Home for the Holidays, by Thomas Kincaid

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Blessings of An Illness

Well, I am at home, nursing another UTI, thinking a lot about all the problems I've had since I was a child with this decrepit kidney of mine, looking for any life lessons this may have taught me..

I was a very healthy child in my growing up years, just the usual childhood illnesses - chicken pox, mumps, the occasional cold. Then, one day out of the blue when I was nine years old, I developed a horrible ache in my left side. It became so bad that it put me to bed. I remember that day very clearly. My sister and I had spent the morning baking cakes with my mother. It was a sort of a craft project. Mama let us each bake one cake a piece - mine was a white cake with vanilla frosting, Jeanie's was chocolate with chocolate frosting. They were just these little one-layer cakes. Then, we were allowed to invite some friends over to help us eat them. I didn't get quite that far. I remember the pain growing in my side while I was waiting for my friends to come over. I remember that everyone preferred Jeanie's cake to mine and so Mama assumed that my "side-ache" was sort of my way of getting attention. The next day I was all better.

From then on, several times a year, I would get these side-aches completely out of the blue. They were devastating and would cause me to vomit, but the next day I'd be all better. It never occurred to my parents to take me to the doctor. They assumed this was all stress-induced. I remember once, when I was 10 years old and was in the doctor's office for a regular check-up, a strong thought came to me to bring up my side-aches, but I was too shy with authority figures to speak up for myself.

The years went on...By the time I hit my mid-teens, when our family life had hit a crisis, my side-aches came every weekend and lasted several days. I remember missing so much school my mother had to write a note to explain what was happening. Still no doctor visit. Because our home life was intensely stressful, everyone believed that my side-aches had increased due to that. I remember that when my sister had a UTI and was complaining of back pain and I made the comment that I felt the same way, but my problems were attributed to my neediness. When I later moved away from home and the frequency of my side-aches subsided, I figured everyone had been right about me. I believed that side-aches were my body's way of handling stress. And so...I never saw a doctor about them.

Fast forward many years to when I was 14 weeks pregnant with Sarah, my first child. All of sudden, my left side swelled up, was sensitive to the touch, and ached. I went in to the OB about it. He took one look at my slightly swollen side, heard my complaints, and put me in the hospital. An ultrasound showed that there was a congenital obstruction to my left ureter, that was only allowing drops of fluid to pass from the kidney, which was over distended with liquid. In other words, my side-aches were not "all in my head". I was sick. The docs rigged me up to get through my pregnancy successfully, for which I am thankful.

Two surgeries later, I have 40% function on my left side and, though I am (thankfully) no longer plagued by mysterious side-aches, I do routinely endure UTIs.

What have a learned from all of this? I realize that I have developed some patience through suffering. All those high school days when I was, literally, writhing alone in my room in pain, listening to music on the radio to try and get my mind off of it, I learned to sort go inside my mind to some place pleasant while unpleasant things are happening to me. I learned some endurance. I also more greatly appreciate the days when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I feel healthy. What a miracle that all feels to me..to feel WELL.

I know that many of you deal with your own health issues...What have you learned from them? How have they schooled your souls? I'd love to hear from you.



Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

What a story. I'm impressed that you can tell it so calmly without any apparent anger that your family misread your needs so much. I think you've learned more than patience.

Alexandra said...

Yes, to be more Christ-like. :) Only through Christ's love can we find such peace and forgiveness. Bitterness is the absence of Christ.

I've got something I struggle with too - maybe TMI, but I have chronic yeast issues. I've had it for the past 8 years, and no doctor can help me with it. I've turned to herbal remedies which have kept it bearable. I've even tried dietary changes to no avail...I think it's hormonal.

Prayers for healing my friend.

Myrnie said...

Oh, I am so sorry you've had to deal with this. I've been blessed with extraordinary good health- worst that's ever happened in the last 20 years was the flu, 2 years ago. My mom actually got quite mad when I mentioned one day that I felt like I had to look over my shoulder for what was coming, because no one could have it this easy, could they? (That was before I considered that perhaps my "down" days were more frequent than others...and theirs didn't last for months at a time...and didn't take them nearly so low... so my inner health isn't nearly as robust as my outer health.)

I think what I've learned is that no matter what we're handed, we stay the course. God doesn't ask us to ARRIVE at perfection, He asks us to be on the PATH to perfection. Be pointed in the right direction, if you will.

I've also learned that busy hands and mind can distract a great deal :)

Laura said...

I do hope you are feeling better!!

Anwen said...

You write very well. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story.

Beth at Aunties said...

I am going to call you. My mom had a horrid accident Sunday with a grease fire and is is badly burnt. I am on the run... to take care of my FIL right now, but I want to talk to you. I am deeply sorry you are so ill.

Hugs! Best wishes!

Rae said...

Your patience is amazing. I am sorry that no one believed you and sought help for you as a child.

I am still working on learning from pain. It is hard because I want so very much to be able to control my life: to know that if I do x, y will happen. But that is not the way that life works. And the one thing that I have mostly learned is that accepting the pain and offering myself back to God is by far the best way to respond to pain. With pain like mine it only makes things worse to fight.

Laura Haviland said...

Thank you for stopping by to say hello on my blog. Your blog is lovely.
Hugs, Laura.
Best wishes.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Each and every one of us a some sort of cross to bear in this life. For some it is physical, others emotional, etc. I imagine it is how we respond to the trials that truly determine who we are.
I have an abnormally small bladder and was chastised constantly as a child. I too didn't find this out until I was hospitalized for salmonella poisoning. It doesn't make it any better when I desperately need a bathroom but it does help me to remember "It isn't just in my head." :)

JBBC said...

What a beautiful piece. I am in remission from breast cancer and what I have learned is that I am the only one that can take charge of my health and that following a misdiagnosis of cancer,that doctors aren’t always right, sometimes your inner voice is. Despite all this though, I have learned mcuh about the blessings of an illness and I look on my cancer experience as a reawakening and a rebirth. http://beyondbreastcancer.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/letting-the-sacred-grow/