Functional Medicine and Request for Prayers

Well hello, my friends!  I’m pretty excited to have had a few more visitors here as a result of my last mushy-gushy post about Chronic Illness and Marriage.  If you missed it, no worries.  Just click here for one of the clearest messages God has ever given me.

This may be a hodge-podge of a post but I have some health updates for you.  First of all, I’m not better by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I’m so nauseous today that I’m having trouble focusing and my parotids are swelling so much so that I know if I don’t talk them down somehow, I’ll wake up tomorrow with parotids as big as my head.  Drama is sometimes my gift to society, so thanks for humoring me.  But if I’m being honest here, I’m pretty terrified and would covet your prayers.

I don’t want you to hear me poo-pooing Conventional Medicine, because it is great for emergencies and some people have fantastic results. However, I am not one of those people.  Doctor after doctor after doctor has proven to me that Conventional Medicine will not make me better.  I have found an amazing Primary Care Physician, who is the only one who has suspected any diagnoses, but since he’s not a Specialist he has to pass me off to yet another doctor who thinks I’m fine, puts on a band-aid, and refuses to search for the core issues.  I have grown far more than weary of our broken system of SICK care rather than HEALTH care.  Insurance companies and doctors don’t get paid unless we are sick so no one cares about figuring out WHY we are sick.  Hmmm… I guess I am poo-pooing Conventional Medicine just a little!

Through a lot of research and Autoimmune support groups, I have concluded that the best option for me at this point is Functional Medicine. As you know, I spent two months on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) elimination diet without success.  Supposedly, if that diet doesn’t work, you have an underlying infection or overgrowth of some sort and you will not get better until it is addressed.  Conventional labs do not test deeply enough to figure out what these underlying issues are.  Functional Medicine labs, however, are extremely extensive.  This practice takes into account a person’s individual genetic makeup, diet, and environmental exposures, a discipline that is severely lacking in Conventional Medicine. If you would like to read more about this approach, you can visit the Institute for Functional Medicine.

But what holds more weight to me than the research is the volume of people I have discovered who have greatly benefited from Functional Medicine.  I first learned of this branch of medicine through my East TN AIP group and every person I have spoken to who has accessed Functional Medicine has shown remarkable improvement.  Outside of my AIP groups, I stumbled upon a Christian women’s online group and I have been so encouraged just in general by these women.  There are over 5,000 of us, but since it’s not the entire internet, it still feels intimate.  We share our stories and pray for each other so I posted a bit about my story.  I have had multiple people respond with their success stories with Functional Medicine and their belief that this field of medicine is a gift from God.

This is not a large field of medicine so there is only one provider in my immediate area who practices Functional Medicine.  Unfortunately, I have never heard anything good about this doctor and, frankly, I do not trust her to touch me with a ten-foot pole.  But I thought she was my only option so I’ve had an appointment with her on the books for months.  But the more I listen to others, the less I trust her, and if you don’t trust your doctor how in the world will she be able to help you?  First of all, it takes three months to get an appointment with her, so I’m still in that 3-month period.  Then, as I have discovered from listening to the unfortunate others, you have to wait THREE MORE MONTHS for your lab results, all the while continuing to suffer for six whole months before she even begins to think about treating you.  Unfortunately, she is not solely a Functional Medicine provider, so her insurance-based other practice is clearly her priority.

I was beginning to despair when someone recommended a Functional Medicine provider in Knoxville.  Reading their website gave me such a ray of hope.  I think I have found the provider who is meant to treat me.  I spoke with her personally on the phone the other day and it was as if I was speaking with someone who had known me forever.  She has made amazing progress with her own autoimmune disease so she understands me in a way that many providers cannot.  She also specializes in GI issues and the excitement in her voice actually grew when she said “the more complicated, the better”.  That’s definitely me! It is very clear to me that she loves helping people regain their health.  I just know within my heart of hearts that this is what I need.  So, thanks to the beautiful people in my life allowing me to borrow the testing money, I already have an appointment with this blessed provider this coming Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 1:00 PM. Might I point out that I did not have to wait nearly three months for this appointment, and the labs they do next week will be back within two weeks.  You guys, I may be able to start treatment in just over two weeks!!  I am beyond excited.

The only sad part is, we were hoping to visit PA in about two weeks.  I haven’t been “home” in a year and a half or so… maybe?  This could interfere with that visit, but at this point I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be well enough to travel anyway.

So, the main reason for this post was to update you and ask for your fervent prayers that this is truly the final answer for me.  Even if I get a little better, it will be a God-send.  I feel so deeply that this is the right thing for me but there’s always that annoying little terrified thought that it will be just one more treatment to spend borrowed money on that won’t work. Please pray, my friends.  This is probably the most important appointment I have ever had with regards to my health and I NEED it to go well.  But, of course, God’s will be done.

Thank you, my awesome readers!

Love,

~Karina

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Chronic Illness and Marriage

My husband is my hero.  Honestly.  If you look at a picture of him, I swear there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of a halo.  And yet, he calls me his angel.  How did I get so blessed?

Our wedding was a blissful September occasion in 2013, just a mere 2 years, 8 months and 24 days ago.  But, who’s counting? It was a perfect fall day surrounded by family and friends and completely blessed by God. I’m sure I thought that our lives would continue to be that perfect.

I was already chronically-ill at the time of our wedding, but it was mostly things I could ignore, like headaches and sinus infections.  I blamed all on the Tennessee allergens.  But it wasn’t too long before I went through knock-down illnesses over and over again until ‘ill’ was my new ‘normal’.

Let me tell you about this man I married. He is a Special Education teacher and he is amazing at his job.  He has a generally lovable personality and gets along with everyone.  He helps those he can, to the best of his ability. And he has taken care of his chronically-ill wife since the moment we said “I Do”.

In case there wasn’t already enough mush, here is the song I wrote and sang to him on our wedding day:

My Miracle

It feels like a dream that you are here with me
You came into my life and you made me your wife
How can this be true, that I love you?
God has shown his favor, and you're my miracle.

You looked into my eyes and you touched a place inside
That I had locked away because I was afraid
Now my love pours forth.  My heart is yours
Why God blessed me, I'll never know, but you're my miracle.

I promise you.  I do.  
With all my heart, forever, you're my miracle.
For the rest of my life, you're my miracle.
Jason, you're my miracle.

You can watch me try to Dolly Parton-it with my big ole fake nails here. Everybody now….. AWWWW!  I love him just a little.  I could not have imagined how much truth this song would hold throughout the next few years.

I often think that my beloved got the raw end of the deal.  Although it breaks my heart, it’s sometimes hard for me not to think that he deserves a healthy wife.  A wife who can take care of him when he is sick, who can contribute to the household bills so the burden is not solely on him, who can attend social events with him, and who can serve alongside him.  We have never experienced the “in health” part of marriage, and the “that’s not fair” part of my brain acts up sometimes…er…a lot of times.

Depression often comes with chronic illness.  I can usually feel myself slipping down that slope but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it until I hit the bottom and start climbing back out.  In the depths of the pit, my beloved holds me while I cry and helps to pick off the rubble that fell on top of me on the way down.  I honestly cannot imagine what I would do without him.

It is very clear to me that God gave my husband to me at the perfect time. Some days I find it hard not to tell God he could have at least given us a couple healthy years, but his timing is much more complicated and perfect than we could ever imagine. I have never needed someone so much. Sometimes I think about what this illness would be like without Jason and it scares me.  I’m certain I would have lost our home and I would be on the floor of my room in my parents’ house rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

But I still regularly have those “it’s not fair to him” moments.  I say to him, “I want to be better for you”, and this saint-of-a-man always responds with, “I want you to be better for you.”  I also regularly struggle with wanting my life to count for something more than this.  In the depths of my despair, I lament the end of my career, my social life, my service to others.  I hit the bottom again a few days ago and I, once again, told Jason I just want to do something meaningful but I’m lost.  He responded with something like, “You’re my wife”, and because I was being so negative he added, “for what that’s worth.”  Let me tell you, friends,  I BROKE.  How could this man think that being his wife is anything less than EVERYTHING?! He is literally saving my life and doesn’t even realize it, because I haven’t told him enough times to cancel out all of my negativity.  I haven’t let him know enough how much he is being Jesus to me.

A Spirit-filled thought came to my mind at that moment:

“Stop minimizing your husband’s ministry.”  

It never dawned on me that saying things like, “It’s not fair to you”, “I wish I was better for you”, or “I wish you had a healthier wife” was minimizing my beloved’s God-given ministry of service to his wife.  I realized in that moment that God has called him to daily serve someone who needs him more than words can say, and the moment he said “I Do”, he committed to accomplishing that ministry to the fullest.  What a difficult challenge he has accepted!!

To say that I am grateful is pretty much the understatement of a lifetime. Though I struggle with thinking I don’t deserve it, I am grateful to God for choosing a man who will help him carry me through the valleys and over the mountains.  I am humbled that God would make caring for me Jason’s ministry.  I am grateful to my husband for saying “yes” to this incredible and difficult opportunity.  And I’m grateful to God for opening my eyes to the beautiful ministry that is happening right in front of my face. I am the bride of my husband, who is pouring all of himself out in sacrifice to me. I am the bride of Christ, who has already poured himself out in sacrifice to me.  I never want to take any of this for granted.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." - Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

Wow!  My husband has quite the job to do!  I am so incredibly thankful he is there to carry me, love me, and cleanse me with the love of Christ.

Maybe you are the ill spouse, who feels guilty for putting all of the burden on your beloved.  Oh my dear ones, please hear that you are your spouse’s God-given ministry.  Let it sink into the depths of your heart how incredibly loved you are by God. Maybe you are the spouse, who is weary from taking care of the household or from trying to convince your spouse that she/he is worth every moment.  Please hear that you have an amazing gift.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for serving God by serving your spouse. I hope that sharing the insight God gave to me will speak to all of your hearts.  Much love and prayers to you, and much love to my beloved.  I would marry you every day if I could!

And they lived happily every after…

 

My Miracle

Photo Credit:  Kara Faith Photography

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Shaking off the Rubble

I have had an epiphany of sorts. I’ve been reading several different things lately that have begun to crack open my eyes to the importance of being kind to my body.  I fully admit that 90% of the time, I despise my body. In my anger-colored view, my body has cost me almost everything that meant something to me – my career, financial stability, my purpose, even the outward mask I put on for people (aka, my looks).  Not because I’ve ever thought I was particularly pretty, but because my looks are a part of the ‘got-it-all-together’ act I put on for the world.  During moments of intense pain and anger, I have openly cursed my body.  Even now, if I’m being totally honest with myself, I hate my body.  I know it’s true because when I say that, my insides light up with fiery rage.  But, along with that rage is just a twinge of guilt and sadness, which is why I know that there is hope for the hatred to dissipate.

Here is my epiphany:  How can I expect a body that is so physically, verbally, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually-abused to be anything but ill?  Think of someone who has been told all of her life that she is worthless.  Will she not likely eventually believe it?

I’ve physically abused my body for years.  My go-to food had always been wheat, or other things that turn straight to sugar as they are digested.  As a teenager I developed “chicken skin”on my arms, which can be a tell-tale sign of a gluten intolerance.  But instead of working to figure out what my body was trying to tell me, I picked at it and abused it further, leaving me scarred for life.  I continued to eat only cereal every day for breakfast all through college.  Starting my day with pure sugar naturally means that my body will need more sugar throughout the day in order to avoid a crash.  But at that point I was still living in ignorant, fairly-healthy bliss so I didn’t see any reason to change my habits.

Then came the first job in my Social Work career.  I continued to eat cereal (wheat) for breakfast.  Most days I ate granola bars and yogurt (both of which usually contain wheat) for lunch.  Then, after a 10-15 hour work day, I was too tired to cook anything nutritious so I would very often go home to frozen ravioli or spaghetti (more wheat).  Gluten OVERLOAD.  The teenagers with whom I was working made fun of my bad skin, which was maddeningly much worse than theirs.  But still, I attributed it to stress and continued to hate this face that God gave me.  I was disgusted by my disease-ridden body.  But I did nothing to fix it until it finally broke.

When I finally started feeling incredibly ill, many times fearing or praying for death, I continued to hate my body.  Every moment that it took me away from my job or my social life was another mark against it.  I blamed absolutely every bit of pain, nausea and illness on this wretched body that I had been given.  It seemed unfair to me that I got the dysfunctional end of the deal.  It never occurred to me that I had a massive role in causing my body to behave in this way.  When my body had reached the last straw and violently reacted to the mountain of abuse I had given it my entire life, I had the nerve to despise it.

What I am realizing is that instead of throwing intense hatred at this body God has given me, I should be thanking it.  You see, my body has done me the biggest favor of my life.  It is slowly stripping away everything that truly means NOTHING.  The mask I’ve worn for years has been cracking and falling of.  I usually have to wear glasses because my eyes are too dry for contacts.  I can no longer color my hair or wear makeup or nail polish due to chemical sensitivity.  I can’t use regular shampoo so my hair doesn’t style well and it’s full of premature grays.  A silver and nickel sensitivity is trying to force me to get rid of my jewelry (thus far I’m being stubborn about that one!)  Now, when I see pictures of myself I am struck by how thin and sick I look.  Slowly, but surely, it is stripping away every bit of the facade I used for years to cover this miraculous body with which I was gifted.  It is forcing me to be honest with myself and the world about who I truly am. How is that for beautiful rubble?!

To quote the author Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. in her book, Close to the Bone: Life-Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey:  “It is a risk to be authentic and shed persona, armor, defenses; and it is a loss if we do not take the risk, for then there is no possibility of intimacy.  If we live behind gates emotionally, thinking that this will keep us safe, the only certainty is that our decision will keep us isolated, in a box of our own making.”  My body is simply helping me, forcing me to stop hiding, start being vulnerable, and begin to live as the real me.

Not only is this season challenging me to learn to love my body as it is, it is shifting my priorities to where they should have been all along. Everything I had built my fake little life around (my career, my financial stability, my purpose, my mask) is now in last place, right where it should have been all of these years.  I am being forced to cling to, and nurture, the only things that really matter in this life.  What matters is my faith, which I am learning was much more precarious than I would have ever thought.  My marriage, which grows stronger with each passing “in sickness” day.  My family, with which I am able to communicate more frequently now that I am home all day.  I still struggle with the fact that this illness has stolen the chance for me to be part of the lives of my nieces and nephews, but I am working on forgiveness in that area.  I am learning the importance of kindness, health and vitality in this beautiful body that was given to me by God.  For my whole life, I have treated my body as anything but a temple for the Holy Spirit.

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

What I am realizing, through the most painful of avenues, is that my perception and treatment of my body is incredibly important.  A verse I came across that I had never noticed before shook me to the core.

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?” – 1 Corinthians 6:15a (NIV)

My body is part of Christ himself?!?!   !!!  I am completely humbled, saddened, and prostrated in guilt when I think of how poorly I have treated CHRIST HIMSELF.  Completely changing my perspective on who I really am and what matters most is going to take some very difficult, painful, but incredibly rewarding soul-searching.  It’s going to take time and I’m going to mess up, but learning to give myself grace can only help me in offering that same grace to others.  It is worth every blood-drawing rock or splinter as I climb out of this rubble.  When I think of my situation in this way, I cannot wait to see the person I become, the person I should have been all along.  When I think about my body being Christ, I want to grab my own chisel and shovel and start flinging off all the meaningless stuff into the pit.

I love this quote from the book I mentioned earlier:

“To be brought ‘close to the bone’ through the adversity of illness, the closeness of death, and the knowledge that we are not in control of the situation, is to come close to the essence of who we are, both as unique individuals and as human beings.  Like X-ray films on which the bones are the most distinct because they are the strongest and most indestructible elements of the body, so it is that adversity reveals the eternal, and thus indestructible, qualities of the soul.”

Oh, how I long for my eternal self to be the self I know, and the self I show to the world.  I thank God for this terrifyingly-beautiful opportunity and I thank my body for shaking off the rubble.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” – Romans 12:1 (NIV)

 

 

 

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It Is Well

Is it really well with me?  It has to be.

During times when it is not well, I fall into a dark hole.

I isolate myself because I’m angry or disappointed.  

Maybe the purpose of all of this is to teach me that since I can’t control my own body, I may as well let go of my control of everything else.

I am struggling to learn this.

I’m holding as tightly as I can, by mere fingertips, strong as steel and scratching, grasping, unwilling to let go.  

I do let go and experience a peace beyond understanding.

But I soon realize what I have done and chase after my control again.

Stretched thin and bleeding from this tug-of-war, I wonder why.

I am not in control of my life so why am I trying so hard to yank it out of God’s hands?  It should be a relief to know I don’t have to have it all together.  I don’t have to crawl painstakingly through this life on my own.

I am held by the greatest power in the universe.  

But how long, O Lord?  How long?  

I am so tired. Tired is not a vast enough word.  When will I be able to LIVE again?  Will this ever be in the past?

Fix my eyes up to you, beyond the pain and the fear.  Lock my eyes with yours and grant me a peace that only you understand.  

Tell me this will end.  Give me strength for each moment.

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