This is an anniversary. Ten years ago, a series of events changed my life. In 2011 I slipped and tore my hamstring. That same year, I also had two auto accidents, which compounded the effect of the hamstring injury. In both of those wrecks, God spared me and my family members from serious injury. The police called our outcome in the wreck with the semi a miracle. It truly was!

I sing of God’s goodness for his sovereign protection.

I spent two-and-a-half years doing physical therapy and daily walks as I learned to maintain an even gait and to be balanced again. Two incredible massage therapists broke up the scar tissue and helped me to recover: Cat Crawford-Deriana and Stephanie Quarles.

During this physical trauma, mysteriously, my own body began attacking itself. I was overcome by extreme fatigue, chronic pain, brain fog, and other mysterious symptoms.

During this unexpected trial, I rejoiced over the publication of Refuge, and the Lord comforted me, speaking to me in a dream, something that had never happened before nor since. He reassured me of his nearness, his love, and his support, reminding me that he was always with me, especially in trials.

I had wanted to be healthy, so I could enjoy my first book release. Instead, I felt miserable with a pasted on smile. Still, I loved my work. But I needed to learn to rely on the Lord. He was in charge of the outcome.

And so, propped up with pillows, I composed novels, promoting them online while recumbent. For an active person, this was a total change. I could put on makeup, paste on a smile, and go out, shoving every bit of energy I possessed into interacting with smiles and laughter.

Outwardly, I looked “fine,” and people typically said so. But when I got home, I collapsed, utterly fatigued and unable to function for days. Eventually, I had to give up first one ministry that I loved, then another, because of my ever-increasing fatigue and brain fog.

I thank God for moving me aside, because capable and competent young women took my place and excelled.

My general practitioner was stumped, so she prescribed an antidepressant and told me to return in a year. She did no blood work, instead prescribing therapy, assuming this was a mental health issue.

I wasn’t depressed. I was sick, but the therapy was good either way, a gift from God, because, like everyone else, I had issues to discuss, and I was dealing with an “invisible” sickness that no one seemed to recognize.

Have you ever felt invisible, unseen, and misunderstood? How did the Lord help you through that? In what ways did you draw closer to him during this hardship? #LoveOfGod #GoodnessOfGod #GodIsKind Click To Tweet

A gift from God: A friend passed me an article detailing how millions of people were going through this same struggle. The WHO had declared it a worldwide crisis for women’s health, since nearly eighty percent of those sick were women. I hadn’t known this!

Thankfully, another gift from God: I had a brilliant specialist, Dr. Deborah Oberdoerster. When I went in for my annual appointment, she discerned immediately that I was not “fine.” I wasn’t myself at all. She wrote a requisition for diagnostic blood tests to be performed. I was to hand this to my GP and request any other tests I felt were necessary.

Dr. Oberdoerster empowered me to act on my own behalf. I had felt all alone, but now I knew I wasn’t. Not only was the Lord with me, but I had a wise and concerned physician.

The Lord provided both the article and this doctor’s affirmation on the very same day.

Finally, praise God, my GP ordered blood work! Nowadays, doctors order this type of blood work immediately when a patient presents with the symptoms I had at that time. Progress!

Three years into my illness, thanks to that blood work, we now knew that my ANA titre was positive and incredibly high. AntiNuclear Antibodies attack the nucleus of healthy cells, hence “AntiNuclear.” A positive ANA test meant my immune system was attacking the nucleus of my own cells, an autoimmune reaction.

My GP sent me to a UofM rheumatologist. Naively, I hoped to receive an immediate answer and treatment solution. But, they were unprepared for an autoimmune disease pandemic, and so after two more years I still had no answers.

But then, by the grace of God, five years into this sickness, I discovered the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association. A diagnostic doctor they recommended worked only two and a half hours away.

Praise the Lord! I immediately scheduled with Dr. Abid Khan, the AARDA recommendation. His staff did extensive blood work and sent it off to Johns Hopkins University, the premier research university where he had trained.

Praise the Lord for Dr. Khan’s connection there!

When the results returned, Dr. Khan narrowed down the possibilities. Immediately, he prescribed a medication. His early action saved my hands from being deformed and stiffened by Rheumatoid Arthritis and calmed my Raynauds.

It was such a relief to be heard and seen and to learn what was wrong. I sing of God’s goodness! I write every day. My hands are essential. The Lord took care of me!

Dr. Khan then sent me back to UofM Rheumatology after first calling the department head. UofM performed every test necessary to determine if the worst possibility on the list (Scleroderma) was destroying my body. It was not. We could cross that one off. I praise the Lord for that!

I have a high threshold of pain, but still, to manage my pain I soaked regularly in a hot bathtub with epsom salts and baking soda, while taking the maximum dose of over-the-counter NSAIDs. As a last resort when I worsened, I then added alcohol for pain relief as I soaked and cried out to Jesus for help.

Another year passed. I’m a cheerful patient who does everything I’m told to do, but I hadn’t yet learned to be a strong and assertive patient. Then it occurred to me that my rheumatologist didn’t know how I felt. She’d never personally experienced this. She only knew what she had learned and read, not how it felt, so I had to make it real for her. This I accomplished by describing the above pain management techniques in detail, demanding her help.

Thank God! Finally, she understood.

She was immediately concerned. She had no idea my life was like that. She called another doctor into the room to consult. Immediately, they prescribed a medication that modify autoimmune disease, a DMARD. If it worked for me, my response would help them refine my diagnosis.

DMARDs (Disease-Modifying AntiRheumatic Drugs) are immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory agents. Commonly used conventional DMARDs include methotrexate, leflunomide, hydroxychloroquine, and sulfasalazine.

THANKS BE TO GOD! A month in I felt a twinge, two weeks later another, and then a sloooow but sure improvement! The DMARD was working!

I finally received my full diagnosis in 2016. Four autoimmune diseases were mixed together as Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). Connective tissue maintains the form of the body and its organs, providing cohesion and internal support. Connective tissue includes bone, cartilage, fat, blood, as well as lymphatic, fibrous, and elastic tissues.

This nuclear attack produced Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms, Raynaud’s, and Interstitial Cystitis.

And yet, in all of this God was and is with me! I sing of the goodness of the Lord for these blessings:

A diagnosis, so we can work toward healing!

My UT pulmonologist is now carrying on the immunoglobulin research Dr. Oberdoerster started way back when some blood work of mine looked unusual, before we knew I was not “fine.” If this research helps us learn even more about autoimmunity I’ll be thrilled! May the Lord use it!

During all of this, I realized forty pounds had crept onto my frame. I had no control over my illness, but I did have control over what I ate and whether I exercised as prescribed. Slowly, I took off half-a-pound a week. I’ve kept it off for eight years. I praise the Lord for his help with self control!

A decade has passed. On this 10th anniversary, I praise the Lord! The loudest praise is that after a decade of sickness, I STILL LOVE JESUS. I rely on him. I need him. I see his goodness every day.

Learning to be assertive was a significant part of my spiritual, emotional, and psychological growth. I’m grateful that the Lord taught me to be assertive when necessary. I’m stronger now.

I’m grateful for the enormous gift of two brilliant doctors who saw me clearly. Their belief, their trust in my instincts, and their efforts to diagnose were a lifeline.

Today, if I follow my wellness plan — PT, medication, probiotics, rest, soaking, essential oils, healthy food, and my own version of yoga — I can have a fairly normal life, enjoy my family, and even travel. I stop and rest whenever I need to. I take a couple of weeks to recover after big events.

This progress is a miracle, a gift from God! I’m so grateful for the Lord’s goodness, for this past decade has been taxing and faith stretching. Yet now, I’m in a completely different place than I was then! I will sing of the goodness of God!

Do you have an #Autoimmune or a #ChronicIllness story? If so, add it in the comments below this blog post, or Tweet your story in fewer words. How did the Lord help you through it? What did you learn? #GoodnessOfGod Click To Tweet