Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 5

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Watching your child go through a life-threatening experience is the hardest thing as a parent. I had only been a mom for 2 years – 6 months -15 days when my second child was born and had bowel surgery 63 hours after coming into this world.  When you see your child helpless (and even dead-like), one of the many cries out to God is “Couldn’t it have been me instead!?”

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This picture was taken moments after Damon came out of surgery for duodenal atresia. Read his story from my perspective, Brett’s perspective, and God’s perspective.

All we could do is sit and hold him, trust the nurses and doctors, and pray. Of course this question stares you in the face at some point: “Why God?”

Why was Damon born with this congenital anomaly? Why God did you allow the earthquake in Nepal?  Why are you allowing Christians to be hung, beheaded, shot?  Why did baby Elijah at 13 weeks contract Fifth’s disease and die in my friend’s womb? Why was my friend murdered by her husband?

I’m not going to answer these questions. You can read back in Part 3 that most of life’s pain, death, disease, etc is a result of sin and not God, because God cannot sin nor does he cause it.

Some questions we may never know the answer until we see Jesus face to face.  But I do know this:

“Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:6-9

And when every.single.person that has ever lived stands before the Creator and Lord of all, there will be no questions.  Every knee will bow.  We will understand. We will see Jesus on His throne and will know that our purpose is to bring glory to His Name. (Whether you believe this or not is irrelevant because Absolute Truth does not change based on belief or lack thereof.)

So chronic pain and suffering, people trapped and dying under rubble, riots and killings, a mother holding her lifeless 13-week in utero baby is pleasing to God?   No, I sure don’t serve a God that gets pleasure out of these things.

His glory comes from “Seek[ing] the Lord while you can find him!  Call[ing] on Him now while He is near!  Changing our wicked ways. Turning to God, for He WILL forgive generously.”  With open arms He died on a cross. With open arms He is waiting for us to come take a leap of faith.

Then when…

our 3 day old son goes through bowel surgery…

the mom says goodbye to her baby…

the Christian who is seconds from being shot in the head…

the man trapped in the rubble without earthly hope…

the sister of my murdered friend cries herself to sleep again…

we can all say…

“For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” Ps 96:4 

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Job 1:21

God can take the effects of sin and turn them to Good for His Glory.  We don’t praise the Lord for the sin and evil of the world. We praise Him because He is Love. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. Without Jesus, there would be NO hope for the suffering, disease, earthquakes, riots, murders. But because of Jesus, there is Hope.  Hope that His love and grace will be sufficient to meet all our needs.

And here is why I believe this to be true:

Hopefully by now you have read through my Crohn’s story. This is part 5 and will be the last. If you haven’t, will you take a moment to go to my home page and scroll down to start with Part 1? You’ll understand this post better.

I explained in Part 4 how I was denied health insurance because of Crohn’s but it brought me to Samaritan Ministries.  The members of Samaritan paid for my projected maternity health costs before Damon was born. Yet, because of Damon’s diagnosis while he was still in the womb, I had to switch to a high-risk OB physician and delivered at a different hospital then planned. To make a long story short, when I went to talk to a financial advisor at the hospital, the lady gave me an incredible discount, which was lower than the projected costs I submitted to Samaritan Ministries.

Therefore, I had received from the members over $2000 more than my health costs.  I contacted Samaritan and received an email with two other members’ names and addresses where I needed to send my leftover money to help with their medical costs.

I downloaded the document and waited for it to open.

Then I couldn’t believe my eyes. I read:

Theodore, newborn son of _____ and _____, was born prematurely and had surgery to correct a congenital problem affecting his digestive tract. Please pray for complete healing.

Tears. More tears. What?!  NO WAY!! BREEEEEEEETTTTT!  You won’t believe this!!!!!

I have Crohn’s disease.  I was denied health insurance. I joined Samaritan Ministries. I had a baby boy with a “congenital problem affecting his digestive tract.”  I had to switch doctors and hospitals.  My health costs for my labor and delivery were lower than projected.  My extra share money was sent to help a family WITH A BABY BOY WITH THE SAME CONGENITAL PROBLEM!!!

That is the all-knowing, all-powerful God I love and serve. That brings God glory.  That is my purpose.

I immediately took out my stationary and wrote a card explaining Damon’s similar condition and shared the link to my blog post.  A couple days later I received a Facebook message from Theo’s mom sharing his story.  Sisters-in-Christ and moms sharing a connection all because of my chronic disease I used to see as a curse.

And almost a year later both boys are healthy and growing, and daily we praise Jesus for poop! Yes, poop.  The very poop that I feared most with Crohn’s disease. But hold an infant with wires all over his body hooked to monitors, and you will be crying out to God for him to poop.  God sure does have a sense of humor.

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This is why I can and always will say…

Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s disease.”

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Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 4

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I mentioned in Part 3 that my initial response to my Crohn’s disease was that it was a curse. I was afraid that my life would be focused on managing this chronic disease and its effects, like histoplasmosis.  However, God quickly showed me I was wrong. And as I continued to trust Him, His blessings started pouring in.

To start, I continue to praise the Lord that I contracted histoplasmosis.  Why? Because I am unable to take most medications to treat Crohn’s disease – any immunosuppressant drugs.  Why would I be happy about this?  Because I would most likely be taking these medications and receiving Remicade treatments to this day, 7 years later, to keep flair-ups at bay.  And here I am in remission without medications, by the grace and mercy of God.   Obviously this has saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars. One Remicade treatment cost about $8000-$10,000 without insurance, and that was the price about 10 years ago.

I received these treatments every 8-10 weeks.  You do the math.  Better yet, I’ll save you the time:

$10,000 X 5/year = $50,000  X  7 years  =  $350,000  Plus the cost of oral medications.

(Yes, most hospitals and doctors give a pay out of pocket or pay at service discount rate. In my experience a 30% discount is common at some Indianapolis hospitals. But even if it was a 50% discount, it would still cost $175,000, money we didn’t have just hiding under our mattress. 😛 )

You are now thinking, what about health insurance?  Well, that brings me to the next “curse” in my initial viewpoint.

Crohn’s disease = pre-existing condition = denied insurance.

After Brett and I married, I was receiving full health benefits through my employer Health and Nutrition Technology.  Once I delivered Kherington, our first born, I became a stay-at-home-mom and only worked about 8 hours/week. Consequently, I lost my health benefits.  This was late 2011, and Brett had only been working for his non-profit film company, House of Grace Films, for a year and was receiving health insurance through a private company.  Insurance companies cannot deny pre-existing conditions through group employee insurance, but when I tried to apply for health benefits through Brett’s private insurance, I was instantly denied.    Never mind the fact that I was in remission and not taking any medication, nor was I even seeing my GI doctor.  Once the company sees Crohn’s disease and some random fungus disease that I was hospitalized for, I received a polite “sorry.”

I applied for Cobra for a few months after delivering Kherington, but it was over $600/month and was not going to fit in our budget.  I found the government assisted program for people with pre-existing conditions, however, you weren’t eligible to apply until you were uninsured for 6 months.  I had no other option. So I took a risk and put my trust in God instead.  Again, by God’s grace, I did not have any doctor visits in the 6 month period.  The 6 month time frame was coming up. I had one week to go until I was officially uninsured for 6 months….and the government declared that they would not be taking any new applicants.

I was ticked.  Devastated.  My first thought? I guess Brett and I will not be having any more children for awhile.  Of course, this closure of new applicants was only the beginning of setting the stage for Obamacare.  It was mid-to late 2012 at this point.

Now what, God?  I continued several more months without insurance. I literally was out of options.  Until a friend gave me a copy of a Thriving Family magazine with an ad for a Christian health care sharing ministry called Samaritan Ministries.   I went to the their website and requested free information.

And what I read was too good to be true.  Samaritan Ministries “is a Biblical approach to paying for health care, based on passages such as Galatians 6. Verse two says, ‘Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.’ That law is the royal law of loving one another.

Here’s how the need sharing process works in a nutshell:

Each member commits to sending a set “Share” amount each month. These “Shares” are sent directly through the mail from one household to another, to the members with “Needs”. Samaritan Ministries uses a database that randomly matches Shares to Needs, so that the Sharing is coordinated and Shares go to the appropriate members with Needs.”

Wow!  After getting over the initial reaction of “this sounds too good to be true,” I was almost convinced that this is what the Lord wanted me to do and was excited to be living out first century Christianity.

2 years later I have been so blessed by this ministry.  As of today, Brett, Kherinton, and Damon have been added as well.  My fear of not having children for awhile was gone. A few months after joining Samaritan Ministries, I became pregnant with Damon, and all my prenatal, labor, and delivery costs were paid for by other Christians throughout the country. Not only was I getting personal checks but personal cards and notes. Tears were streaming down my face the first card and check I opened. Everyday for a couple weeks the cards would come. I was the little kid looking out the window waiting and listening for the mailman to come down my street.

IMG_0788Here is a snapshot of most the cards and notes. Yep, even got a Batman Valentine’s card!

Meanwhile, every month I am thrilled to get out my checkbook and send our monthly “share.” This isn’t just another “bill” we have to pay. Or look at our pay stubs frustrated to see how much money is being taken out. (If Brett and the kids had stayed on private insurance with the Affordable Care Act being enacted, their premium would be over $600/month).

I send our monthly “share” to a specific person with a specific health condition. For example, we sent our check with a picture Kherington colored to little “Jane” (not her real name) who has leukemia. Or “John” who broke his leg.  Or “Rachel” who is having a baby like myself.   No money is going to an insurance company who is filling their own pockets and who knows what else!

Interested in finding out more about Samaritan?  Download this information packet.

God is using my Crohn’s disease journey to fulfill true Biblical community. He has even given us the opportunity to have our story filmed as a “My Samaritan Story” on their website.

Watch the video below of Brett and me telling our testimony.

Oh, and last year at the Christian Worldview Film Festival (CWVFF), Samaritan Ministries sponsored 3 of the 4 awards that The War Within won.  So this year, Brett and I were part of the Samaritan ad in the CWVFF’s program.

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I don’t know if we would have joined Samaritan Ministries if I did not have Crohn’s disease. But I have faith that God does know all things and works out all things for the good of those that love Him. Therefore, I will continue to thank Jesus for this “curse” that is day by day turning into more blessings then I could have imagined.

Brace yourself… my next post will send chills up and down your spine as I share how God used this journey to not only bless me and my family but someone else and their family.

Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 3

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After 5 days in the hospital, the histoplasmosis (histo) was not at a dangerous level and I was released. I left with a prescription of an antifungal medication that I was required to take for an entire year.  But there was a new problem. Every medication to control Crohn’s disease was immunosuppressant.  When I tried these medications, my fevers would immediately return because my histo levels would rise. I will always have traces of the fungus in my lungs so I cannot be immune compromised.  My infectious disease physician, Dr. Delgado, was adamant that I stop all Remicade treatments. Dr. Maisel and Dr. Delgado corresponded to try to find the best medication for me, but after a few tries of new and upcoming drugs, nothing was keeping the histo suppressed .

After 6 years, I stopped Remicade treatments and all medications for Crohn’s disease and was only taking itraconazole for the histoplasmosis.  Was I worried? Most definitely. I felt like the two diseases would be against me, fighting to take over depending on which was treated.  In addition, Dr. Delgado warned us greatly that if I were to get pregnant, the medication would be detrimental to the baby.  So not only did I fear for my own health, but I had the fear of an unplanned pregnancy.

As always though, God had a greater plan that I could ever make up.  If you’ve read Part 2, you’ll remember that this was the year 2008 and by November of 2009 I was cleared from taking itraconazole.  I was now taking no medication, and I was having no symptoms of Crohn’s disease.  The Spring of 2010 I received a colonoscopy since it had been 2 years since my last one.  Irritable Bowel Disease patients are encouraged to get a colonoscopy every 2 years even during remission (no symptoms/flair-ups/inflammation) to screen for cancer since our cancer rate is higher than non-IBD people.

Results: no inflammation. Zilch. Zippo. None.  Brett and I walked out of there praising Jesus!!! And….Brett has some stories since Dr. Maisel allowed him to sit in on the colonoscopy!  Many physicians don’t let spouses because they have had their share of pass out experiences. So I can confidently say that Brett knows ALL of me…including inside of me! 😉

What then? I was in remission. And I continued my life as normal.  Fast forward to February 2011 and I was pregnant with our first born, Kherington.  A new fear arose. For some women, their Crohn’s symptoms worsen during pregnancy while others improve.  Since I was in remission my fear was that I would struggle with symptoms throughout my pregnancy.   But all praise to the Lord, my entire pregnancy was asymptomatic.

As I reflect back to that horrible experience of contracting histoplasmosis, I originally thought it was all a curse. My Crohn’s disease was a curse. My histoplasmosis was a curse and prevented me from continuing treatment for Crohn’s.  But the truth is disease IS a curse.  These diseases are a result of sin. No, not a specific sin that God was punishing me for, but the fact that I am a sinner.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”  Romans 5:12

Disease = death.  You. Me. We are all going to die. Disease is part of the process of dying, and death is a result of sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Yet, the good news is that Jesus Christ has defeated sin by nailing it to the cross and has defeated death by rising from the grave 3 days later.  This earthly body will continue to decompose, but HALLELUIAH some day I will live for all eternity with Jesus Christ with no disease or death!

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22

Maybe you are struggling with a chronic illness. Or a loved one just died. Or you question God why there is so much suffering and death. He is not the cause. He is the SOLUTION.

Jesus is my Healer.  He has currently healed me from Crohn’s disease. This past February 2015, I had another colonoscopy. The result: no inflammation.

But more importantly, Jesus has healed me from my sin. One night in September of 1991, my prayer was similar (or as much as a 5 year old could say) as David crying out,

“Have mercy on me, LORD; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” Psalm 41:4

And Christ’s response?

“He sent out his word and healed [me]; he rescued [me] from the grave.” Psalm 107:20

Maybe you have not been healed yet by your illness, disease, or thorn in the side.  But have you been healed from your sin?  Have you been too focused on trying to find the cure for your disease?  Or maybe you don’t have an illness but you are trying every new health fad to prevent disease, yet are failing to allow Christ to heal you from the disease of your soul, which has an eternal consequence?

Choose your eternal health now. Don’t wait. Christ is able and willing to make you alive now and for all eternity:

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?  John 11:25-26