I have wanted for quite some time to be able to have a place where people could find encouragement and hope along the way as they struggle with a chronic illness. I want you to share your experience and struggles with chronic pain and all that goes along with it. But yet this will not be a depressing place. We will discover insights in the Word, things that will make us stronger and may even find that what we think will be our lowest valleys will in reality be some of the most precious times in our walk with God. And we will laugh and have fun together!
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are.” Romans 8:18.
My first round of chronic pain started almost 20 years ago with a lot of muscle pain, especially in my hips and legs. I was only 30 years old, had just had my third little boy, Korey Ross, and was also experiencing quite a few migraine headaches. The muscle aches were getting worse in my chest and I was struggling to get deep breaths.
This went on for weeks, I had seen several doctors who had done test after test and I was getting worse all the time. My chest hurt so bad it felt like I was having a heart attack! But every test they conducted came back normal. It was so frustrating. We finally found a specialist who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia, which was basically unheard of twenty years ago. He told me I wasn’t going into REM sleep; he definitely nailed that one for me, and put me on 10 mg of amitriptyline, only 10 mg. That night I slept ten hours without waking up at all for the first time in years and the pain in my chest was gone, as was the muscle pain! He told me that not going into REM sleep for so long was causing the muscles in my chest to contract and causing the pain in my chest to feel like I was having a heart attack.
I struggled with fibromyalgia off and on for the next few years, especially during inclement weather. It helped to stay active. I tried several meds, prednisone, (weight gain) Mobic, Celebrex (short term) Vioxx (even shorter term). But I managed to stay off of any other medication on a long term basis other than the amitriptyline for REM sleep. It can be so painful at times, your muscles ache so badly and some days you cannot get out of bed at all because the fatigue can be so overwhelming.
In 2004 I had a hysterectomy in Cincinnati; we were pastoring a church in that city at the time. During the surgery they dropped me; yes you read correctly, they dropped me! They didn’t tell me right away. I went home the day after the surgery with no complications, but as soon as the morphine wore off I was in excruciating pain! I was in the ER so fast demanding they do something NOW! I didn’t wait for them to ask, “Mrs. Elkins on a scale of 1 to 10, what level would you say your pain is at?” They didn’t have a yardstick that could measure my level of pain!
First they take me back to look for kidney stones, no stones. I am in agony. It seems like it takes hours to get the pain under control and they finally get me admitted. Sometime later my gynecologist comes to visit and delivers the news that they had dropped me during the hysterectomy and that he is sure they had injured my back and that is why I am in so much pain. What?!?!?! Friends, this is one of those “If I had known then what I know NOW…” Smile…it sure would help pay a stack of doctor bills today.
That was the beginning of years of back pain for me. For the first few years it was an occasional, “Oops, my back is out.” The doctor would give me a Medrol dose pack and pain pills and that would take care of it. That would usually happen about two or three times a year up until 2009 when those stopped working for me. Things started getting worse little by little. In 2010 I was still walking three miles a day but it was getting more difficult and we were getting ready to go overseas in the fall of that year and I could tell something was just not right.
We arrived in the country of Latvia in May of 2011 for our first year-long associate in mission’s term. (See my post under Faith Journey.)We didn’t have a car the first three months so we relied on public transportation and we also wanted to experience everything we could about the culture by being out among the people. Well, that really took a toll on me very quickly. It wasn’t long until all of the walking and climbing up and down the steps into the buses and down into the many tunnels had me lying flat on my back…again.
But this time we could tell things were worse and I was having a really hard time even getting into our shower and rolling over in bed was extremely painful. Something was terribly wrong. I had a wonderful doctor in Riga, who was also the doctor at the American Embassy. She was Latvian, but spoke fluent English and was very kind. She had already gotten to know me very well because I had contracted a very bad parasite about eight weeks after we had gotten there and I was so sick I couldn’t keep any food down for three weeks. I lost 15 pounds…a good thing…but not a good way to do it.
So, when all of this started up she sent me to a specialist and he did a series of CT scans and told me that my sacroiliac joint was disintegrating. I wasn’t familiar with the SI joint but started Googling and my symptoms were a definite match.
At Christmas we flew home for three weeks and I made arrangements to see a doctor about getting a steroid injection in my SI joint. Unfortunately they couldn’t do it until the day BEFORE I was to fly back overseas. Our insurance declared it a pre-existing condition so this SI joint injection hit us for $5,000! It gave me about 50% relief and only lasted for three months. You don’t know until you try.
The Lord opened doors for us to be able to bring our work back to the States for a while and for me to get some doctor’s care. The first week of April, 2012, we arrived back in Indiana and have been busy ever since traveling and sharing what God has been doing in Eastern Europe and around the world with Revival By Design, North America.
My days start out slowly, a wonderful cup of mocha, my Bible, journal, iPad and my devotions. After I finish reading, I sometimes take a Percocet and lie back down on the couch to worship, and pray…just being transparent, I can pray as long as I want to on my back but wouldn’t be able to concentrate five minutes on my knees. By the time I am finished praying, the pain pill has kicked in enough that I can at least stand upright enough to walk and hopefully get in the shower. I share all of that to let you know I feel your pain.
So, chronic pain, why me? Well, why not me? We live in a real world where people get sick, have problems and life is just life.
I have never had to bury one of my children, thankfully, so I couldn’t minister to someone who has just lost a child like another who has experienced that pain could minister to them. God uses us and works through us in unique times in our lives.
We go through things for a reason, and we need to let God talk to us during those times so we can glean all we can out of what He is trying to tell us.
“Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 NLT.
My heart goes out to anyone who suffers with pain on a daily basis. I know what it is like when you don’t look sick. I understand how it feels when they can’t find anything wrong but the pain is so intense you can’t stop the tears from falling. The depression from being stuck inside day after day and the pressure to “Get out more, you’ll feel better!” is intense. If they only knew how much effort it took just to run a comb through your hair! I realize mine is minor compared to so many. I have a very dear and close friend who suffers from lupus and RA who also reminds me, and chides me with this thought,
“Just because I have two broken legs and you only have one doesn’t mean your one broken leg doesn’t hurt!”
Can’t argue with that!
We may not have all of the answers here but I am convinced there is a reason for every season in our life. I heard a message preached one time and the minister said, “Maybe the world needs to hear the wind blowing through your circumstance.” Maybe others need to see and hear your testimony during your trial! You are stronger than you think and God will strengthen you and restore you in your valley.
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 NLT.
I truly believe we can glorify God through our sickness and our pain. When you hang onto somebody (Jesus) as your only Hope then you are showing that He is strong and you are dependent on Him. Then you are making Him look great! This is glorifying God! He IS your strength; there is nothing weak about that!
Feel free to share your stories and insights! I would love to hear from you.