It’s been almost two years since I published a blog on this site. Then, I shared about my battle with an illness that plagued me, an illness that no doctor could seem to find an answer for. I shared about my struggle to remain content in the plan that God had for me even as the list of medications that I was on grew longer and longer, as my symptoms grew worse, and as there seemed to be no end in sight. I wanted to be healthy, but God was asking me to rest in Him in my sickness.
This is a picture of me in June of 2011 (I am standing at the far right), after I had already had the first surgery. Every time I see it, I can’t help but think how sick I still look. I thought the illness was over, but it was going to get a lot worse.
After I published that blog post, I was still sick, but I was determined to learn to be content in illness. I decided that I didn’t want my life to be limited. I didn’t want to spend my time waiting around for a diagnosis or an answer. So, I started training for a triathlon, which I completed in June of 2014. I went out with friends, even when I wasn’t feeling the best. I volunteered every week with Youth for Christ, an organization which I love. I took a trip to the Wisconsin Dells with my family. I was sick, but that didn’t mean I had to stop living.
Here I am in June of 2014, getting ready to complete my first triathlon. I would have surgery 2 months later.
However, in the Spring of 2014, something happened. I went to the doctor for a routine allergy appointment. As I was waiting for the test results, which typically take about 20 minutes, the nurse handed me a magazine to read: Ladies’ Home Journal. It’s nothing I would have chosen to read on my own, but out of boredom, I flipped it open. A headline caught my eye: “20 Years of Mysterious Pain: How I Was Finally Diagnosed with Endometriosis.” I turned to the article out of curiosity. I had been diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2011, but a surgery in April of that year was supposed to have corrected the problem.
I read the story of Adina Kalish Neufeld. For years, she suffered with many of the same symptoms I had: food intolerances, extreme pain, vomiting, weakness, and more. She finally found a doctor who diagnosed her with endometriosis. She had surgery, but within a year, all of her symptoms were back. Determined to find an answer, she finally ended up at the Center for Endometriosis Care in Atlanta. There, she underwent an aggressive surgery to remove all Endometrial tissue. It was the answer she had been waiting for.
I left that allergy appointment that day with a list of things I was allergic to, a prescription for seasonal allergy medication, and a question. Could all of my symptoms be from Endometriosis? And if so, could the Center for Endometriosis Care help me, too? My doctor had insisted that vomiting and food intolerances were not symptoms of Endometriosis. She said that since I already had the surgery, I couldn’t still be suffering from the disease. But what if my doctor was wrong?
I spent the next month researching the Center for Endometriosis Care. I collected all of my medical records, copies of scans, test results, and a personal description of my illness over the last five years, and then I sealed it all up and mailed it to them in Atlanta. And then I waited.
A few weeks later, my cell phone rang. It was Dr. Sinervo from the Center for Endometriosis Care. He explained that he had reviewed all my medical records, and he was pretty sure that he could help me. He explained the surgery that he would need to perform and how it was different from treatment that I had received in the past. He told me he thought the chances that I would walk away symptom free were 80%. It was the best news I had received in years.
In August, exactly one year ago, my mom and I arrived in Atlanta. On Monday morning, I met Dr. Sinervo for the first time. He explained again how the surgery would work. As my bed was about to be wheeled back to the OR, he asked my mom and me if he could pray for me. The three of us held hands as he prayed for answers and healing. Back in the OR, he held my hand as the anesthesiologist put me to sleep for the surgery.
I woke up in the recovery room several hours later. I was scared. What if it didn’t work? What if this whole trip was a waste of time, and I was going to go home just as sick as when I came?
This is me in Atlanta. The surgery was 4 days prior. I was able to get up and walk around at this point, so my mom and I went out and explored the city a bit. I was still in some pain, but I was on the road to being healthy again!
But that’s not what happened. It’s been a year. None of my symptoms have returned. I feel healthier than I have in a very long time. All of those trips to the ER, the phone calls to my mom for help in the middle of the night, the vomiting, the being scared to eat because I didn’t want to be sick again- it’s all over.
I saw God work so many times throughout that illness. I saw God in my friends who sat in the hospital with me and brought me food when I was too sick to get out of bed. I saw God in my parents who always took my phone calls when I was sick and needed help. I saw God that day when the nurse handed me the Ladies’ Home Journal to read with the article that would lead me to the diagnosis and answer I had been longing for. I saw God in Dr. Sinervo and his care for me. I saw God in Patty, the woman who assisted me in my appeal to my insurance company and helped me get the surgery paid for.
God asked me to be content in illness. And now, I can celebrate that God has brought me to a place of healing and health. In the past year, I finished my second triathlon. I just got back from a trip to Cedar Point where Shannon and I rode 20 roller coasters (some were repeats) in 3 days. I did an Inflatable 5K with friends. I’ve eaten tons of ice cream and popcorn, drank lots of coffee…all foods that would have made me sick before the surgery.
Shannon, my parents, and I after just riding the Rougarou Roller Coaster at Cedar Point. It has a 137 foot dive, takes you upside down 4 times, and sends your through high speed twists at 60 miles an hour. Pre-surgery, I’m not sure I could have done this. Today: I rode this roller coaster and 19 others in three days! I even followed up the ride with an Oreo ice cream shake at Johnny Rocket. I never once got sick!
God gave me the answer I had been waiting so long for. And I know that not everyone gets that answer. Some people remain in illness and never get the chance to be healthy again, like I have. My heart goes out to them, because I know how hard it is to be in that place, wondering if it will ever end. It is my prayer that maybe my story can help someone else find an answer they have been looking for. That maybe my story can help encourage others. And that I would take the health that God has blessed me with and use it for His glory, always.