Image

Redemption through this Suffering

Mid-July.  My symptoms were increasingly bothersome.  We wondered if the C-Diff infection had returned or if there was yet another complication to address.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

It had been two weeks since learning the news about the liver infarct (the portion of my liver that died due to a blood clot).  The reality of this long-term issue and its long-term needs was settling in.  Indeed, my physical body is diseased; improvement will happen with time, but full recovery is impossible.  As my husband says, “None of us get out of here alive.”  We are not made for this place.  James 4:14 reminds me that I am just “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Instead of focusing on the temporal, the deterioration of my body is a continual reminder to focus on what is eternal.

In mid-July, I returned to the hospital for another lab work-up; the results brought both comfort and concern.  The C-Diff infection was gone.  We were tremendously grateful and breathed a sigh of relief!  Yet the exclusion of C-Diff confirmed the new symptom culprit: diversion colitis.

Diversion colitis is a complication of having an ostomy. It causes purulent inflammation in the remnant colon.  It usually begins within a year of the colectomy surgery.  Some individuals are asymptomatic.  For those who experience symptoms, they can range from mild to severe.  The underlying cause and symptoms of diversion colitis can be treated with medication, but surgery is the only method of correcting diversion colitis.

The diagnosis needed to be confirmed by scope and biopsies.  As is true with all gastrointestinal diagnoses, the doctor needs to see the damage and disease to determine the diagnosis.  My procedure was scheduled, and I counted the days until relief could begin.

By the day of my procedure, my symptoms had grown increasingly distressing.  The pain was debilitating.  Though even on my hardest days I refuse to spend the day in bed, I spent most of the day prior to my procedure confined to my room.  Prescription pain relief took the edge off and provided enough calm to end my tears.  The count down of days became a count down of hours.

Biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.

After a week of trying to find a pharmacy who carried the medication and obtain authorization from the insurance company to cover the prescription, we decided to try a different medicine.  I am thankful that my Crohn’s disease is treated by the eight pills I swallow each day.  The diversion colitis treatment, however, is not so simple.  Each administration requires about thirty minutes.  Like ostomy care and injections for the blood clot, I had to learn a new process, gather appropriate supplies, and learn to quiet my heart in the midst of new challenges.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:18-25

What started March 3rd as an Urgent Care visit for abdominal pain had resulted in a cascade of issues.

  • 13 days in the hospital, requiring 2 abdominal surgeries
  • Re-learning life as a semicolon
  • Left hip nerve damage and left leg instability
  • A stay in rehab to learn how to walk with a weakened left side and receive support with wound care
  • Portal vein blood clot
  • C-Diff infection
  • Liver infarct
  • Diversion colitis

Being subject to frustration, shackled by the bondage of decay, I wait eagerly for the redemption of my body.  Complete healing in heaven is my hope, and for this, I wait patiently.

Yet in the mean time, I cling to the promise that I am “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance” for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Therefore, I live one day at a time, believing that He is transforming the suffering of my body into good for His glory.  As Paul wrote, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”  Earlier in Romans, Paul writes that, “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (chapter 5:3-4).”

I do not know what will come next.  Perhaps there will be more complications.  As it is, I have six medical appointments ahead of me, with more to come.  Yet this I do know: God is using this suffering to knock off rough edges in me, to soften the places where I have grown hardened and to refocus spiritual disciplines that have grown lax.  There is redemption through this suffering.  God is using this suffering to work in the hearts and minds of those who journey with me and in others who read these reflective and deeply personal writings.

To God be the glory!  Great things He has done.

Image

The Vicious Bacteria

I could hear the nurse talking; I tried to focus my mind on her words.  My heart was breaking.  The domino effect of medical issues I had faced since March was unbelievable, and I began to wonder when I would actually be on the road to recovery, rather than just the path to the next serious complication.  This was incredulous!  

It was June.  I had been home from the rehab center for 12 weeks.  I had learned how to manage ostomy changes.  The treatment for the blood clot was underway.  I thought I was on a clear path, the detours completed.  I was wrong.

I had been diagnosed with a UTI ten days earlier and given a course of antibiotics to treat it; I thought it was just a little bump in the road.  A few days into the treatment, I began experiencing some symptoms that could be associated with liver decline.  I sent my doctor a message, and she squeezed me into her schedule.

In addition to checking liver function, she wanted to rule out an infection that can happen to patients who have recently been hospitalized, stayed in long-term care facilities, had an autoimmune disorder, or had recently been on antibiotics.  I scored four out of four on that check list!

The test came back positive.  I had the vicious C-Diff infection.

C-Diff is a bacteria that attacks the small and large intestines, destroying all of the good bacteria in the gut until only the C-Diff bacteria remains.  It causes extensive inflammation throughout the intestines, and symptoms are similar to what one experiences with the flu.

 

As we sat around the dinner table with our boys the night after learning about the infection, my husband soldiered on bravely.  He had tried to keep family routines consistent throughout the long weeks of my illness and recovery.  Just like every other night, he picked up the study Bible to read the next chapter.  He began reading where he had left off the night before, Romans 5:

“…we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

By the time my husband finished our reading and lead us in the Lord’s prayer, we were both crying.  He squeezed my hand as his tear-filled eyes met mine.  We clung to the promise that there is meaning to be found in what we were enduring.  There is a redemptive purpose in our suffering.  We were discovering this truth anew.

As the days passed, I continued to decline despite the treatment I was receiving.   I had daily calls with Mayo Clinic; I learned that if I did not call to check in by mid-morning, a nurse would call me.  There were days we talked three and four times.  My illness progressed despite all the best efforts. The doctors doubled my dose of medication. Then I developed a rare complication to the infection.  The doctors added a new medication to the cocktail and gave me 24 hours to see improvement, before the decision to hospitalize me.

The days were dark, but my hope remained in the peace that this life is not the end.  The illness only made the longing in my heart that much more earnest for my eternal home.

My only option was to persevere.  I trusted that whatever the outcome, it would be for my best and for His glory.

My daily prayer became, “Lord, empty me of me so that I can be filled with You.  You are my hope.”