Five Minute Friday: Focus

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com
* I realize the spacing is weird. I don’t know why. *
Gentle Reader,

 

Tears in my eyes today.

 

This life of faith? It’s hard.

 

Kate asks us to: focus.

 

Go.

 

Being medically weird plain sucks.

 

Like being a desert and nobody has a map.

 

Blood tests earlier this week. I’m used to the poking and the prodding now. Wasn’t expecting my doctor to tell me that I was completely healed, but I was hoping for progress in that direction. Instead, I got, “Oh, hey, actually everything is a little worse.”

 

Fantastic.

 

Pretty much no improvement across the last year-and-a-half.

 

I had this tumor, an extremely rare side effect of high-estrogen birth control, which I took to address hormonal imbalances. Got rid of the tumor, but that didn’t get rid of the problems. I have Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver disease, which usually arises as the result of “obesity, high cholesterol or Type 2 Diabetes.” Don’t have any of these, and yet the organ is all jacked up and inflamed. I feel nothing but disdain for my liver. It’s stupid.

 

I don’t eat red meat and the meat I do eat is very lean. I’ve limited dairy (but ice cream is a definitely weakness). I go out and take walks as often as the chronic fatigue will let me. I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. Yet Janky McJankerstein is all like, “Nope. Not gonna get better.”

 

I want to punch my liver, except that would just make me fall on the floor and cry. A too-tight hug makes me wince.

 

So, yes. I’ve been discouraged for the last 24 hours. Irritated, too. My first question is, “God, how is this fair?” That’s the question we all jump to, isn’t it? I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs. I don’t eat greasy fast food anymore. I have a desk job, so I make sure to get up and walk around every so often, though I know I need to do more of that. I’m making an effort. I’m trying. And just…nothing. Other people walk around this earth treating their bodies with contempt and it’s all hunky-dory.

 

Bah.

 

Thankfully, He has given me a curious mind. My prayers of frustration and confusion give Him the space to begin shifting my perspective. I feel the slightest bit different today than I did yesterday. Still mopey, but now with a side of determination. The doctor is trying something experimental with me. I go back in two months to see if its helped. In those eight weeks, I’m going to do my own experiment: eating vegetarian. It can’t hurt. I want to see if the doctor’s experiment and my experiment come together in a positive way. The worst that will happen is that nothing will change.

 

I’m tired. I’m so tired. Sprawled out in the dust, face covered with sweat and tears. Again, I am faced with the choice: Will I trust God or not? If not, I’m doomed. I will succumb to the suckiness of it all. If yes, He will pour iron into my soul, the kind that strengthens me for one more fight, one more day. One more step up that steep mountain.

 

I’m choosing, right now, to trust. He was there when I was practically sawed in half last winter. Every aching breath. Every medication induced wave of nausea. Every tear, every nightmare, every stabbing, searing pain. He was there, crawling next to me, urging me, carrying me, pulling me through the muck and the mire.

 

I call myself weak, a coward. He calls me a warrior. I say I’m not a fighter, He says it’s time to throw a punch. I say I am finished, He says that by His grace I’m not out.

 

It’s not over ’til the bell rings, and it ain’t rung yet.

 

I pick up my scratched sword and my dented shield. I straighten my dirty helmet. The Devil, oh, he wants to knock me out. He wants me to turn away from all I know to be true out of fear and forgetfulness. I look to my King. I take my orders.

 

I battle on.

 

…so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’

 

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

&npsb;

– 2 Corinthians 12:7-12 (MSG)

 

Stop.

 

My journey to faith. (15)

Bonus Monday Post: Flirting with Nonsense, Part 2 (or, Call Me a Shill, Call Me a Sheeple)

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Gentle Reader,

Go here for the first part.

I have now reached my limit with the alternative health movement, and I’m not going to qualify anything in this post. You can read my initial thoughts in the above referenced link to know that I’m not some crazed, hypochondriac, pop-a-pill-for-everything, doctors-are-gods-among-men type person.

This here isn’t about qualifications, apologies or beating around the bush.

I read an article over the weekend that presented the hypothesis that breast cancer is really just a fungus. I won’t provide a link because you have fingers and can Google and I don’t want to drive up the hits on that particular piece of pseudo-scientific glory.

You can prevent breast cancer through “emotional healing,” “energy balancing” and baking soda concoctions, among other things.

Here’s the thought extended to its natural conclusion: Breast cancer (cancer of any kind, really) is no big deal.

The arrogance, the ignorance and the insensitivity…. I honestly can’t even make it compute.

I had a tumor. No, it wasn’t in my breast tissue and yes, it was benign, but trust me. IT WAS A BIG DEAL. AND IT WASN’T A FUNGUS. Here’s what tumors and cancer actually are:

Cancer cells differ from normal cells in many ways that allow them to grow out of control and become invasive. One important difference is that cancer cells are less specialized than normal cells. That is, whereas normal cells mature into very distinct cell types with specific functions, cancer cells do not. This is one reason that, unlike normal cells, cancer cells continue to divide without stopping.

In addition, cancer cells are able to ignore signals that normally tell cells to stop dividing or that begin a process known as programmed cell death, or apoptosis, which the body uses to get rid of unneeded cells.

Cancer cells may be able to influence the normal cells, molecules, and blood vessels that surround and feed a tumor—an area known as the microenvironment. For instance, cancer cells can induce nearby normal cells to form blood vessels that supply tumors with oxygen and nutrients, which they need to grow. These blood vessels also remove waste products from tumors.

Cancer cells are also often able to evade the immune system, a network of organs, tissues, and specialized cells that protects the body from infections and other conditions. Although the immune system normally removes damaged or abnormal cells from the body, some cancer cells are able to “hide” from the immune system.

Tumors can also use the immune system to stay alive and grow. For example, with the help of certain immune system cells that normally prevent a runaway immune response, cancer cells can actually keep the immune system from killing cancer cells. – What is Cancer?

But, you know, don’t trust that link because government equals lies, all lies. And the Lizard Lords of the Illuminati control the pharmaceutical shills who work for the National Cancer Institute. And cancer never existed before vaccines. And if we just ate paleo and brushed our teeth with clay we’d be great.

If only I had had my chakras feng shui’d.

I’m furious about this because the alternative health movement preys on my people, the chronically ill, much more aggressively than modern medicine ever has. That’s right, I said it. These bloggers with too much time on their hands, these “practitioners” with “degrees” from diploma mills, these “healing crystal” and bone-broth hawkers INSIST if you would just eat the left hoof of a three-year-old sheep ground into fine powder mixed with mung wort and drink dung beetle tea and give yourself a coffee (or even better, bleach) enema, you will be fine! If it doesn’t work, then you should try rubbing sixteen essential oils on your belly button while levitating above a bath heated to precisely 145.236 degrees. If that doesn’t work, then you’re just a moron who can’t do anything right and you should probably just die anyway because natural selection and that’s how it is.

Satire and sarcasm, people. Satire and sarcasm.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve come across a site or article promising me healing for only three easy payments of $59.99. Just as bad as the “preachers” who ask, tears in their eyes, for your “financial seed of faith.” And oh, their cries against doctors! “They don’t care! They don’t know anything! They work for Big Pharma (whatever that means)! Buy my book! Call me for a consult and pay me an astronomical fee! Purchase this (food/water/rock/pillow)!”

Meanwhile, eight months passed between the time imaging showed I had a problem with my liver and the actual removal of the tumor. My doctors who didn’t care about me and wanted to make me sick and were getting paid big bucks to keep me “down” were incredibly cautious. They helped me come off of my medications – and didn’t give me new ones. They suggested dietary changes. Over and over I was told that they needed more information. More understanding of what was going on. When I finally did make it to the cancer surgeon, he was none-too keen on rushing into the operating room. He wanted to make sure that was absolutely the best option and even the last resort.

Hmmmmmm. Methinks something is off here.

What’s most especially awesome about these harbingers of health, these dispensers of wisdom to the poor deluded masses is that they often refuse to publish respectful dissenting comments. Or they go the other route and challenge someone to prove them wrong, and something like this happens:

A German biologist who offered €100,000 (£71,350; $106,300) to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus has been ordered by a court to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website.

The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings.

But the court in the town of Ravensburg ruled that the proof was sufficient.

Reacting to the verdict by the court in the southern town, Mr Lanka said he would appeal.

“It is a psychosomatic illness,” he told regional paper Suedkurier. “People become ill after traumatic separations.” – Germany Court Orders Measles Skeptic to Pay 100,000 Euros

Measles is a psychosomatic illness?

What.

So you’ll have to forgive me if I pay ZERO attention to the claims of alternative health from here on out. You’ll have to forgive me if I roll my eyes. Call me a shill, call me a sheeple. Tell me I’m willfully blind. I DON’T CARE. 

Finally, if you’d like to do some starter reading regarding alternative medicine and how it should be approached with extreme caution, please see:

Alternative Medicine in the Church by Janice Lyons at Watchman Fellowship

Alternative Medicine: a Christian Perspective by George Smith, taken from Triple Helix, a publication of the Christian Medical Fellowship

My journey to faith. (15)

31 Days with the Savior: Revealed

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Gentle Reader,

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.'” – John 9:1-3 (NKJV)

I know I’ve referenced this passage more than once on this blog. I can’t help it. This is one of my favorite moments with Jesus. He speaks so many volumes about illness and suffering in one sentence.

Yes, there are things that we do to ourselves that cause us to get sick. That’s why Paul’s words are important: “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). We shouldn’t over- or under-eat. We shouldn’t drink excessively. We shouldn’t smoke. We shouldn’t do drugs. We shouldn’t be couch-potatoes. We shouldn’t be controlled by anything other than the Spirit.

Here’s the deal, though: A whole lot of illnesses, physical and mental, just happen. Same thing with deformities. Neither my parents nor I did anything to cause me to be born with partial blindness. It just happened. Part of living in a broken world. I didn’t do anything to cause the problems in my liver. They just happened.

Those who suffer have two options: get bitter or get better. It’s easy to get bitter. It’s easy to spit in God’s face and refuse to see Him at work. But how much greater is it to get better? No, we’re not talking literally, because that doesn’t always happen. Yet illness and suffering can shape us into better people. We can learn to see God. We can allow Him to reveal Himself in, around and through us.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all entries in the Jesus: 31 Days with the Savior series, go here.

The Detox Diaries: Five Vials of Blood

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Gentle Reader,

The doctor.

We’re developing quite a relationship.

Today’s visit marked the fourth to his office in a seven-day span. I’m getting to the point where I know what information the receptionist is going to ask me to confirm before she asks it. I just start rattling off numbers and dates.

I told you that I’d been called into the office to discuss the results of the blood work I had done last Monday, and that God had been faithful to give me peace for that appointment. I am beyond thankful for that, because things aren’t the greatest. They could be worse; I’m glad that my blood sugar level is fine and that my triglycerides have stabilized. All this walking and avoiding delicious food has done some good. My liver function is, however, neither fine nor stable.

Without a medical degree I can’t properly explain the situation, but what I do know is that there are two enzymes, AST and ALT, in the liver that work to filter the blood and break down the yuck stuff. Both of mine are at much higher levels than they should be. This can be an indication of leakage from damaged cells caused by liver inflammation or cell death. Basically, my liver is not working like it’s supposed to, but my doctor doesn’t know why. He ordered more tests and has referred me to a specialist, whose call I am anxiously awaiting.

So, round two. Today I got poked again and forked over five vials of blood. These tests will reveal the levels of iron and copper in my blood, as well as the level of some very long word that began with an “a.” The lab will also run a complete hepatic panel, though I don’t know what that entails. I assume that they are checking levels of other enzymes that hang out in the liver.

I hurry to get to appointments and then wait for the results. Hurry up and wait. That is the great test of patience.

This testing and stretching of my limitations moves me to a place of thankfulness as I think on the fact that God knows all things. He knows the end from the beginning, and the middle part, too. He knows what’s going to happen me. None of this is a surprise to Him. I cannot unravel the mystery regarding the will of God and the will of man; I believe that man is free and that God is free, and somehow everyone has real choices to make, but I completely reject Open Theism. While God chooses to relate Himself to us via Scripture and the Spirit in a way that we can sort-of grasp, using the element of time, God is not bound by the clock. Time is not some force that has always existed in an uncreated state. He is completely outside of time and sees it all.

This is greatly comforting to me – God is bigger. He isn’t up there in Heaven biting His nails. He isn’t phased by my situation or by my coming to Him over and over again asking for help. He isn’t unsure how to respond. He knows exactly what I need, when I need it, and why I need it. More importantly, He knows all of this before I even know to ask and so often graciously works in my life without my uttering a word. He simply and awesomely provides.

He knows what’s in those five vials of blood and what it all means. If it will bring Him glory and me good, if it will be the best thing for the outworking of His plan, then He will remove this burden. If I walk through more tests and waiting and illness, then that is somehow what’s best. Whether I am healed by His touch, through medicine or on the other side of Eternity, I will be healed.

That is the outcome.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.