I want to begin my story with my salvation, because that is the most important thing that has ever happened to me!! I received Jesus Christ to be the Savior of my life, on Easter Sunday night, when I was 7 years old. Then when I was 11, I surrendered my life to Christ.
When I was 13, in 1991, I got bit by a tick on a camping trip up in Minnesota, where I grew up. That was a significant moment in my life because I believe that is when I was infected with Lyme disease. Shortly after that camping trip, our family moved to Pensacola, Florida. My Dad got a job coaching wrestling at Pensacola Christian College. Six months later, in January of 1992, I became ill. I was 14.
My first symptoms were intense fatigue and feeling like I had the flu. We thought it was mono, but the blood tests came back negative. As the intense fatigue and flu-like symptoms continued, I also developed severe leg pain. I could no longer walk without pain. Over the next 2 years, I found no help and no relief from the numerous doctors that I saw. They prescribed different drugs, ran tests, and did treatments on me. Everything from steroids to cortizone shots. I was in and out of hospitals. I only got worse and the medical bills got bigger.
When I was 16, I was admitted to the hospital for a week of tests. At that time I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). We found out six years later that this was a misdiagnosis.
During one of the tests that week the doctors made a medical mistake. The test consisted of inserting a catheter into the main artery in my lower right abdomen to send dye down my leg. However, something went wrong and I stopped breathing during the test. I remember them yelling at me to breathe. After the test was complete, I found that my whole lower abdomen and upper right leg were black and blue. They pulled out the catheter too quickly causing injury to the tissues and muscles. I had severe pain in that area and I limped for two months. When I got home from the hospital, I showed my black and blue area to my best friend, Suzie, and she burst out crying.
The doctor who diagnosed me with RSD prescribed three options for treatment: a sympathectomy (cutting nerves in my legs so I would not feel my pain), implanting a morphine pump in my spine, or epidural nerve blocks (which carried a risk of paralysis). My Mom did not have peace about these treatments. We praise the Lord that He intervened and burdened Mom to not pursue that path.
The Lord led Mom to find a naturopathic doctor. She taught us the importance of nutrition and supplements for wellness. She also did iridology and reflexology on me. She was a great help to me over the next year. However, there was no improvement in my symptoms.
I was home schooled off and on my junior high and high school years. My younger brother Nathan was very worried about me. When he was in the seventh grade he didn't want to leave me so he stayed home and homeschooled with me. He was willing to give up his Cross Country sport, which he loved very much, to stay home and be with me. He sacrificed his sport for his sister. That is a huge sacrifice for a junior high boy! I believe the Lord blessed him for that because our school (through much persuading by Mom) allowed him to still participate in Cross Country.
My Junior year of high school was the worst. I was in full body pain, burning nerve pain in my legs, arms, hands, and feet. And I still had the chronic fatigue and flu-like symptoms. Many nights, my family had to massage my arms and legs. My brothers would each take an arm and my parents would each take a leg, and they would massage until the pain level decreased enough so I could make it through the night.
Throughout all these years of terrible pain, confusion, and fear, the Lord always directed me to verses that would uphold me. Such verses as, What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.
The Lord will strengthen [her] on [her] bed of illness. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.
In 1996, after five years of struggling with this disturbing illness, the Lord helped us find a homeopathic doctor in Colorado. The summer before my senior year, Mom and I flew out there and lived with her for five weeks. Through her help with homeopathy and spinal work, I was able to go back to school my senior year and graduate with my friends.
When I was 19, I went to Pensacola Christian College. In October of my freshman year, I became worse again. The pain spread to my whole spine causing increased symptoms, like weakness, spine pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, and Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). The Lord helped me to find a homeopathic doctor to help me get through college.
Before my senior year, my friend and I went on a missions trip to Japan. We helped a missionary family for one month. The missionary was Dan Gardner, a former wrestler of my Dad's from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota.
This was a huge miracle! In the midst of my illness, the Lord gave me the strength and endurance needed to accomplish all the mission work. Going to Japan was a wonderful experience and privilege that the Lord allowed me to have. It was my heart's desire to be a missionary.
When I was a senior, this disturbing illness got even worse. It had effected my whole body, and again I had an increase of symptoms, like joint paint, neurological problems, nausea, and gastrointestinal pain. It took me four and a half years, but through God's strength, I was able to graduate from college in December, 2001.
I knew I couldn't work after college because I was in terrible pain, and felt very sick, but a few months after I graduated, I was bored and restless. So I got a job working in the Secretarial Department at Pensacola Christian College for the next two years. Those years were the best and worst two years of my life. I loved my work and made some very close friends. But I was so sick. I was in the hospitals and on medical leave, off and on during those years. I had to take eight prescription pain killers a day, and I was still on the hunt for a doctor who could find out why I was so sick.
From 2001-2008, I had several incidents of becoming violently ill due to the toxins overloading my kidneys. I would get extreme stomach pain, break out into a full body sweat, have diarrhea, and start vomiting for hours. Also, my liver enzymes would elevate, indicating inflamed or injured liver cells. My Mom and Dad would have to take me to the Emergency Room. Each time I was given the same protocol to get me through it: an IV drip for severe dehydration, IV Zophran for the nausea, and morphine or some other narcotic for the pain. Then the doctor would always admit me into the hospital.
During the very dark days of this affliction, God whispered to me. He whispered from Heaven, “Will you trust Me?” I would bow my head and cry, “Yes, Lord. I will trust You!” I was reminded that my times are in His hands!
When I was 25, in 2003, my doctor in Georgia, suggested I get tested for Lyme disease. I got tested and it came back positive. This was it! The turning point in my illness. Finally, after eleven years of searching, we found the answer—Lyme disease! However, as we soon discovered, no one knew how to treat Chronic Lyme disease. Let me add here again that I believe I contracted Lyme disease from the tick bite I got when I was 13. The question we continually ask is, why couldn't my immune system fight it off? Lots of people get bit by ticks and they don't all get Lyme disease. My best guess is that some questions in life we will never know the answers to. As a Christian woman I am comforted knowing that the Lord knows all the answers. Some He reveals in His time; some I will wait until eternity to found out. Anyway, at the time of the tick bite my immune system was in a weakened or stressful state. My body was going through puberty (development of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands). I also had received a round of vaccinations, which were required before I could attend the new school in Florida. I believe this was the main culprit that broke down my health. My body was overwhelmed and could not handle the Lyme pathogen.
On September 11, 2003, Mom and I flew up to PA to see my first medical Lyme specialist. He put me on some very strong antibiotics. This was the first time of taking antibiotics for Lyme disease. They made me much sicker and they caused increased stomach pain. Again, I was put in the hospital for 1 week. The GI doctor who treated me found that the whole lining of my GI tract was inflamed. After a few months of recovery, we decided to find a different Lyme doctor closer to Pensacola. We found one in Alabama.
He ran another Lyme test on me right away, and was shocked at how high my Lyme infection numbers were. He also tried some very aggressive antibiotics, but I was in such a weakened state and my digestion, elimination, and lymphatic systems were not functioning properly. That is why I could not handle antibiotics. I became worse again. I couldn't eat, I was in extreme pain, I was too sick to get out of bed, and I dry-heaved every day. I had to carry a towel with me every where I went in case I threw up. The doctor didn't know what else to do for me. All he knew to do for Lyme disease was antibiotics. My parents and I began to sense his frustration and knew we could no longer continue with him. A few weeks later, in August 2004, I had to be hospitalized again. I still couldn't eat. I ate only a little baby food. I lost 33 lbs in three months. I realized I had to quit the job I loved very much.
I felt deep despair during this time. My body was broken, my spirit was wounded, and there were no answers...
Part 2 Friday