Autoimmune disorders are strange, because every single case is unique. Why? Because each human being is unique. Whenever a human body attacks itself, it does so in a peculiar way. Because of this, there is no specific test that can determine any autoimmune disease, except one (Type 1 Diabetes).
Once the attack on one’s own body begins, often triggered by a virus, sustained stress, or trauma, it usually takes at least five years to determine which label to assign from the 100-140 autoimmune diseases. Even then, the body may broaden the attack, and a new label may be assigned later, for things will have altered.
After only three years, I’ve received a diagnosis that allows us to take action. Treatment began in January with the first discoveries by my diagnostic doctor. At my follow-up appointment, he reached a more complete diagnosis: Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). This picture records what it is and when the diagnosis was made, a landmark moment for me.
Three different autoimmune-disease complexes overlap within me, something common with this type of disease. This picture shows the three – Rheumatoid Arthritis (suspected all along), SLE – Lupus, and Scleroderma (detected in January). Though I don’t display all the symptoms included here, I have other symptoms which are not shown. Remember, each case is unique – like a snowflake or a fingerprint.
Simply learning the name has changed everything.
- Having a label allows me to find the wealth of research on this disease.
- My main coordinating doctor has been chosen.
- Medications have been started.
- I now know the outcome statistics.
- The weird symptoms now mean something – the box top of the puzzle has been found; we can see the bigger picture and where symptoms fit.
- And something shifted internally.
A friend put her finger on it when she asked if I felt stronger internally now that I know what it is. Yes! Yes, I do!
God’s strength has been made more powerful through my weakness. When I have run out of natural strength, He has shown His constant availability. I’m His “needy friend,” and Jesus wants me to use Him. Yes, I said “use.” No one else in this life on this planet ever invites us to use them. Jesus does.
I had to be stripped of my own strength to discover how near, dear, and available He is. He loves me because I am broken, not in spite of it.
And now, at just the right time, He has brought this diagnosis into the picture, something for which we have long prayed. This changes all the strategy.
I now know where to aim. I’m no longer shooting arrows off into the dark in all directions, hoping the diet I’ve chosen, the course of pain therapy we’re using, or the prescribed medications will work for my disease.
I also know that my prognosis is longer than 5 to 7 years, and that, if the Lord wills, we handle this correctly, and God determines it’s the best course for my soul, I may go into remission. Twenty percent of people with UCTD do.
The delicate balance will be to grow in reliance on the Lord, rather than seizing my recovery and attempting to do it in my own strength. To shoot these arrows, I will need to rest in Him and not push myself too hard or not hard enough. I will need to listen to my body and to my Savior. I don’t want this stage to send me careening back toward prideful self-reliance and superwoman syndrome.
For this, I seek your prayers and thank you in advance for your support.
There’s a social element involved as well. What was unseen and misunderstood now has a label. What was invisible to others, mystery, and probably considered madness by some observers is now labeled and, therefore, “real.”
I tried to ignore ignorant speculations, resting in the fact that Jesus knows the true state of my health. But still, unthinking comments and actions niggled, especially at first, and it hurt. I’ve had to explain myself to waitresses, friends, relatives, church leaders, and random strangers. Receiving this diagnosis does make me stronger, because there is now a short and simple answer.
That alone simplifies my life and makes me strong. Thank you, Jesus!