects me to this day in the form of pain, numbness, tingling in my neck, shoulders, arms, and upper back, nerve damage on my entire right side, along with a degree of deafness in my right ear.

When there wasn’t an illness, there were syndromes and diseases: I later developed adult onset asthma, digestive issues, multiple food sensitivities, the inability to digest certain foods, and more–some of which wouldn’t be diagnosed for years despite many–many–tests.

Later came two kinds of arthritis–one the result of the accident, the other Rheumatoid. Fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue.

I developed sensitivity to medications of various kinds. Multiple times medicines that I was given has resulted in crashed blood pressure. Or in it soaring. I cannot take any kind of sleeping pill, not even natural ones or even Benadryl; I just keep on sleeping all the next day. Most antibiotics no longer work because I was kept on them much of the time for years. And years. And more.

I’m chronically low on D, B12, and iron–to the point that doctors have said any more problems will result in blood transfusions.

I’m also chronically low on potassium, magnesium, and various others also; then to make everything even more fun, there’s the difficulties I face with Malabsorption Syndrome which often prevents me from being able to absorb nutrients that I so badly need. I depend on probiotics and enzymes, raw natural thyroid, all kinds of immune boosters and natural infection fighters, along with supplements for joints, thyroid boosters, adrenal gland support, as well as many others which I often can’t afford. I often have to do without and pray for the best.

I’ve had multiple surgeries and several unexplained fevers throughout the years that no amount of testing could reveal the cause.

The scars from all the blood tests remain.

Endless IV’s.

And there’s more.

Lots more.

Illness. Fevers. Pain. More.

Along with this, I have suffered through multiple kinds of abuse throughout my entire life.

When I say abuse, I mean abuse. Physical, emotional, verbal, and more.

My husband, like my father before him, often prevented me and even our children getting the health care we so desperately needed. Once, it resulted in two years of severe pain that led to emergency gallbladder surgery. My doctor said another day or two, and it might have ruptured. Gangrene was *yea* close to setting in.

I’ll be 58 on the 15th of this month. I have a lifetime of illness and various health issues behind–and before–me. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten weaker and weaker. I’ve always caught nearly everything that comes along, now I do so even more often. I stay sick longer. Keep relapsing.

A couple of years ago, my sodium levels crashed and I had a thyroid storm which caused me for a bit to shift from hypo- to hyper-thyroid and then back again–either of which could have been fatal and caused grave concern among my doctors and resulted in emergency hospitalization and a lasting downward slide in my health.

And all of this while dealing with abuse…my physically abusive father, my verbally abusive mother, my multi-abusive and unfaithful husband. And poverty, often grinding and that with no recourse but God Himself.

And the list goes on.

Something else goes on, also: the blessings I’ve gotten from illness and everything else that I could have gotten no other way.

The Lord has used it all to create dependence in me on Him in ways nothing else could have.

God has confronted my idols, has brought me to the end of myself, and driven me to my knees in prayer again and again.

My illness has given me the time and created the desire to understand His Word. I was raised in the church of Christ and the Lord used the time I spent studying to pull me out of that false church and lead me to truth.

When other children were out playing sports or enrolling in after school classes, I was reading books, encyclopedias, thesauruses, and dictionaries. Teaching myself to write with my non-dominate hand, and to read and write upside down, backwards, and in a mirror. Designing games. Writing poetry, stories, and copying books by hand.

And sermons. So many, many, sermons. I’ve always loved listening to sermons.

Memorizing hymns. Scripture.

Memorizing poetry and songs.

And more.

I couldn’t do a lot of the physical–especially when I was at my sickest–so God gave me the hunger to do otherwise. And He’s used it in so many ways.

Through all of this, God created in me a love–a need– of and for prayer, His Word, and an unshakeable desire for truth. His truth and any truth which rests upon it.

A love for His people. For loving others.

If I hadn’t had all the time that came from being stuck in bed, in the hospital, sitting at a table or resting on the couch alone, sometimes thinking and often feeling as if I were dying, I wouldn’t have gotten the blessings that can only be said to have resulted from being so ill.

God uses our pain for our good and the good of others while bringing glory to Himself.

He comforts us in our afflictions so that we might learn to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1: 4

Without my illness, without being brought to the brink of death again and again, I would have been bereft of all the benefits that has resulted from it.

The way He taught me to redeem the time (for who knew what tomorrow would bring?). The love of Him and His Word, the fear of Him, an unshakable belief that He is who He said He is and that His Word is truth–all of this, He created by using the illness that He foreordained.

God’s grace has truly been sufficient.

This isn’t about me. This was all God. All of His mercy.

My initial illness that resulted in a lifetime of illness and all that has resulted from it, including my weakened physical state now, is such a blessing and it’s all by God’s grace and for His glory.

And it’s done me good in ways nothing else could have.

And it continues to.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Photo by Anna Shvets:

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