Facing a Diagnosis
Story is what makes up our lives. Stories can be fascinating, thrilling, intriguing, dull, beautiful, inspiring, scary, invigorating, soothing. The difference between my story and the world’s story is that mine is eternal. And I already know the ending and it’s the most glorious, beautiful, dream-come-true, magnificent ending one could ever imagine or dare to dream. But for now, the pages are turning in my story and revealing some things I would rather skip over. But isn’t it the ugly parts of our stories that makes the wonderful parts so lovely? It’s the hard that makes us strong. The unfaceable that makes us resilient. And so I introduce to you a hard chapter of my story that I’m learning to embrace.
A few years ago I began to notice some unusual-to-me health concerns. I pushed them aside thinking it was due to some major transitions our family was facing. After things settled a bit, they kept nagging me. Things like fatigue, irregular cycles, migraines, mood changes and the scary moment I discovered a lump in my breast which turned out to be a cyst. I began visits to various physicians and they all told me that things were normal and that I should expect to be tired since I have four children. As time went on, I knew things weren’t right. We moved to a new city where I found a holistic physician who was able to help me dig deeper into my symptoms. There, I discovered a thyroid that was a slightly hypo at the time as well as some hormone deficiencies. I tried bio-identical hormone therapy for a while and a low dose of Naturethroid, a natural thyroid medication. I also changed some things my diet and began to feel better. During this time, our family then received a call to plant a new church in our hometown and we began making preparations for that. I had my thyroid numbers checked with my doctor before moving and was surprised when I got the call that my TSH levels were at 78 which is extremely high (optimal ranges are between 1 and 4). I had been feeling tired but I thought it was just due to packing up and moving. They immediately increased my dosage of Naturethroid which took about 2 months to do and after getting my dosage where it needed to be came another blood test to see where I was at. I was also ordered a thyroid antibody bloodtest which would reveal what I had suspected over the past year or so, that I indeed had Hashimotos auto-immune disease. Upon hearing this news and having some time to process it with my family and husband, things began to make sense – like the chronic infections , allergies and dark circles under my eyes I had as a child and the mono virus I became very sick with in college – all signs that pointed to a sickness I may have dealt with from the years of my childhood.
Hashimoto’s auto-immune disease is one the most common auto-immune diseases that exists but it is also the most under-diagnosed and most mis-understood. I feel thankful to have found a physician who persisted in listening to my symptoms and knowing which tests to run. It is also a disease that is often not recognized by the mainstream medical community, making it difficult to diagnose. I struggled with feeling angry and accepting this diagnosis as apart of my story. I was angry that I would have to do hard things in order to heal like change my diet and be “that person” who brings her own food and I was immensely sad that what I thought was going to be a wonderful season in my life of not being pregnant and tired and sick or having a newborn baby to wake up with and face the exhaustion of the days with toddlers, that I ended up being the wife and mom who would battle with the unknown – not knowing how I would feel from day-to-day, facing the brain fog, fatigue and depression, anxiety and myriad of other symptoms that come with having an auto-immune disorder. Living with Hashimoto’s feels hard because there is no guaranteed end in sight. Accepting this as my “new normal” is a hard pill to swallow. Admitting that I can’t go train for half-marathons right now and be as active as I once was seems daunting and dark..but hope.
Amidst the darkness of facing an unwanted sickness, amidst the no gluten, no dairy, no sugar and corn and soy are a million yes’s in Christ who alone is my hope. I am not guaranteed to ever be fully healed from this disease and though I will fight the best that I humanly can to get to a place where this disease can be in remission or even reversed, I am so thankful that is pushing me into a deeper knowledge of and abiding with Christ. A person cannot go deeper if there is no suffering with which to make his need known. How can we know we really and truly rely on our one hope if we are constantly tending to our idols of comfort, business, people pleasing, health, money, our children, or fill-in-the-blank? I recently listened to a sermon on suffering by pastor John Piper who spoke this poignant reminder: “Sufferings are very temporary even if they are 80 years long. Every good thing you’ve ever lost, He will restore forever!” One day, my health will be fully restored forever because I know I will abide with Christ based on his dying on the cross to pay for the sins that made me deserve death and hell.
This world needs bold sufferers who do not lose hope. Popular author and blogger Ann Voskamp gives us a piercing reminder: “The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”
So here I am, amidst a diagnosis that I don’t like but that I know is going to make me stronger. No, it’s not cancer and yes, it could be worse. While there is much to be thankful for it is also ok to acknowledge that this is suffering. It is a silent sort of suffering that only speaks the language of those who have walked through its’ trenches. It is unknown, with deep roots that are delicately and holistically intertwined. But it is not bigger than God and it cannot overcome me. I’ll never forget a professor I had in college who loved the Lord deeply. During my Junior year, he lost his wife suddenly and I will never forget him standing up before thousands of people behind the podium on the stage in our auditorium at her memorial service.With tears streaming down his face, voice shaking, fists clenched up in the air and shaking, these were his words: “I don’t like it. I don’t like that God took my wife. I don’t like it but God is good!”
I will keep going to my physician, changing my diet, taking my supplements and lessening my commitments for this season. I will keep seeking answers but I will not let this consume me. There is still life to be lived, children to be raised and boundless opportunities to serve others who are also hurting and in need. This chapter in the story has only really begun and there is lots of waiting to be had. Perhaps in the waiting, more purging of this world will burn away. And the things that really matter will come forth and shine. To all of my fellow friends and to those I don’t know who are suffering with an auto-immune disease, put your hope in God and you will never be disappointed. (Romans 10:9 “..if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”)
“We do not like to wait; the pain is too deep, the struggle too wearying. The Lord will not relieve the pressure until you know that he is your portion, that the inestimable blessing of crying to him is to find him as your all, your very life. How else will we ever truly forsake the world and devote ourselves to seeking first his kingdom and righteousness unless our vein delusions and worldliness begin to be purged away in the furnace of affliction?”