Uncategorized

5 Years

Where do you see yourself in five years? Had you asked me that question five years ago I would have answered with a description of a life that looks absolutely nothing like the one I am living now. I would have told you about my Aggie ring on one hand, engagement ring on the other, and my future plans for a family. I would have told you about my career in agriculture and livestock operations. It would have been a beautiful life. Things never really work that way though and the plans I made in my mind fell apart in front of me.

On this day half a decade ago I woke up with what I thought was a headache. A week later I decided to have my eyes checked when it didn’t resolve. A month later I sought out a neurologist. After three months I received the diagnosis of New Daily Persistent Headache, a headache that often follows an infection, is constant, and does not respond well to treatment. 1,827 days later, I still have that same headache. 1,827 mornings I have woken up and the very first sensation I feel is pain. It can range from a dull buzzing up to ice picks being driven into my skull while in the front row of a rock concert, and it is always present.

The first few years of my diagnosis were spent chasing down leads and praying for an answer because NDPH couldn’t be the whole story could it? Surely there was something going wrong in my body that just needed to be identified and treated so that I could return to my previous life. I remember the first time I was admitted for inpatient treatment in Chicago my mom teared up while we waited on the orders because it was just such a shock to see that that level of care was needed. The same thing happened when I had my first PICC line placed because peripheral IVs were destroying my veins. Had you told us then that I would currently have a battery implanted in my chest connected to wires that run up my neck and around my head to provide electrical pulses to my nerves 24/7, and a port for constant IV access on the other side of my chest so that I can set up my own infusions every day at home, we probably would have thought you were crazy. We were going to find the answer. I was going to get better, not worse. We would find the answer on some scan and fix whatever was malfunctioning.

We all know that wasn’t the case and the miracle cure never came, but we did find some answers. Four and a half years after the onset of the headache I finally got my Chronic Lyme disease diagnosis, along with a trail of co-infections and other various conditions caused by the bugs taking over my body. There is so much this disease has taken away from me and it has been incredibly painful to have to shelve my dream life with the degree and the Aggie ring, the 2.5 kids, and the cute little house with the picket fence. My reality is that I have a half finished degree, I’m single, and because this disease is not curable and can be passed congenitally, I’ll never carry my own children. I could probably write a novel about all the things Lyme, NDPH, and the rest of my issues have stolen from me but that would just be sad and self-pitying. Instead, I prefer to keep a tally of the things its given me.

It sounds strange to say that I’m grateful for the changes being chronically ill has made to my life but truthfully, I am. Although I would have chosen to learn these things via an easier route, this has been my journey and I’m going to make the most of it. Sure, I never would have guessed that I would not be able to work, but I also never would have thought I would be someone with the confidence to fight big names like the Mayo Clinic and Anthem insurance either. I wouldn’t have thought that I could write anything worth reading but I have many published articles with The Mighty and this blog. I have become a very capable woman despite looking quite the opposite from the outside looking in.

I had the courage to seek out treatment options all across the country and learn to juggle hotel reservations when a hospital admission was denied by insurance, get myself to and from six hours of infusions every day, and find my way around Philadelphia alone in the time between my dad flying home and my mom arriving. That week was one of the first times I realized I can do hard things. Not in a hypothetical way, but in a real life way. So often it feels like I’m dependent on everyone around me for so much and I wonder if I’ll even be able to figure out how to live like a normal adult when I reach remission. That experience showed me that I can do more for myself than I ever thought possible.

I’ve learned to be so much more accepting and now live in way that lets me see others in the best light possible. There’s nothing quite like having an invisible illness to teach you that you have no idea the battles people are fighting that you know nothing about. Because I have to carefully manage what I put my energy into, I’ve found that most things in life are not worth getting angry and upset about. Life is going to throw curveballs but that doesn’t mean I have to let it get me down. Before NDPH and Lyme I was a very judgmental and unhappy person with a very harsh definition of right and wrong, and second chances weren’t something I gave freely. I can honestly say I am so much happier now that I’ve learned to just live and let live – a lesson I wouldn’t have learned had anger not become physically painful.

I’ve met some pretty awesome people whose paths I never would have crossed if I’d been healthy all along. Although most of those friendships are online and born out of a shared struggle, they are some of the most encouraging and kind people I know. My relationships in the physical world have also changed. Those in my life that were superficial friendships faded and the ones that genuinely care about me have stuck by through it all. I feel blessed to know at 24 that I have a circle of people who will be in my corner no matter what life throws at us.

I think the gift being chronically ill has given me that I cherish the most is that it is has deepened my faith in a way I never thought possible. I mentioned that I could write a novel about all the things I’ve lost and the upside of that fact is that when I’ve had nowhere else to turn, God has never let me down. When I came to the end of myself I had to put my faith and trust in the one who never fails, never breaks promises, never gets weary, and never forgets to use everything in my life for his glory. When I could no longer identify myself as a student, an employee, an athlete, or whatever other temporary things I wrapped myself up in, I was left with just the one thing that lasts – being a child of God.

These past five years have been some of the most difficult years of my life and I would be lying if I didn’t say I am anxious for the day when I can participate in life the way I’d like to but I am grateful for the blessings that have come from this fight. That being said, here’s to hoping the next five years bring restoration to my body and that things improve not only for myself but all the fellow fighters I’ve come to know and love. I hope these next years bring more awareness and understanding for Chronic Lyme and that strides forward are made in NDPH research. For myself, I hope to continue to grow as a person and to live with faith, hope, and love. So goodbye to the past, thanks for the lessons, and hello to a future of possibility!

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Lyme Disease · Medical

New Chapter in Lyme Treatment

“What is happening?”

“I’m being a superhero.”

“Ok…”

“There is a scientific study that shows that if you stand like this, in superhero pose, for just five minutes before a job interview or a big presentation or a really hard task you will not only feel more confident, you will perform measurably better.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“You feel it?”

“We’re superheros.”

“We are superheros.”

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A character on Grey’s Anatomy, Amelia Shepherd, had the above conversation with her resident before a particularly difficult brain surgery. Later in the series, she strikes her “superhero pose” again before undergoing brain surgery herself. I’ve always really appreciated her character and the amount of battles she has clawed her way through. Fictional as she may be, I identify with her quite well.

Yesterday I entered the next battlefield in the fight against Lyme and all its buddies. For the past several months I’ve been on treatment for the Babesia infection that is one of the friends of Lyme that seems to be causing me the most trouble. For one reason or another each antibiotic I tried ended up not being well tolerated and with the progression of some other neurological symptoms, we decided it was time to start IV therapies.

On Wednesday mom and I headed to the hospital for my port surgery. A port is a device implanted under the skin connected to a catheter that runs to a large vein next to the heart that allows for long term IV access. They are most often used in oncology patients however they are quite useful for many other conditions. In my case, I will be using it every day, so it will be “accessed” 24/7. This means that I’ll have a needle in my chest covered with a dressing at all times with weekly needle changes.

Mom and I got back to the pre-op area and I got changed, checked in, and signed the consent forms while mom caught up with several of her former coworkers. It took three tries to get a peripheral IV started on me thanks to having tiny, rolling veins, Raynaud’s keeping my hands freezing cold, and not having been able to drink water before the procedure. The OR was running a little bit behind so it wasn’t until about 2:30 pm before I was taken back. My poor blue fingers were too cold to register an oxygen saturation so we tried my ear… which was also too cold. Finally we found a spot on an earlobe that would work. The struggles of being underweight and perpetually cold! The procedure took about an hour and I was sedated so all I remember is asking “is it normal to not be able to hear” and then waking up in recovery. Apparently Propofal messes with my ears.

For the procedure I had to turn off my neurostimulator – something I never do – and I got to see just how much it really helps me. The first thing I said when I woke up was, “Oh my gosh my head hurts so bad” and oh my goodness it did! The head pain was FAR worse than the pain of having had my chest cut open and dug around in. I’m so thankful to be battery operated!

After being moved to the discharge area mom came back to wait with me and while I shivered in my cocoon of five warm blankets (not an exaggeration), she listened to the reports of how everything went and discharge instructions. I was a little bit surprised that there was so little patient education about my port and how to use it until I remembered that my situation is pretty unique. Most people with ports don’t access them themselves, don’t have them accessed at all times, and don’t set up their own infusions at home. I’m very thankful that my mom is an RN who was dealt with ports for many years and is able to help me with all things medical. Lyme is very much a do-it-yourself disease because it is not well known in healthcare. In fact, not one single person who asked me why I was getting a port knew that Chronic Lyme existed and could cause such debilitating symptoms.

We got the all clear to head home and with the surgeon’s permission, mom accessed my port when we got back to my house and started my first antibiotic infusion. My dad also came by and we chatted while my meds were running and the pups had some play time. Everything with the infusion went smoothly and so once I was unhooked and flushed mom headed home and I headed for bed.

The plan for the foreseeable future is to to infuse two doses of antibiotics each day and three days of the week I will also run a liter of IV fluids to manage my POTS symptoms more effectively. Soon, I will also add in IV vitamin C and IV Glutathione to help with detoxing. I’ll also be taking other medications orally that have been well tolerated in the past that aren’t available IV.

This new protocol comes with many more risks of infection and keeping things sterile is very important because an infection could mean losing not only my port but also my stimulator – something I do NOT want to happen – but the pros outweighed the cons. There is much more logistically with IV therapy because I have to coordinate with a specialty pharmacy, have more frequent labs drawn, and have a lot to learn about new protocols. However it also comes with a lot more hope and confidence that one day I’ll make it into remission and reclaim my life!

This is the beginning of a new chapter for me. I never thought that I would have a battery implanted on one side of my chest, mirrored by a central line on the other side, but even though this isn’t where I thought I would be, I’m encouraged and hopeful for the future. I can look around and see more blessings in my life than I could possibly count. Though Lyme disease is part of my life, I’ve been given a family that supports me not only emotionally but has the knowledge to help me understand things medically as well with nursing, pharmacy, and EMT experience. I have friends who love and care about me and I have found a community full of helpful souls via social media.

So I’ll strike my superhero pose and enter this battle with my head and hopes high knowing that I am not alone. My opponent may be strong but I am stronger and I’ll keep trying for as long as it takes to take back this body of mine. These bugs won’t win.

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Lyme Disease · Medical

Why Lyme Is Hard To Treat: Part One

Before being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme disease I’ll admit that I didn’t know much, if anything, about it. What little I did know was that it was a tick borne illness, often presents with joint pain, and a classic sign was a bull eye rash. I had no idea that those symptoms aren’t always present, that it was a difficult diagnosis to find, that it can affect every single system in your body, or that it was so controversial. Lyme disease is a tough thing to treat for several reasons. The most ridiculous hurdle for Lyme patients is politics. That is followed by poor diagnostic testing leading to prolonged, untreated infection. Medically, Borrelia, the spirochete bacteria that causes Lyme, is a very smart bug. It can hide in the body in three different forms, each of which are difficult to get rid of. Finally, Lyme doesn’t travel alone. Far more often than not, there are at least two co-infections that cause their own slew of problems and must be treated. The most common are Babesia, a protozoan parasite that is similar to Malaria, and Bartonella, a bacteria that lives in the lining of blood vessels.

The first hurdle to tackle in the Lyme fight is politics. There are two schools of thought when it comes to Chronic Lyme. The first is the belief held by the Infectious Disease Society of America, or IDSA, that Lyme exists only in acute form, is difficult to contract, and easy to treat. The guidelines they have set out, which the CDC supports, claim that long term treatment for the infection is not necessary and that a one month course of Doxycycline is curative. This gives insurance companies the power to refuse to cover treatment for late stage Lyme, leaving many patients with debilitating symptoms, no support, and financial ruin.

The other side of the argument is held by the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, which says that Lyme disease is very common and requires long term treatment once the infection has reached the chronic stage. This treatment can include long term antibiotics, malaria medications, herbal supplements, diet changes, and more. Because treating this disease is so complicated, it is often very expensive and insurance companies are under no obligation to cover treatments for a disease that the IDSA claims doesn’t exist.

These two warring mindsets have created a climate in which patients with these tick borne illnesses are told its “all in their head”, misdiagnosed, and mistreated by the medical community. I myself have been treated as a drug seeker, told that there was no way I had Lyme disease, and dismissed by countless doctors. It took four and a half years for me to find a diagnosis and my story is far from unique. Unfortunately, the longer the infection goes untreated, the more difficult it is to reach remission.

The very few doctors who are willing to take on Lyme patients do so at great personal risk. Should these Lyme literate doctors, or LLMDs, submit claims to insurance companies, they could be sued for insurance fraud or even lose their medical license for misconduct. Because of this, the cost for treatment is almost entirely out of pocket. The most accurate testing is done at a lab in California called Igenex and those tests alone are over $1,000. LLMDs are also very few and far between. In the state of Indiana there are three specialists and I have met with two of them. The first was so unprofessional I’m not sure how he still has a practice. Another has so many patients that they aren’t able to accept new patients. The third had a three month waiting list.

The funding for Lyme disease research is minuscule in comparison to funding for ailments like Zika virus. According to the CDC website, Zika can cause a fever, rash, headache, and various other fairly mild symptoms. It is rare, usually lasts less than a week and is very rarely fatal. There were 345 cases reported last year. The noteworthy aspect of Zika is that it causes severe birth defects if a woman is infected during pregnancy. In 2016, congress allocated $1.1 billion for research. In comparison,, the CDC reports that Lyme disease the the fastest growing infectious disease with an estimated 300,000 NEW cases per year. Currently the standard test for Lyme is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA. This test was developed in 1971 and has been relied on ever since. However, this test is wildly inaccurate and is not diagnostic. Although Lyme disease has been known to cause symptoms ranging from joint pain to seizures, paralysis, and potentially death, the NIH was granted just $28 million for research in 2016.

If we want a change in legislation regarding Lyme, it is up to us to demand it. The experts on the panels that make these decisions should not have a financial stake in their recommendations. Testing needs to be updated and more effective. Just like we once believed that ulcers were caused by stress and not H. Pylori bacteria, I believe that one day we will find the mechanism behind this awful bug and wonder why it took so long to get there. As much noise as the Lyme community is making on its own, things won’t change until the healthy are as outraged as the sick.

 

Medical

Doctor Searching is Never Simple

If you don’t get sick very often, you probably don’t realize just how important it is to have a good doctor. In my case, I know exactly how important that is because I am living with chronic health problems and whoever is treating me pretty much has my quality of life in their hands. Specialists are just that – specialized physicians treating one body part or system. Having a primary care doctor keeping an eye on the body as a whole isn’t something optional.

Earlier this year my primary care physician (PCP) retired after having been my doctor since birth. That sent me off on the hunt for a new PCP and while that doesn’t sound like such a difficult thing, its been quite the challenge. There are a lot of factors that make this hard ranging from anxiety and fear of not being believed to just finding a doctor accepting new patients.

I managed to find a primary I was happy with and felt confident in. Unfortunately, the doctor was the only thing about that practice I was happy with. The hours they kept were very short, the phone line was always busy and had no voicemail option, the office staff lost paperwork on a regular basis and were very slow to get anything done, and the wait time in the office was never under an hour at the very least. When you have a chronic condition that changes without warning, you have to be able to contact your doctor easily. Some symptoms have to be dealt with promptly and not being able to even leave a message for days at a time can be a setback you can’t afford.

Another factor that complicates things in the chronic vs. acute illness category is finding a knowledgeable doctor. I have a few conditions that are not seen very often and others that are not well understood. POTS and NDPH are not conditions many PCPs have seen before and so they don’t really understand how to treat them. Chronic Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella, and Epstein Barr virus are tricky for specialists to treat, let alone someone who hasn’t studied them. The physician treating me can be the difference between getting to live my life and being nonfunctional.

In the four and a half years it took me to be diagnosed I saw quite a few doctors. Some of them completely dismissed me, others gave up, some treated me like an addict, and many would only treat what they were familiar with rather than do the research to learn how to treat what I was actually dealing with. Because of the years spent like this, going to a new doctor always creates a lot of anxiety.

Lets face it, a lot of MDs have an ego larger than the student debt that put them through medical school. As of now, Chronic Lyme is the fastest spreading infectious disease in the country and one of the most stigmatized illnesses out there. The CDC argues that it doesn’t exist, testing is criminally outdated and unreliable, and doctors brave enough to care for Lymies are putting their medical license at risk. If they file claims with insurance companies, they are opening themselves up to lawsuits accusing fraud. When it comes to problems like POTS, even though the testing is clear, its not a very common diagnosis and many PCPs don’t have the slightest bit of training to deal with it. Less than adequate care can mean that my daily life is much more of a struggle than it has to be.

After all of the above hurdles are cleared and I find a PCP I trust, can communicate well with, and is willing to work with specialists, they must be accepting new patients. The last several doctors I have looked in to have either been not taking on new cases or have had a waiting period of months for an appointment. The latest MD recommended to me requires a medical history before deciding if he will accept my case or not. With such complicated health, I would be shocked if he did agree to take me on.

Its never a simple task to find the right doctor when you have an atypical medical life. It requires a lot of patience, a lot of research, and a lot of time. However, when you find the right fit, the whole struggle is worth it.

Uncategorized

In Honor of the Greatest Teacher I’ve Ever Known

When I think about the end of my life, whenever that may come, what I would want to leave behind is a life well lived. I would want my family to have the comfort in knowing that I entered the gates of Heaven hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. I would want the people that have come in and out of my time on Earth to be left with positive memories and to have lived with love. I would want to be remembered as someone who loved God and loved people. One woman who has encompassed each of these hopes is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had the honor of learning from, Sherree Fell.

Ms. Fell taught my senior English class. When I think back on the feelings I had when I entered her classroom, I always remember it as a place of comfort and encouragement. More often than not, Ms. Fell had students stopping by to spend some time in that room during lunches and free periods. She was one of the most genuine people I’ve known and was always very real with her “kids”. She didn’t shy away from topics that required her to show deep personal emotion. I remember hearing about memories she had of her parents and every now and then, those memories would bring on a few tears. While she may not have had biological children, she loved each of her students with parental ferocity.

I never once saw her give up on a student, no matter how difficult they may be. Instead, she pushed us to recognize our own potential and made sure that we knew that we were loved, and because of this love, she wanted the best for us, even if what was best for us meant trying our hardest on an assignment we didn’t really want to do. I had never before nor since experienced that balance between caring on a personal level while also maintaining a student/teacher relationship the way Ms. Fell had perfected.

I know that this woman who was an angel in many lives while she was here, is now celebrating in Heaven, but her loss leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of those of us left behind. The halls of Clay City High School will never be the same without the happy-go-lucky, sometimes a little louder than appropriate, bubbly woman that devoted so many years of her life to teaching. While I can’t speak for her family, in my own experience, loss of this magnitude is more painful than words can describe. Those of us who were lucky enough to have an imprint in our lives made by Ms. Fell will think of her often and remember the wonderful woman she was.

The depth and breadth of grief we all feel is a sure sign that Sherree Fell led a life of love on a scale most of us can only aspire to. In the words of A.A. Milne, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

 

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My Support People are Awesome

Living with a chronic illness is hard. Like life-altering, crash-course-in-perseverance, dig-deep-to-find-the-will-to-live kind of hard sometimes. Caring for someone with a chronic illness is also hard. I’ve had my fair share of encounters with people who make me feel really alone and misunderstood but I am incredibly blessed to have a family that has proven to be a champion support system. Chronic illnesses can be tricky for support people because, unlike the nature of acute illness, there is no “get well soon”. By definition, a chronic condition isn’t going to go away. Its the new “normal” everyday life and when the traditional flowers, cards, and casseroles aren’t appropriate, it can be a struggle to figure out what exactly is the best way to show you care. With that being said, I wanted to acknowledge the absolute best ways my family has shown me love and kindness through this journey.

1. They believe me when I talk about symptoms. 

This one is by far the most important to myself and many other people battling an invisible illness. When I complained of a headache that lasted for weeks, I wasn’t told I was weak or exaggerating. When I say I’m in pain, I’m not treated like a drama queen or a wimp. When symptoms began cropping up in every body system possible, I was taken seriously and not treated like an attention seeker even as my list of specialists grew longer and longer. This is so incredibly helpful because in the medical community, invisible illnesses are often brushed off and the patient is pigeon-holed as a drug or attention seeker or as a hypochondriac. Knowing that your family is standing behind you, ready to fight with you and advocate for you means the world.

 

2. They respect my limits. 

Before I got sick I could keep up with the rest of my family with no issue when we vacationed in Disney World and spent 12 hours a day at theme parks for several days in a row. If I wanted to go for a jog, I just put on my shoes and ran out the door. I could hold my own in a modern dance class (at least when it comes to stamina. I am a terrible dancer). Now however, there are days when just walking to the back door to let my dog outside leaves me winded and dizzy. Other days I am able to do more depending on how I’m feeling but it always varies from day to day. When I need to lay down or just can’t handle going for a walk, my people don’t push me to do it anyway. This takes so much stress out of social events because I know that when I say I need to leave or take a break, I won’t have to worry about upsetting those I am with and adding more guilt than I already feel.

 

3. They still invite me on outings. 

Going along with respecting my limits, my family members haven’t stopped inviting me on adventures. There are a lot of times I have to turn down the invitation but that choice is left up to me. Because my symptoms can vary so much day to day, I really am the best person to decide if something is a possibility for me. This means that when I log onto social media and see pictures of my people having fun, I can enjoy seeing them living life without the nagging hurt of feeling excluded or forgetten. I know that they would love to have me along but they also understand when that isn’t an option.

 

4. They help me with things I can no longer do for myself.

I live in a house with no one to take on the chores I’m physically unable to do anymore. For the past two years, I haven’t had to worry about my lawn growing out of control because my grandpa comes by regularly and mows for me. My dad planted flowers alongside my house when I was too weak and tired to do it myself and my mom and grandma have done the same in the past. In my worst times, my mom has cleaned my kitchen and my cat’s litter box for me. All of these acts of kindness were done without me asking and without any strings attached. It makes being home so much less frustrating when I don’t have chores piling up that I can’t tackle.

 

5. They keep talking to me about their lives.

My medical life makes up the majority of what I have to contribute to conversation. For me though, its just my life. Its not a sad story or something that is more important than the issues healthy-bodied people face. I’m not an “inspiration” or made out of anything magical that gives me the strength to make it through extraordinary circumstances. I’m just a regular person who currently happens to be dealing with health stuff. We often view health struggles as something that “puts life in perspective” and reminds you to not complain about life. But I love to hear about whats happening in my people’s lives, positive or negative! I am still me and I still care about what others have to say. It makes me feel like I can still be a real human with real human relationships when I can have conversations with people in the same way I did before Lyme took over.

 

6. They respect the choices I make regarding treatments and doctors.

One thing there is no shortage of these days is unsolicited medical advice. It seems like there is always a new miracle program being sold and those with chronic illnesses are often the targets of these marketing strategies. There are so many buzzwords in the media regarding healthcare and specific medications like antibiotics and opioids and everyone has an opinion. My family members are very good at showing they care by taking the time to read articles about treatments and discussing things with me, but ultimately respecting that my treatment plan is a personal decision discussed and decided on by my doctor and myself. They know that I spend countless hours doing my own research, that I know what I have tried already, what success rates are of different protocols, what is most likely to help me, and that I know my body best.

 

7. They send me thoughtful things. 

A sure way to make a rough day brighter is to be on the receiving end of a caring gesture. This can range from a simple text to check in with me, to my aunt introducing me to a new artistic outlet through painting supplies, to getting a “happy box” in the mail. In college, when things got tough, I would sometimes get a package at my door from my mom filled with things to make me smile. She would send me tasty treats, encouraging notes, usually a unicorn of some sort, and whatever else she thought might make me feel a little better. During a hospital admission my cousin once spent an afternoon sending me photos of “daily odd compliments” to entertain me. Being reminded that there is a cheering squad behind you when you’re going through hard times can make such a huge impact. Being reminded I’m loved and cared for keeps my hope alive and my attitude positive.

 

Taking the time to be grateful for the blessings you’re given in life is important and not a day goes by that I am not thankful for my close-knit family. I don’t know how I would make it through life without them! If you have someone in your life going through a difficult season, I hope this list can be helpful in understanding how to best support them.

Uncategorized

Peace

It seems these days that peace is hard to come by. As defined, peace is the absence of disturbance and, when you look around the world today, there aren’t a lot of examples of that. We can all see lack of peace in things like wars and natural disasters, but in our personal lives we also have a lot of things pulling at our hearts. So what in your life brings you peace? I think most people would answer financial stability, good health, or thriving relationships. So what happens when those things are taken away?

We like to think that we can be confident in our worldly comforts but the reality is that all of those things can be lost in an instant. For me, I lost my health first. That was followed by losing my opportunity for a college education. I lost my independence. Financial security went out the window when I lost the ability to work. So where did that leave me? In one word, floundering. All of the things my identity was seeded in were gone and peace was replaced by anger and frustration along with their good buddy, worry. However, after many attempts to find peace in other worldly outlets that ended in failure, I turned to God and sought peace in his promises.

John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”. I found that the kind of peace I have received from reading scripture and becoming more rooted in faith is very different from peace derived from material things. The most striking difference is that this peace is not dependent on circumstances. I haven’t suddenly become healthy again but I no longer have to sit in worry and fear of the future. I know that whatever happens in my life is part of a plan that is for my good and God’s glory.

2 Corinthians is a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. We know that Paul dealt with a chronic and debilitating “thorn” in the flesh. We don’t know exactly what caused his distress but I think that makes him even more easy to relate to. Physical difficulties are often the source of many pleas to God and many times he chooses to not heal the afflicted but rather use the experience for a greater purpose, as he did with Paul.

In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul says, “Three time I pleaded with the Lord to take it [thorn] away from me but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

While Paul had to accept his proverbial thorn, he did not complain about it or rage against it but rather he allowed the Lord to shine through it and set an example of confidence and trust. In chapter 4 of his letter he told the church, “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 struggles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”. That’s a pretty powerful statement! No matter how many times Paul was beaten, imprisoned, insulted, or even stoned and left for dead, he had the world in checkmate.

He exemplifies this in his letter to the Philippian church which was written while he was imprisoned. In Philippians 1:21 Paul says, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. By this he means that if he continues living, he would be continuing to share the gospel and, if he were to die, he would be in the presence of God for the rest of eternity. It didn’t matter what the world did to him because his peace didn’t come from the world. It was a peace that could never be taken away from him.

Having peace from the Lord is the only peace that lasts. Our circumstances can change in an instant. Jobs can be lost. Houses can be washed away in a storm. Relationships with people can whither and die. You could wake up sick one day and never get better. But amidst these trials we can rest easy in knowing that there is an Almighty God who is more powerful than any of it and he has promised us an eternity so perfect that it makes our current struggles not even worth comparing. I don’t know if my personal thorn will be taken from me or not but I will chose to allow God’s power to be made perfect in my weakness.