There are lots of surprises that come with chronic illness. Some, if you can believe it, are actually good, while others, as you imagine, are not so good.
My biggest surprise, of course, was on December 4, 2000, when a team of doctors from the neurology department at the U of M came into my room and said, “We have a tentative diagnosis. You either have Myasthenia Gravis (MG), which is not curable, but there are treatments for it. Or, you have bulbar palsy, which is degenerative and terminal. We are leaning toward bulbar palsy.” Ouch.
Another kind of sad surprise is how quickly you understand who your true friends are. How much your church REALLY supports chronically ill people…But we’ve already been down that road too many times, and are not going back there. I had very few friends stick by me when I first got really sick. One even told me I was just being selfish. SELFISH! I was almost dead. Oh, how selfish of me. Please. People who REALLY love you are there for you, no matter what. Remember that. I sure do. And therefore, remember to let them know how much you appreciate them for standing by your side. Being ill is difficult, but so is being a care-taker!
An amazing surprise is how God prepared my husband ahead of time (when we didn’t even know each other) for every skill that he could possibly need when it came to taking care of me. As I said before, I came home in a hospital bed, and he slept on the couch for SIX MONTHS to take care of me during the night. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I guess, because my God is all-knowing, and He loves me, and my husband is an honorable man. He is a tremendous provider, care-taker, and the hardest worker I’ve ever known. He’s a cross between Daniel Boone and MacGuyver…he can hunt anything, live outside indefinitely, and probably make a rifle out of a few sticks and some chewing gum. He’s just a genius that way.
I think the biggest surprise of all is that I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t go back and never get sick. Some of you may have your jaws on the floor…but I’m a different person now. I’ve been connecting with some old friends on facebook, friends who only knew me before I was diagnosed. They can hardly believe I’m the same person.
I used to be wound tighter than a drum. I was working at a trucking company making GOOD money. I had a powerful position, and I loved it. I loved going to the city and immersing myself in the city life. Chicago was one of my favorite places to go “clubbing” with a friend. I cursed like a sailor, drank too much, and smoked cigarettes. I was impatient, and didn’t have a close relationship with God. I believe I was still saved, but I was NOT walking the walk.
Now I truly realize it’s only because of God that I got through all this. God, and the prayers of His faithful. I am WAY more patient. Little things just don’t bother me…I don’t have the energy to waste worrying about them. I love deeply and quickly. I let people know how much they mean to me, because after all, that’s really what it’s all about. Relationships.
It’s not about who has the most. It’s not about climbing the corporate ladder. It’s not even about who can do the most good things…even for the Lord. It’s about talking to that friend in need. It’s about visiting that shut in. It’s about clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. It’s about visiting the sick and imprisoned. It’s praying when you say you’ll pray. It’s encouraging someone when they feel all hope is lost. It’s all about love. About being the hands and feet of Jesus.
If you know someone who is ill, or having a hard time, please make a commitment to show them you care…pick up the phone…send a card…bring a meal…let them know you are praying them.
For someone on the receiving end, it can make all the difference.