I never realized a few years ago that my immune system would continue to deteriorate as it has the past few months. I've always been susceptible to colds easily, but I've never experienced the continual flow and severity of illnesses before. And through all of it, I feel as though I have a lot to complain about.
In October was the beginning of my long line of illnesses. I first went in to the doctor for this strange rash that appeared on my back -- that turned out to be shingles. Basically, a simple description of shingles is that it is the continuation of the chicken pox; the adult version. It attacks only one side of your body, because it is a nervous-system disease. It also only hits a few small points on your body. Sometimes people get the rash on their face, sometimes on their back, such as in my case. Along with the rash, fevers, chills, nausea, and extreme pain are effects of the disease as well. It usually lasts between 1-2 weeks, can reoccur at any time with too much stress, and is very debilitating. In my case, I had to be prescribed multiple antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pills, as well as Vicodin for the pain.
About three weeks later, shortly before Thanksgiving, I had a small bout of the flu. Nausea and pain accompanied this illness. Then, in early December, I had to make another visit to the doctor again and was told I had bronchitis.
I hoped that my sicknesses would finally take a rest as I came to school in January and was able to start getting more sleep, but, unfortunately, my body decided to take on another problem called insomnia. After about 2 weeks of almost completely sleepless nights (OTC sleep-aids were not helpful at all), I not only began to get sour throats and stuffy nose and ears, but depression began to be a problem as well. I went to a psychologist for tips on how to sleep better, and he suggested I talk to the doctor about a sleep medication and anti-depressant.
Around this same time, I became more ill from my menstrual cycle than I ever had before. I nearly passed out in the bathroom and was so nauseated that I threw up. Something had to be done for this as well, because I had to miss school the following day, and while I had had severe pains before, and nausea, it had never been so debilitating before.
Shortly after I was prescribed hormone pills, Ambien (sleep medication), and fluoxetine (anti-depressant), I came down with a sinus infection in mid-February. I was put on antibiotics once again, and had to miss work and school for about a week. A week after I was finished with my antibiotics and finally feeling somewhat hopeful that my illnesses really SHOULD be over with by now, I began to feel sick again. I was out with some friends when my throat started to hurt. I assumed it was only a little cold, but within three days, it turned into a very serious cough, and I went to the doctor, where I had a chest x-ray. I was told that I was getting pneumonia, but that I couldn't get prescribed antibiotics because I'd been on them so recently that I could get seriously ill and put in the hospital because of the overdose of antibiotics within such a short period of time. I was instead put on an inhaler and steroids.
After my pneumonia, about 6 weeks ago, I was doing a fast along with the rest of my ward, and got very ill. I am fairly sure we can label it a low-blood sugar, which basically means I most likely have hypoglycemia. Since then, I have been careful to eat small snacks every 2-4 hours, and I have felt a lot better. But when I do not eat for a while, the dizziness and nausea from a low-blood sugar returns.
But, the last six weeks have been pretty good. I've felt as though I'm finally getting better with the summer coming on. I've only had a few small colds or sore throats a few days at a time here and there, and some abdominal pain that is fairly bad, but I can usually push through; nothing that would stop me from going to school or work. At least, nothing until yesterday.
Two days ago, I had small cramps with the beginning of my period. However, I took some of the prescribed pain killers I have, and felt fine that night. Yesterday, when I woke up and went to school, I felt perfectly fine, and just took some tylenol with me in case I needed it later on in the day. Halfway through my first class, I began to feel a slight bit of pain, so I took two Tylenol and hoped it would be better after that. However, 5 minutes before my class ended, I began to feel incredibly nauseated and dizzy. I leaned to my friend in front of me and told her I was going to faint, and she said she'd help me get outside to get some fresh air. But in the time it took for that exchange, all of my energy drained and my vision began to get very blurry. By the time class ended 2 or 3 minutes later, my vision was completely black and I could not sit up straight. I was in severe pain.
I was rushed to the Student Health Center, where I was immediately put on an IV with pain medication and anti-nausea medication, along with a water drip to keep me hydrated. They also took a blood sample to test my blood count, which later came back completely normal.
The doctors suggested something I already had felt was possible: endometriosis. Endometriosis, simply put in my understanding, is an escape of the cells that line the uterus to other parts of your body. These are the cells that allow you to have your menstrual cycle, but when these cells are in other parts of your body, they can be dangerous and very painful. However, this actually occurs in most women, but when you have a strong immune system, your body fights the uterine cells with the white blood cells to keep them only where they are supposed to be. In someone with a poor immune system like mine, what happens is that you internally bleed in other areas of your body, such as in your intestines. This causes pain throughout the cycle throughout your intestines, bowels, lower back, and lower abdominal region. It also causes diarrhea and longer, heavier, very uncomfortable periods. Endometriosis has no cure, and usually progresses worse and worse throughout the years. My mom had it, and she told me that the only thing that helped hers get better was actually having her first child, my sister. Unfortunately, 30-40% of women with endometriosis are infertile, and the other 60-70% have a difficult time getting pregnant the first time.
Basically, I am worn out with this trial. It has been going far too long, in my opinion. As the days go by, I find myself more and more negative. But.... I've decided it's time to change that.
James 1:2-4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
Count it all joy? How can I be expected to look at all of my illnesses and be joyful, when I honestly would rather wallow in sorrow? To be honest, I have been doing that for a while. But I've honestly come to the realization that I can learn so much from these experiences. There are going to be others that go through lesser, but also tougher, situations that I can give support to. What I've learned through these experiences is that, with my being positive, I am showing faith in God. I also will learn, through that positivity, how to empathize with many others, as Christ did. He is our ultimate comforter, and I am striving to be like Him, I can learn through these trials, that seem so great to me, but that are still so much lesser than what He went through for me.
However, I've also learned something else through these trials. Yesterday, I called Paul to talk to him about my endometriosis. I told him basically what it was, and as I began to cry, told him it might be possible that I'm infertile and may also eventually be in so much pain that I won't be able to work (which is a possibility depending on how quickly and how far my endometriosis progresses). Obviously, one of my feelings throughout my illnesses has been, "How can someone love me when I'm such a burden?" I don't think I would feel that way if it was in the reverse, but I suppose it's different when you are in that difficult role. I knew that he felt very emotional too (Paul is never afraid to cry with me if he feels the need to), but I could tell that he was trying to be strong for both of us. He told me these words, "Do you really think your illnesses could make me love you less? That I would walk away and leave you when I love you more than myself?" He later added when we were talking about the possibility of infertility, "I want to have kids with you, but if you can't, just being with you and having you as my wife will be the biggest blessing ever!"
We're trying to be optimistic though. We are hoping that, even if it's difficult, that we will still be able to have our own children. However, we've been talking about how, even if I can't get pregnant, or even if I do, we'd like to eventually adopt. ... And then I learned something else. We were talking about the progression of the pain of endometriosis, and how even now it is hard for me to hold a job; how will it be if I continue to get worse? (Sidenote: We talked about how I will be able to finish school, because that is something I can mainly do from home if needed.) I know that I said there is no cure for endometriosis, however, there... kind of is. A hysterectomy is basically the only option because, if you completely stop the production of those cells, they won't be escaping to the rest of your body anymore, right? Paul suggested that, if I am ever in that much pain, he would want to make it better for me by doing anything he could, and that we could get that surgery done.
But I suddenly saw a vision that I know could be lost forever. I know that Paul wasn't suggesting he didn't want to have children, but he wants so badly to make me comfortable. But I objected. I know that we have to try to have our own children. I want to have my own babies, my own flesh and blood. Having a hysterectomy is something I know we, especially I, would regret so much later on. We'd never know if we could have had our own children. The pain of my endometriosis will be worth it to hold my own child. Not that adoption is not an amazing, bonding experience. But I want my own child. I'm sure that's not really something I have to explain too much to other women (or really, even to Paul).
So I've basically learned that I need to be positive, have faith in God, and trust and see what happens. I've also learned that Paul loves me more than I could have ever imagined possible... and that it will be hard, but we will make it someday as a family... And if I am infertile, Paul and I will make it as our own little family as just me and him, or maybe someday with children we've been able to adopt from unfortunate situations.
Whatever happens, things will be all right. I may hit my negative points again, but there are so many amazing things I can learn, I hope that I'll never really give up.