Back to my adventures in unhealthy land . . .
This doctor did a controversial type of testing and told me I had an adrenal problem. He put me on steroids--hydrocortisone to be exact, and suddenly my life changed for the better. I couldn't believe how much better I felt.
This was so exciting. I felt like I had been given my life back.
We were in the States at the time, on furlough for a few months before returning to Indonesia. Now that I was better, we packed our bags, got our plane tickets, and were excited about returning.
There was, however, an important fact about the steroids that was at the time unknown to me. Cortisol--hydrocortisone and prednisone--replace the cortisol in your body that your adrenal glands are supposed to produce. Working adrenal glands, however, are constantly changing the levels of cortisol released in the body all throughout the day depending on your circumstances. They are the hormones that deal with stress. Not just stressed-out stress, any kind of stress on your body, which means any kind of change. That includes temperature changes, change in schedule, physical changes, along with the things we associate with stress like traffic and conflict.
A normal dose of hydrocortisone will get you through a normal day. If you get sick, though, or have an infection, or get in a car wreck, you have to increase your dose to meet your body's needs.
I did not know that.
So I got a cold and it wouldn't go away. In fact, it got worse. I was miserable.
Three days before we were supposed to leave the country, I had to check into the hospital with pneumonia.
I could write fifty pages on that story, but suffice it to say, I ended up with pleurisy, bacterema and some other potentially fatal problem, had to have a thorocotomy where they went in and scraped my lung, was in ICU for 9 days I think, and in the hospital for 2 weeks.
As bad as the whole experience was, I'm thankful for it. Why, you ask? Because had we returned to Indonesia with me being ignorant of this medicine issue, the first time I'd gotten sick I would have gotten worse and worse and likely died a very unpleasant death (that's a funny phrase--who dies a pleasant death?) not even knowing what the problem was.
So I am thankful for the big problem that God sent to save me from an even bigger problem.
In the meantime, I learned so many things lying in that hospital bed--things about myself, about life and death, and about the God who holds my hand (Isaiah 41:13).
However, that's a story for another day. For now, I'm supposed to be getting to the brain tumor part.
Fast-forward a few months. I was only able to go back to Indonesia after the surgery for 3 weeks, in which time we had to sell the household we had acquired back when we'd planned to spend our lives there, pack up only what would fit in our required 2 pieces of luggage per person, and say goodbye to dear friends that we would likely never see again. It was 3 weeks of very long days, a very difficult trip back, and we basically went from the airport to the hospital on arrival because I was in pretty bad shape.
One of my doctors told me I should never go back overseas again, and he was surprised I hadn't "kicked off" already. That made me laugh--whoever heard of a doctor saying "kicked off"?
I had to give up my dreams of living overseas, my ideals about doing significant exciting things, my hopes of ...well, being able to choose my own path.
Several years passed. More doctors. More confused results. Still no clear diagnosis.
We learned quickly that small things could escalate into a big deal as far as my health. Like my legs hurting during pregnancy. Turned out to be critically low potassium (who knew?). That came along with pre-eclampsia, which turned into eeclampsia, which ended with seizures, me forgetting 2 days of my life, fluid on the brain, and me lying in the MRI machine wondering if I was going to die that day (see My Last Day).
Since then I have been a strange mix of trying to live with my limitations while also feeling propelled past them by my own expectations of myself and the plain fact that I don't look sick to anyone out there. I hate being "less." I hate having to say no to things I'd really love to do.
I have hated setting aside my dreams for my life because my body cannot keep up with my heart.
However, I know that what God does is good and I have learned that these limitations are gifts from Him. But this is about that brain tumor thing, so stick with me. We're getting there!