Saturday, November 29, 2008

My story

In September of 2005, my father passed away after being terribly sick for 20 years. By the time he passed away, he was a pretty much a walking skeleton. He had been suffering from almost constant pain in his stomach, the cause for which eluded his plethora of doctors and tests. I ached for him. He used to wearily look at me and say, “I am so sick.” He did not want to eat food, though he knew he had to and my mother faithfully supported him through it all.

In February of 2006, I started having pain in my stomach. As the months progressed, the pain increased and I was reminding me very much of my dad. I was co-teaching a class at a Christian school that year, but as the summer progressed, I realized I could not continue.

That summer, when my husband asked me to accompany him to see his brother and our son in Washington state, I reluctantly had to turn him down, as the pain was so bad I knew I couldn’t travel; I missed a lot of family events that summer. Food was becoming my enemy. I suspected that something I was eating was causing my pain, but I could not tell what it was. Eating pretty much always hurt.

I went to doctors; the doctors ran tests; the tests came out fine. After running every test that he could think of, one doctor (a gastroenterologist) dismissed me with a “some people hurt” and suggested proper eating, exercise, fish oil and maybe an aspirin a day for good measure. He also wanted to put me on antidepressants, which I refused. I walked out of his office at a loss. I knew that something was seriously wrong, but where do you turn when the specialist exhausts his bag of tricks?

Late in the year, I finally started having a symptom that I could sink my proverbial teeth into: pain under my right shoulder blade…gallbladder. I hate having body parts removed, so I tried to go with the holistic methods, eating beets, taking supplements, etc., but as attacks increased, my resolve diminished. My doctor ordered tests, the gallbladder was declared the culprit and I had surgery the week after Thanksgiving (happy anniversary, baby). By that time, I was one sick puppy; I had lost 35 pounds and lots of hair. I was fully afraid of food; which is a very strange place to be.

The surgeon was confident that my problem was solved. When I went in for the follow-up appointment, he told that he was certain my symptoms would be gone now, and that I could eat whatever I wanted. I was so hungry and asked my husband to stop at a whole foods restaurant on the way home, where I picked up a whole grain sandwich with organic turkey and sprouts and all kinds of lovely, healthy stuff in it. I cut it in quarters and ate one a day for the next four days. I ate other stuff through those days too, but I could only eat a small amount at a time. The surgeon was wrong.

Over the next two weeks, I lost 15 more pounds. My pain was severe. The doctor ordered an MRI. He was concerned that either there was a blockage, or he had damaged something during surgery. The MRI was clear (Note: every time I had a test come out okay that year, I thanked God for it and then I would follow it up with a “but please let the doctors find out what is wrong”.) I suppose it was because this assured him that he was not to blame, or because he was out of suggestions as well, but once that was established, his work was done.

The day before Christmas, after eliminating all foods but fruits and vegetables (and small amounts of those), fruits started hurting me too. I decided that I either had to die of starvation, or eat and have pain. I chose the latter. On Christmas, I sparingly filled my plate. I ate everything served, just not much of any of it. I ate the food like some guy just rescued from a desert island; it was as if my body was in control and couldn’t get the food fast enough. Not surprisingly, the pain returned.

Sometimes, I would just lean against the wall in the shower and cry. It was such a difficult time for me. My reflection scared me; I had a gaunt, haunted look. Pain wears away at a body.

As the new year gained momentum, a friend kept saying to me, “Are you sure you aren’t gluten intolerant?” To which I would say, “How can that be when everything I eat hurts me?” However, I finally decided to leave gluten out of my diet and see what happened. Healing was slow, but I did start to improve. Two weeks into it, I went to my doctor and suggested this might be my problem. He said it would explain all that had been happening to me in the past year (it was in February or March by this time, exactly a year of pain) and took some tests. When they came back, he told me that they were negative. I was shocked and reminded him that I hadn’t had any gluten for two weeks, and wondered if that would make a difference. He then emphatically informed me, “YOU DO NOT HAVE CELIAC SPRUE!” I asked what was wrong with me then. Irritable bowel syndrome rolled casually off of his tongue. I left his office knowing that I would never knowingly eat gluten again.

I am now convinced that like me, my father's problem was gluten. I was almost 50 years old when my pain started and he was in his mid-fifties. Dad didn't want to eat food, but mom would encourage him to do so because she knew he needed nourishment to live. I am grateful that Dad was a believer in Jesus Christ and I know that now he is pain free.

Through all of this, my faith did not waiver. I never got angry with God, or blamed Him for what was happening to me. I understood then, and understand now, that the reason pain is in the world is because sin is in the world. I understand that God is not the author of evil, but I also understand that He is sovereign and that He has allowed me to go through this for a reason. I cling to Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose” (NASB). I don’t say this to brag about me, as I know me pretty well and am well aware that it is His provision that makes me able to trust Him this way. I am a stinking sinner who has no strength on my own. I say it to brag about my LORD. He is the One who has given me peace in spite of this turmoil. I am so very grateful to Him for this.


Anonymous said...

I just found your blog. Your story is very similar to mine. I had pain for two years, went through every test possible, all negative. Finally, at suggestion of my sister, I tried an anti-inflammatory diet which eliminates possible allergens for 3 weeks, then adds back one item at a time. It was gluten! I now feel like a normal person. Like you, I am a Christian and I know it was the Lord who helped me (and still does)!

Becky, slave of Christ said...

Thanks for stopping by, Anon. Isn't it wonderful to know that we will leave the trials of this world behind when we are with Christ? Have a blessed New Year.

Anonymous said...

My story is also similar. I lived with a burning gut my whole life. I am 43. I am so thankful to God, too as He is sovereign in my life also. It's changed my life. So glad to have happened upon your blog. Thanks.

Becky, slave of Christ said...

Anon Two,
It is always good to hear from another believer. I am pleased that by the grace of God you were finally able to find out what was wrong with you.

Thank you for visiting. I am in the process of rethinking some things on my blog and deciding what I might do to make it more user-friendly and helpful. If you have any suggestions, feel free to share.

Marisa said...

I love your story! My daughter presented with autistic symptoms that we resolved 85% on a gluten-free diet when she was 2 1/2. I was 35 when I realized I was gluten intolerant! When He says that children are a blessing, my children have blessed me twice. Thank you for sharing! For friendship in Christ, Marisa