Four years ago, I nearly died …twice. A wave of challenges all hit at the same time: serious drug-resistant infections, broken vertebra in my back from a fall, an open wound on my left leg, crippling arthritis from the massive breaks and 70+ surgeries, and a nearly incapacitated, arthritic right elbow. I found myself lying in bed in a fog of medication, struggling to even transfer to my wheelchair.
We all wondered if this was how it would all end.
Through a long and painful journey, the infections subsided. Peter asked a friend of ours, who is a neurologist (and plays viola with Peter) to come to the house, where he quickly diagnosed that several of my medications were wreaking havoc on me. Within months, the fog started to clear—and a new team of doctors started calling the shots. Although slowly, the leg healed and I eventually regained the ability to walk. The first day walking, I tried to make it to the mailbox, but collapsed in tears as the pain and weakness felt overpowering. But I kept at it, and forged ahead. Often crying in pain, I soon discovered I could make it to the end of the street. Due to trauma, decades of surgeries, and walking with two prosthetic legs, I’ve lost the natural curvature of my spine, and I can no longer stand up straight by myself. I use canes now (one made by my father, and the other belonged to my great-grandfather) to keep from falling over. Yet, I continue to force myself to walk 1.5 miles, three times per week. Since those horrendous steps of walking to the mailbox, I’ve lost more than 75 pounds!
My new doctor is titrating me off the medications that caused so many problems, and it is not easy! During this transition, my parents graciously allowed Peter and me to stay in their home in Montana for an extended period, over the holidays and through January. The cold, dry air helps reduce arthritic inflammation. Because I’m on blood-thinners for pulmonary emboli, I can’t take any type of anti-inflammatory drug, even aspirin. So, we let the natural climate of Montana help compensate, and we both found healing and respite during this time.
I share all of this for those who struggle with despair, pain, suffering, loss, disability, sorrow, grief, or fear. These feelings are not strangers to me; they’ve lurked in my life, well, for a lifetime. You can’t endure what I endure as an individual, or what Peter and I have as a couple, without being scarred (and scared) by these things.
Yet, I push myself in defiance of all these things. I refuse to simply live WITH pain; that’s just surviving.
I purpose to LIVE WHILE in pain.
The many broken things in my body and heart clearly communicate that, on THIS side of Heaven, my life is filled with difficult and harsh circumstances. But, in my brutal challenges, I have a gift that many people don’t: My weaknesses and difficulties are abundantly clear—as is my ability to fight these things on my own. That’s why I love Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 12:9
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power will rest on me…
Should the Lord allow, I intend to return to Ghana and visit face to face with the many patients helped by this ministry. Thankfully, I am able to sing more (Peter had me sing several songs on our new CD, Songs for the Caregiver) and I hope to participate in a new CD this year, with my dear friend,Joni Eareckson-Tada
My time in Montana refreshed me, comforted me, and provided a deeply appreciated break. I firmly believe there is work yet for me to do, and I eagerly wait to see what opportunities God presents for me.
While watching and waiting, even with this broken body, I am still…Standing With Hope