Sunday, January 28, 2007

11/30/06: A Time for Healing

Those of you who know me "in real life" are all too familiar with my physical limitations, but those of you who know me (or not) online may not be familiar with the challenges of daily living that I experience, even in typing this blog.

I was e-mailing an e-friend about my medical history as her daughter is going through some similar symptoms. As I wrote to her, I realized that I have only alluded a few times to my illnesses here but in no real detail.

Please take this as a history only, and not a call for a pity party. It's simply what I and my family have been dealing with over the past few years.


Nearly five years ago I started to see an excellent chiropractor, Dr. Charles Burns, for neck pain. Almost immediately he noticed that I didn't respond normally to his adjustments, and he sent me to see my regular doctor through Kaiser, our HMO. She diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. Then along came diagnoses of hypothyroid, hypoglycemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. I spent three years in unrelenting pain which no oral drug, not even morphine, could control. We tried more pharmaceutical medications than I can remember, along with natural remedies of nutrition, chiropractic, and acupuncture. Only chiropractic helped a little, but not nearly enough. When my Kaiser doctor, reportedly an expert in fibromyalgia, "gave up" on me and referred me to psychiatry in order to increase my access to "more drugs," I was ready to give up myself as well.

Here I was, 37 years old and in a wheelchair much of the time, unable to walk even short distances outside my home. The pain and stiffness wouldn't let up. I slept little. I couldn't exercise at all. I was too tired to do almost everything. And I was fighting depression over my physical state on a daily, if not hourly basis. I had four children to care for and teach, and I simply couldn't do it. I couldn't clean my home. I couldn't cook dinner. I couldn't homeschool. I couldn't function. So Keith took over on dinner detail, and friends from church drove up the mountain to clean my home. And my dear friend Johanna came up to help homeschool the kids. I often collapsed from weakness or dizziness, sometimes in public. Most importantly, I finally left Kaiser and sought out a new doctor.

When Dr. Burns diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis through applied kinesiology, my new doctor, a Christian osteopath, applied his RA protocol of fentanyl patches and hormonal cremes. And suddenly, something worked! The pain became manageable, and I slowly began to gain strength. I could walk a little further, cook a little in the kitchen, take the kids on a field trip if they pushed my wheelchair. My concern was with becoming addicted to the powerful narcotics, but Dr. Adema assured me that these drugs were prescribed no more than necessary and were integral for my recovery; I would be able to get off them when the cause of these disorders was discovered.

Dr. Adema was convinced that something was poisoning me. It was something more than the "homeschool mom syndrome" that he so often saw in his patients, although he thought that it was indeed part of my condition. So my chiropractor referred me to a naturopathic dentist who tested me, and we found out that I'm allergic to the metals from my dental work -- my braces from my college years, my one amalgam filling, and my root canal. So I've had all the metal removed from my mouth and am now going through IV chelation therapy. I've had almost twenty treatments, and although I've been very nauseous and weak from the treatments, I'm doing better now. I'm just extra tired for a few days after each weekly treatment. And once the toxicity levels decrease significantly, I should be able to start to ease off the fentanyl patch.

I still need a wheelchair for long shopping trips and for field trips to the museums or the zoo, but I'm doing far better overall, although I'm on more than twice the fentanyl than my mother-in-law was when she died of cancer a few years ago. I need a four-pronged cane for outside of the house, and I still have occasional weakness and fainting spells.

So that's where I am. Still struggling with some issues. Still in some pain. Still very tired. Still watching my nutrition. And still hoping that I'll continue to improve and become a "normal" mom again.

The silver lining: God has used this difficulty to draw me ever closer to Him and has given me the passion to study the contemplative traditions of the church, along with church history and Anglicanism. God has set me on a very different path in faith, a "road less taken... that has made all the difference" in my life.

And for that, I am truly grateful.

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