Chapter Eleven: What Do You Do When the Healing Doesn’t Stick?

“Thousands of feet in the air looking over a city lit up with thousands of tiny lights. I could almost hear the cries of suffering ringing out. I asked the Father, “how do You comfort an entire world in so much pain?” & He quickly answered, “with arms stretched wide on a cross.” -@sheiscaptivating

I’m sitting in the consultation room with teal walls & grey furnishings for the fifth time in just over two months. I’m wearing jeans & one of my favorite t-shirts & I finger the edge of the fabric just like I did when I was a little girl & wanted security. I have makeup on for the first time in weeks & my doctor notices & applauds my “pretty eyeshadow colors.” I hear the words coming out of his mouth, but I can’t help feeling skeptical. “After the feeding tube comes out, most people are able to go back to a completely normal life. While there is a very small percentage of people who continue to struggle without the feeds, I truly believe you will be in the percentage that thrive. Everything looks normal. You can exercise, get back to school, & eat ribs to your hearts content. You can get back to normal life!”

Its funny how sometimes something you’ve craved to hear for so long doesn’t always bring the desired effect you thought it would.

I’m thinking about how I don’t even like ribs & doubting everything really looks normal because something inside me still feels like somethings wrong. I can sense Mom’s brain silently running 123 mph, mentally scanning through her extensive research since my diagnosis while smiling politely at the doctor.

I inhale deeply & ask him one of the questions we’d rehearsed on the drive over. “Doctor, what about Nutcracker Syndrome? Can you explain what that is? Is it something I may  currently have?”

I’m not even sure what Nutcracker Syndrome is yet, but I make a mental note to talk with Mom about it later.

The doctor patiently smiles at me & launches into his personal viewpoints about Nutcracker Syndrome & what it is…a viewpoint we would later discover differed from other medical professionals I would encounter. Then he says, “no, no. You likely had Nutcracker Syndrome simultaneously with your SMAS, because it occurs as a result of that compression, but now that the SMAS has been addressed, you are definitely not currently experiencing that.”

He congratulates me & says he’ll see me in a year & we walk out of the office. I don’t think my Mom is convinced I’m okay either, because she’s negotiating for me to come back in six months time instead & somehow that comforts me…that I’m not alone in my feelings. I breathe a silent prayer of thanks heavenward that nothing unexpected occurred. I know I should feel more excited about this visit. I know I should be grateful nothing traumatic occurred. I know I should feel overjoyed this is all over. But I don’t. Something just doesn’t feel right. Something feels wrong. This doesn’t feel over.

We get in the car & I pull out my phone & start to text the news to friends & family who’ve been anxiously awaiting good news. Next I get out my iPod touch & put my headphones in & start composing a social media update to post when we get home. Everyone is congratulating me & praising God & celebrating & I’m playing along but I can’t help feeling hesitant. Because with everything I’ve gone through I just can’t let myself get excited quite yet.

I’d smiled when we got the call confirming my tube could come out a week prior, but also felt apprehensive. I was so nervous the tube would come out & I wouldn’t be able to eat without it. I was nervous that my symptoms would all come back & it would all go downhill & it would be declared the feeding tube absolutely had to go back in & that couldn’t happen because I would never under any circumstance go through that again.

As tempting as it was to leave it in forever, I knew I couldn’t, nor did I actually want to.  So I escaped into the solace of my bedroom & carefully began to pull it out.

As soon as it was out, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of relief. I had forgotten how wonderful it was to live life without that thing! & oh, how sweet freedom was! I caught up on Chemistry homework, took my mid-terms, played roly-poly (an original game invented by Luke) with Luke, attended Chemistry class, had a long-overdue sleepover with my best friend, & embraced the little things.

But something still wasn’t right. Mom knew it & I knew it. I did my best to ignore the heightening symptoms, but they demanded to be acknowledged. I did my best to hide the pain, but it screamed to be seen. & all too soon, just one week after I was declared “okay” illness began to rear its ugly head once again. Suddenly, there I was again, in the thick of what was supposed to be conquered…difficulty eating, debilitating pain, overwhelming fatigue, gut-wrenching nausea. It was deja vu in the scariest form.

Sweet Jesus, that was tough.

One morning I curled up with my legs under me, remembering everything I’d already endured & deciding I was done. I couldn’t comprehend why in God’s holy name this journey couldn’t be over. Geez, hadn’t this all been enough already? Hadn’t I already proven myself as a faithful follower & beyond? I was grateful for the things He had taught me through this, but enough was enough. He could continue teaching me with a healthy, normal life, right? On impulse, I reached over & opened the new journal my bestie had given me for Christmas, grabbed my favorite purple pen, & penned my first entry:

“The past months, weeks, & days have been filled to the brim with difficulties, disappointments, discouragements, & defeats. Yet somehow, they have also been filled with miracles, triumphs, & beauty. But in all honesty my heart is hurting & is torn in two different directions. Part of my heart is filled with pure humanness: confusion, grief, mourning, & pain. The other part is filled with thanksgiving, praise, & joy despite my circumstances, as I know it should be. But lately I’m worried humanness is winning out. Satan is throwing so many things at me & I am being tested more than I ever anticipated or imagined. I’m sorry I feel this way. I’m sorry.”

I’m sitting there & I suddenly realize I am void of emotion. Because I’ve given my all for a long time & suddenly I just need to stop because this is all taking too much energy that I just don’t have. It takes too much energy to cry. It takes too much energy to feel. It takes too much energy to think.

& then I realize in all the craziness I’d forgotten to create a 2017 theme. You see, the past five years I’ve set a theme for the year that I work on with God regarding my heart & my faith. So I’m sitting there & I think He knows I don’t even have it in me to pray because suddenly His voice rings completely clear & unbidden in my heart & mind—Faith Over Fear. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid but gives us power, love, & self-discipline.”  (1st Timothy 1:7) & just like that my theme is decided. I write it down in the top corner of the inside cover, let those three words sink in, stare at them written in flowy purple ink on the silky smooth paper.

I realize I desperately need strength & I need it now so I do the only thing I know to do. I open my Bible & begin to search for any & every verse speaking of healing.

“I have heard your prayers & seen your tears & I will heal you.” (2nd Kings 20:5)

“Heal me Lord & I will be healed. Save me & I will be saved. For You are the One I praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14)

“Surely He took up our pain & bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, & afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, & by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

“But I will restore you to health & heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 30:17)

I’m feeling strength seep into my mind, heart, & soul. I’m feeling a smile tug up my lips. I’m feeling my heart begin to lift. I’m feeling the fog turn into mist & sunshine hitting me again.

I’m feeling the miracle only Jesus could perform in my broken heart.

I take a deep breath & savor this moment. & I open my journal again & add to the entry:

“I lift my anxieties to You, knowing You hear each cry. I let the tears fall freely, knowing You are collecting them in Your bottle. I trust You are working in mysterious ways that are beautiful & will bless me beyond my imaginings. I know with impenetrable confidence I can do this now. Because You dwell in me & my strength is not my own, but Yours. A perfect strength. An unbreakable strength. You will never leave me, You never have. I don’t have to worry about breaking, because You make me whole. Come what may. Thy will be done. Because with You, all things are possible. I will have faith over fear.”

I still can’t help but utter some burning questions in a small voice heavenward…..

How can You comfort me when I am feeling shattered into a million pieces? How can You help me through the length & burden of this journey? How can You soothe my hurt & give me peace through the hurricane?

& again, He whispers, “With arms stretched wide on a cross.”


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