April McGowan

I Can See Clearly Now

So, last week I posted about my nervousness in starting subcutaneous treatment for my CVID. Well, on Tuesday, I took the plunge (no pun intended!). I also had a lovely visit with an excellent nurse who trained me. She explained each step, and we got me numbed up for the injection sites. Before I knew it, we were hooking me up to the pump (this involves four subcutaneous needles and tubing being attached from my abdomen to the pump). Then she took my vital signs. My blood pressure is usually excellent, but on Tuesday, it was higher than normal. So was my pulse rate.

As I sat, she chatted with me and the infusion started. Every fifteen minutes the nurse took my vital signs to make sure I wasn’t having a reaction to the infusion. I watched each time she jotted the numbers down. As I relaxed and realized everything was going okay, my blood pressure and pulse dropped. Before I knew it, 2 1/2 hours had gone by and I was done. The nurse gave me a grin as she wrote down the last vital check—all at very normal levels. “You’re not nervous anymore, right?”

She’s was right. Sometimes facing that unknown can be worse than the actual event. And I have a pretty good imagination (thus the writer in me). Unfortunately, I’m also a bit of a pessimist—so I tend to expect the worst and am usually pleased with a better outcome. I didn’t have a reaction (so we put away the Epi-pen until next time), and I didn’t get a headache or nausea. I did get some pretty awesome swelling though, that has finally gone down today (Friday). I understand that gets some better over time as my body will adjust to the treatment.

Something else happened today that I did not expect. For about a half-hour, I felt a bit different. By the time I caught on to what it was, the moment passed. It was what can only be described as feeling well. There was an open window of healthiness, the sun streaming in, a lightness for a period of time in which I didn’t feel the groggy, achy flu-like fatigue I’ve had for so long. I don’t know how else to describe it. Then, before I realized it for what it was, that window crashed closed, and I fell to tears.

People who are chronically ill set a new level on themselves (at least this is my experience and the experience of my friends). This is what feels okay, this is what doesn’t (what passes for okay for someone chronically ill would feel quite sick by a healthy person’s body). I’ve spent so much of this past year feeling lousy, I think I’ve forgotten what it feels like not to feel icky. In fact, as happens often with CVID, I’ve felt worse and worse, less and less able to keep up with life for the past ten years. Tired from doing easy tasks, overwhelmed by decisions, catching every cold that comes by. Some friends chalked it up to age—but it’s not just that. Today, I had a window of proof.

I’m going to try, while I fight a sinus headache off tonight, to hold onto that vision, that view of wellness. Because of that window I glimpsed through today, praise God, I’m hoping for more—when frankly I was afraid to hope at all.

Ephesians 3: 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (read in context here)

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Give Thanks

I’ve been thinking of something for a few weeks now, ever since someone quoted a Bible verse to me about being perfectly and wonderfully made. To the person who quoted it, it meant I should claim wellness. I think they were worried I was ‘settling’ for being chronically ill. I know they meant to be helpful, but it started another round of soul searching on my part. Was I doing everything in my power to be well? The answer, once again, was yes.

Most people are well-intentioned and have no idea what it’s like to be on the receiving end of suggestions, even Biblical references, after they have finally come to an acceptance of their situation, whatever that may be. People who suffer from chronic pain or illness have been through the gamut of searching—so if you know someone who is in that spot, please offer prayer and friendship, but know they’ve been on the journey searching for an answer for a long time, and they certainly aren’t settling for anything. People don’t mean to, but when they insist you try this one more thing, it’s like they’re saying you would try their one more thing if you really wanted to get well—and if you don’t try their one more thing then you are choosing sickness and pain. This is incredibly hurtful.

I’ve spent a lot of my life ill, and in being so, I’ve searched out web pages, done research, taken natural medicines, tried out tinctures and teas, changed eating habits, and took loads of supplements all the while searching for those things that would fix me. Let me warn you, it’s a dangerous road to travel. Several people I’ve crossed paths with have turned their search into an almost religious-like passion. And some try to force their conclusions on others. There is franticness in their lives, an out of control feeling, a grasping for that thing. If you just drink this thing, or eat this thing and avoid that thing then you will have complete healing.

Other good-intentioned folks have said something akin to: “You were made in the image of God, He wants you to be well.” I will say this to that: If He wanted me to be well, you can bet I would be. Right now. Immediately with no action on my part except prayer and petition. DONE. My conclusion is that it is for some reason, for His purposes I am not. Which leads me to my next point that upsets any number of people, and hopefully encourages even more: I’m okay with that. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that’s not an easy thing for me to say. But, it’s the truth.

Just like most folks, I have a tendency to thank God for the things that make me happy, make my life easier—and I forget that God is in control of the hard things like illness ( or please insert your form of loss or suffering here). Let me assure you, God is much more interested in my spiritual being than my temporary happiness (because my circumstances are always changing). So, I need to look at those difficult things and, because I know God is loving, be thankful for those things as well. Maybe I should be thankful for those things first because it’s during those hard times He draws me close, holds me up and carries me through. As Christians, we were never promised an easy ride—I’m not sure when that false teaching first arose (somewhere in the first century, I’m sure). But we are assured by His word that He never leaves us, nor forsakes us. And that is something to be truly thankful for.

Hebrews 13: 5-6 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (Full text here.)

Paul, who suffered untold poverty, prison, shipwreck, illness, and pain while he lived a life passionately for our Lord shared the following:

1 Timothy 6: 17-19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (Full text here.)

Philippians 4: 12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Full text here.)

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Everything Must Change

I love the sound of the geese flying overhead as they leave thePacific Northwest for warmer locales. I know that some are really just moving from place to place here, because they stay in the area. But most are on their way south.

I remember once when my daughter was about 6. We had just parked the car and I saw multiple V’s of geese flying overhead. I rolled down the windows to let in the sound of their honking and grinned at my daughter, wanting her to share in my excitement. “Hear that sound? Those are the geese flying over on their way south. They’re leaving for the winter.”

Instead of having a warm fuzzy moment with my daughter, I learned something about her character. Unbeknownst to me, she had a deep-set fear of change (she’s still not happy about it, but it’s better now). Rather than share in my enthusiasm, she began to cry, “I don’t want the geese to leave!” In seconds, she became inconsolable. She wanted me to bring them back. I tried my best to assure her they would be back in the spring, but nothing I said made any difference to her.

I can identify with that. This past year I’ve had become accustomed to a new way of living. After a lifetime of illness, I was diagnosed with CVID (If you want to know what that is, please read here). The diagnosis explained why I’d been sick so often (starting at 4 mos with tonsillitis). But, at the same time, it ushered in this new phase of change, of letting go, of slowing down (consuming fatigue as my body does it’s best to fight off germs the best it can), of learning to protect myself from illness (RUN!) and how open doors in public places without touching them.

As glad as I was to get the diagnosis, I’ve fought the idea of it. I wanted a cure-all treatment. Now that I knew what was broken, I wanted the doctors to fix it. Well, that’s not to be. I can be treated with SCIG (subcutaneous immunoglobulin via weekly home infusions for the rest of my life), but I can’t be ‘fixed’ medically. I might have to fight this fatigue for the rest of my life. I’ll always have to be careful of germy places (i.e the public). And the treatments are quite expensive (so much so no one really wants to tell you how much they cost). We thank the Lord for our insurance and His provision to pay for it when I start in January.

Anyway, I didn’t want to have a chronic illness. I didn’t want to have a disability. I wanted my life back. But, what I came around to is this is my life. We had to change dramatically when my son was diagnosed some time back with a-typical celiac and other food allergies, and here we go changing again. It’s disconcerting, uncomfortable, and it’s really not much fun. But, God’s helping me handle it. I listened to a sermon today that reminded me of a very important truth:

God doesn’t often change our circumstances, but He can change us through our circumstances. And He’s ALWAYS with us.

Change is an un-comfy thing. But, like my daughter, with the Lord’s help I’m getting better at it. And I’m so thankful for that the love of the Lord is unchanging, never faltering, and always sustaining.

Psalm 9:9-10 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Full text here.)

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (Full text here.)

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