Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 7

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If you haven’t read my latest flair-up journey, you should start here to get the full picture.

Sometime during my flair-up, I told Brett, “Well, I better start praising Jesus for this Crohn’s attack because there has to be something he wants to teach me!” Here are a few things that He did show me through this experience, and I hope it blesses you too.


  1. I can be a better dietitian by experiencing different diets and digestive issues.

Let me be honest.  As a dietitian, I’m not a fan of fad diets, the newest diet book, whatever is being shared most on Facebook, etc.  If you want to know why, you can watch my video on why fad diets don’t work.  Therefore, I actually was against trying Whole30 at first.  No way, I’m not going to try something because everyone is doing it. And if you know me at all, I usually do the opposite of what everyone is doing. However, after listening to my sister-in-law, Ashley, tell me about the success she had with acid reflux, I knew it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Why was I still resistant though? Jesus showed me that I had a pride issue.  Deep down, I struggle with people asking my opinion on a nutrition topic, yet, then say, “Well, I read…”  My pride says, “Then why did you ask my opinion? I guess that article on Facebook written by who knows who is more important than my Purdue University degree, plus continuing education on the most updated food and nutrition research?”  Ok, that sounds harsh, and that’s my pride talking, but I probably can get an AMEN from many of my dietitian colleagues. I mean…our competition is…Facebook?  Yeah, kinda a low blow. However, I do NOT know everything, and I’m not afraid to tell people that. But I also needed a reminder that just because I’m not familiar with something doesn’t mean it couldn’t work for people.

I had to let go of my pride, and once I did, I actually got excited for this experience and the possibility of my health improving through changing my diet. (Note: For those wondering what my diet was like before Whole 30, I was not perfect, but I aimed daily to live by the guidelines from MyPlate.)   Before starting, I came to the conclusion that whether Whole 30 worked or didn’t work, I knew that I would gain valuable insight.  If a client asks me my opinion on Whole 30 now, I can give them an honest review of my experience. If they choose to try it, I can understand their struggles, successes, and even give them recipe tips!

Further, not only can I relate to others but I can sympathize with other people with bowel disease, disorders, allergies, etc.  I’ve been on the patient end too many times, and knowing that my medical provider can actually understand what I’m going through?  That’s a win-win for provider-patient. I can provide not only my dietitian expertise but my personal experience with others who are struggling too.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10

I have realized that God gave me this “gift” of a bowel disease to serve others. My role is to be a faithful steward of showing people God’s grace in this various form of….well….poop.


2. What works for you, may not work for me. And what works for me, may not work for you.

Another reason why fad diets don’t work for everyone. Every body is different. There is no cookie cutter approach.  Whole 30 worked for my sister-in-law and a host of other people; it did not work for me.  And guess what? I’m OK with that!!  If you have truly put your effort into something to improve your health that you felt worked for “everyone else” and it didn’t work, don’t get discouraged.  Because honestly, it didn’t work for EVERYone else. Your body is unique and will respond differently depending on what’s going on.  Accept that and don’t give up trying something else or in my case, get medical help. Which leads me to….


3. There is a place for natural remedies AND medicine.

In the mommy world, I feel like this is a really hot topic.  There is a lot of guilt and finger pointing for not eating all organic, giving children vaccines, using essential oils vs. over-the-counter meds, and now that it’s summer, the TOXIC sunscreen issue. I skip over all the articles on these topics. I know my convictions and I’m not going to let someone’s convictions make me feel guilty.  I encourage you to do the same. If you feel so strongly about no medicine and using only natural remedies, good for you!  I commend you! I agree that we should use God’s resources that our at our disposable. I tried to go the natural route, and I really did not want to seek medical attention since the solution is always drugs. However, as you read in the previous post, I was getting so sick.  And since my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit living inside me, I am responsible for taking care of it the best that I know how.

I have been on medication for about 3 weeks now, and I have seen great improvement with my symptoms.  I don’t have the urge to go as often, and when the urge comes, I don’t have to literally run. I can actually tell my children, “Mommy will be back. I have to go potty.” Rather than leaving them in the dust.  As far as my diet?  I’m eating similar to how I was before I tried Whole 30, except I do eat less grains and I don’t eat much dairy.   I may introduce dairy later to see if there is an effect, but for now, I am doing very well and want to keep up what I’m doing.


4. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Honestly, I love blogging because the Lord teaches me as I write out my story, thoughts, and emotions. As I wrote the details of this journey in my previous post, I kept asking myself why I was in such denial of my condition?  Why did I keep saying, “NO!”, every time Brett told me to call my doctor? Now, I realize it was fear. I feared that I was out of remission, that I would have to be on drugs the rest of my life, that I will eventually be part of the 75% of bowel disease patients who will have surgery to remove diseased sections and yes, maybe the entire colon. Then, when my doctor took out 2 large polyps, I couldn’t help but fear the ugly c-word…cancer.  Praise Jesus they were benign, but now what?

Do I live in constant fear of the future? No, I choose not to because fear is not from God. I feared that God never really did heal me. But who am I to know the ways of God? I will trust that His ways are higher than my ways. And as I sit here writing this, I had 2 people message me regarding my previous post and share with me their struggles with ulcerative colitis. It is encouraging that I am not alone. If I can walk along someone else with this struggle, and even point them to the One who heals not only the body but more importantly our sick souls?  Then it will be worth every pill I take. Every bathroom run. Every procedure, and yes, even possibly surgery.  Will it be hard? Of course. I don’t know the future, but I know that Jesus is holding my hand and whispering, “watch what I can do again when you are weak, and I am strong.”

 

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Thank You, Jesus, for My Crohn’s Disease – Part 6

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Yes, you read that right: Part 6. Soooo if you haven’t read Part 1-5, you can start here.  Makes for some good reading on the John. 😛

If you have followed along with my Crohn’s journey, well, I guess God has more to teach me.

I have been fighting a Crohn’s flair-up since October. Wow – I just realized it’s been 7 months. At first I thought it was a minor flair-up, one that occurs most often in the Fall time. But it kept progressing. By Christmas I was experiencing a full out flair-up, one that I had not had in over 6 years.   I was in denial. Well, I wasn’t in denial of what was happening. When you are racing to the bathroom 8-10 times each day?  You know something isn’t right.  I was in denial that I was out of remission.  I kept putting off calling my doctor.  “One more week,” I said.  “Maybe it will go away on its own.”

At the start of the year, I decided it was time to get it checked out.  I called my doctor and she scheduled a CT scan of my bowels.  The results: constipated.  Rx: Eat more fiber.  I seriously got off the phone dumbfounded.  Constipated? I’ve got the “runs” (literally).  Fiber?  Do you know who you are talking to? I’m a dietitian. Fiber is my friend. I eat more fiber than most Americans.   I didn’t actually speak my mind to the physician assistant on the phone.  However, since I am a non-confrontational person, I kindly said, “OH ok!” and hung up.  I didn’t ask questions, because, well I was still in denial, and I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I started the natural route.  Some of you are cheering and others are rolling your eyes. I’m in the middle. Let me explain my process. First, I use essential oils. I am actually a Young Living distributor. I am a believer and have seen the benefit in my family’s life.  Therefore, I looked up all the oils that could help with Crohn’s disease, digestion, inflammation… and tried several.  I did experience some digestive pain relief, but it still was not helping.  I was getting worse.

I’ve read articles and heard personal stories of people with autoimmune diseases who have had tremendous benefit when reducing dairy and gluten. I thought, “what could it hurt. I might as well give it a try at this point.”  After reducing all dairy and gluten for one week, Brett’s family was together for a retirement party for his mom, when my sister-in-law, Ashley, told me how she and her husband, Daron, tried the Whole30 program. Ashley has been suffering severely from acid reflux.  She has tried medication and even went to see a holistic doctor, and she still was having severe pain.  However, once she tried Whole30, she had seen great improvement, and has realized now that high amounts of sugar increases her reflux symptoms.

That same weekend we celebrated birthdays at The Cheesecake Factory with my family. I decided on Monday, February 15th I would give Whole30 a try.  The night before was Valentine’s Day, and I babysat for a dear friend so she and her husband could go out for dinner. The kids were in bed and I read through most of It Starts With Food, by the same authors of Whole30.  (I was also stuffing my face with leftover cheesecake and Valentine’s cookies since I knew I would not be eating those for at least 30 days!)  Now, I’m not going into all of it, but I do not agree with everything the authors say.  But at this point, I had nothing to lose.

To sum up my Whole30 experience: it didn’t work. Ok, I did have improvement by day 30, but I was still not back to normal and having symptoms, plus the diet was not realistic for me. The regular Whole30 plan is fine for most people, but I was following the very strict autoimmune disease plan PLUS low- FODMAP diet, PLUS no nightshades. My list of foods that I could consume were about 20 (categorizing all meat into 1 food).  Over the process of about 3 months, I did the best I could and even tried to reintroduce foods back into my diet. I even have been making my own water kefir, which is a potent natural probiotic.   By May, I was desperate.

Pooping became my life. I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable reading this, but I am no longer awkward about my bowel disease.  It’s not easy when you are giving your daughter your attention and have to literally run away leaving her hanging (and, well, not making it to the toilet in time on several occasions).  Or when your son brings his toys in the bathroom to play while you sit once again. If my kids couldn’t find me, they knew where to look.  It’s hard when you have to plan your day so you aren’t out grocery shopping fearful that you have to leave a cart of food in the middle of the aisle. Or driving in the car, and well….there’s nothing you can do because getting out is not an option.

I lost almost 10 pounds from February to June. And if you know me, I didn’t need to lose 10 pounds. I’ve been sick. I most likely am malnourished. I had lost blood. I was done trying it my way and was clearly not in denial anymore.  I called my doctor and we immediately scheduled a colonoscopy. The middle of June I had my colonoscopy, and sure enough, I have inflammation in my rectum, 2 large polyps, and a patch of small polyps.  I was instantly relieved to finally have answers.  Then last week, I received the results that my biopsies were benign, and I officially have “ulcerative proctitis.” – inflammation of the rectum.

Note: Ulcerative colitis affects anywhere in the colon, while ulcerative proctitis only affects the rectum. Crohn’s disease can affect anywhere in the GI tract. Soooo technically, do I still even have Crohn’s? Who knows – the colonoscopy is only for the colon and cannot see the rest of the small intestines which is where I had inflammation in the past. I guess for now, I’ll stick with ulcerative proctitis. But I’m keeping my cool title for the blog post! 😛

I am currently taking 3 medications (Canasa Uceris, and Lialda) and I follow up with my doctor in about 6 weeks.

How am I praising Jesus through this?  You’ll have to wait and see for next time. Because this post is already too long, and you can get off the John now… 🙂

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.”

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

“Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 2

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My Senior year of high school was a great year despite this life-changing diagnosis.  My Crohn’s disease was soon under control with the medications and treatments. I had my bouts of depression and sadness, yet in addition to my parents, God had made sure that Brett would be by my side through it all.  We had been dating for a year at that point, and of course, I had no idea that he would be my husband someday. God knew and was preparing Brett for the journey ahead.  Brett wrote me a letter soon after I was diagnosed that told me that no matter what happened with this chronic disease, he would be right with me.

B and C Crohn'sI love this picture. It was taken around the time I was diagnosed.

The song that has captured our love story had become “Come What May” by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman from Moulin Rouge. (I confess…not the most moral movie).  Read a section of the song:

And there’s no mountain too high, no river too wide
Sing out this song and I’ll be there by your side
Storm clouds may gather and stars may collide
But I love you, I love you
Until the end of time
(Until the end of time)

Come what may, come what may
I will love you until my dying day
Oh, come what may, come what may
I will love you, I will love you

Brett and I had a long distance relationship throughout college and have been through some hard trials in our almost 7 years of marriage, and therefore, “come what may” has been a motto we live by that no matter what happens, we will choose to love each other.  This disease would be the beginning of many obstacles to overcome together.

I had a couple flair ups throughout college. My biggest was that first semester of my Freshman year. With college brings change and stress, and soon followed a flair up. I quickly learned that STRESS is my biggest enemy and inducer of Crohn’s symptoms.  My suite-mates would find me literally studying with textbooks and study notes on the toilet since there was no point of running back and forth to my room. (Gross? Maybe, but just giving you a glimpse of the life of someone with a bowel disease.)  Or I would be hyperactive at 12 am and couldn’t sleep because of a side effect of one of the steroids. Good thing my roommate was a night-owl.

My roommate, Rachel, and suite-mate, Katie, were the exact friends I needed while dealing with this embarrassing disease, especially during the first semester at college! They never judged my bowels (especially since I couldn’t control them!) and would laugh and joke with me at every chance.  I coined the phrase, “I have Crooooooohns!” and would whine this when I needed an excuse for something, even unrelated to the disease.  Looking back now, I thank the Lord for putting Rachel and Katie into my life to lessen my fears in new social experiences and allow me to feel ‘normal’.

FXCD0002Rachel, Me, Katie at Cedarville University – December 2004

Fast forward to 2008.  I had mild flair ups from time to time, but then the Spring of 2008 came.  I remember vividly sitting in the room at Dr. Maisel’s office and the RN asked me if anything was going on in my life to explain a flair up I was experiencing. My reply? “Let’s see. I’m in the middle of my Dietetic internship. I’m getting married a week after I finish my internship in July.  My fiance is filming a short film two weeks before our wedding. Brett and I are then moving into an apartment. I start my first professional job one week after the honeymoon, I officially graduate college in August, and then will be taking my Registered Dietitian exam soon after.”   College Graduation. Marriage. Moving. New Job. National Exam.  Stressed?!?  Again, it was another red flag that stress = flair up.

All praise to Jesus, with medication my symptoms were reduced. That summer of 2008 was an exciting time of change, and fortunately, I was able to enjoy every moment without the uncomfortable challenges of the disease…

…Until October of that 2008 hit.  5 months into marriage, Brett was finishing the editing process of The Board and gone until 1 am most nights, and Satan decided that it was time to throw a curve ball. The Board is an evangelistic film that we passed out to each home in Brownsburg, Indiana, to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Satan wasn’t too happy, so like with Job, maybe God allowed him to push the thorn in my flesh deeper to distract Brett’s mission.

Brett and I were youth leaders at our church, and one evening in late October we went on a night hike in the woods.  I remember the exact moment as we were walking when my breath caught and I gasped.  All the sudden my chest felt constricted and I couldn’t breathe.  I got Brett’s attention and told him that something is not right and I can barely take a deep breath.  Fortunately, we were at the end of the hike and exited the woods to enjoy a warm bonfire.  Almost immediately, my chest opened and I was breathing regularly again.  I shrugged it off as “that was weird” and didn’t think about it.

Until a few days later when I started to have high fevers. Ongoing fevers. All day and all night. I couldn’t get out of bed. So after a few days of no relief I called Dr. Maisel, and she instructed me to go to the nearest lab to get blood and urine tests. That was on a Friday, and I didn’t hear from her until the following Monday. I vividly remember when she called that Monday morning. I was miserably in bed from the ongoing fevers for a week with no relief or answers, and Brett had already left for his part-time job at The Indianapolis Star.  We were on the phone for less than 3 minutes and in summary she said, “Pack your bags and go to St. Vincent Hospital immediately. You are being admitted for histoplasmosis.”  What is that?!? was my initial response. Big name must mean big problem. Dr. Maisel was matter-of-fact on the phone, but I knew she meant business and this was an urgent matter.

Once admitted, I quickly found out that histoplasmosis is a toxic fungus from bird and bat feces. It is very common in the Midwest and a large majority of people have traces of the fungus in their lungs but their immune system can easily fight it off. However, because of the Remicade treatments and medications I was taking to treat Crohn’s, my immune system was compromised and I could not fight off the fungus. So that moment in the woods when I gasped for air?  That was the moment I contracted it from bird feces in the woods.

I was admitted for 5 days in the hospital, being infused constantly with antifungal medication to kill it off before it left my lungs and permeated into the rest of my organs. An x-ray of my lungs actually looked similar to pneumonia.  The doctors were shocked that I only had fever symptoms and was not coughing constantly.  By God’s grace the histoplasmosis was under control and I was released.

However, I mentioned that possibly Satan was the instigator. We’ll never know for sure until heaven, but as always, when Satan means to harm, God turns it for good.  I missed the premiere of The Board because I was in the hospital that very night.  The short film was premiered at a movie theater for our church family, friends, and all the many volunteers involved in the production.
IMG_0900
Here is 1 of the 4 screenings at the premiere totaling about 900 people.
Can you find Brett and his family?
It was an exciting night, yet I was at the hospital crying. (Fortunately, I have an amazing sister, Laureann, and brother-in-law, Robby, who visited me so I wasn’t alone on the night of the big event!)  Brett came over after the premiere and I had my own private screening in the hospital room.  Looking back to that night, I now know it was only the beginning of God keeping me humble. When it comes to the gospel, it sure is not about me. It’s all about Jesus Christ.  Since then we have produced a feature film and are in pre-production of our next film, yet God continues to keep me humbled throughout the process.
I can’t wait to continue to share how God continued to use my Crohn’s disease to bring glory to Him! Check back next week…

Thank You, Jesus, for my Crohn’s Disease – Part 1

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“…I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses… Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 12: 5,7-10

I thank Jesus for what I have considered my thorn in the flesh, an autoimmune disease, called Crohn’s disease.  It’s an inflammatory bowel disease, which when flared up, it truly is a thorn in any area of the gastrointestinal tract causing pain, discomfort, and possible embarrassing moments (since it does have to do with the bowels)!

My senior year of high school started like most students: excited to be graduating soon, anticipating college, figuring out God’s will for my life, and having fun the last year of high school.  However, that Fall I started having some bowel symptoms that were concerning, so I went to get it checked out. My doctor referred me to the BEST pediatric gastrointestinal doctor, Dr. Susan Maisel. After a colonoscopy and upper GI endoscopy, it was confirmed that I had Crohn’s disease. My stomach, small and large intestines looked like raw hamburger. (I’ll spare you the pictures…I do still have them!)

The place where I had the colonoscopy was near Long’s Bakery,  a donut shop downtown Indianapolis. So Mom did what Mom’s do: we bought some after the procedure since I was starving after not eating for 24 hours.  Bad decision.  Note to all who have colonoscopy procedures: donuts should NOT be the first food you eat.  Mom ran into Walmart for a quick grocery run while I sat in the car.  No sooner than my last bite, well….. need I say more?  Let’s just say Mom didn’t get back quick enough!

Oh, and a note on my Dad. He took me to a Shania Twain concert the night before my colonoscopy! Right before the concert, we sat in the car while I drank the prep drink to get my bowels moving. Unlike with the donut, my bowels waited until I got home! 🙂

I remember sitting at Panera Bread with my mom when the nurse called to confirm that I did have the disease.  I had never heard of the disease before; therefore, I was fearful because I didn’t know what to expect and how this would impact my life.   At my follow-up appointment, I walked out with a handful of anti-inflammatory prescriptions to lessen the symptoms and get the disease under control. That meant taking up to 20 pills every day.

In addition to the several oral medications, I received Remicade treatments every 8-10 weeks.  Remicade is an IV infusion drug to treat Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.  The first couple infusions were done in the PICU at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and took up to 6 hours!  Fortunately, Dr. Maisel made it possible for her patients to start receiving the infusion at her office, which only took 2 1/2 hours. (Oh, and that Panera Bread that Mom and I were eating at when I first got my diagnosis? It is right down the street from Dr. Maisel’s office, so it became our lunch date spot after my appointments and treatments).

So at 17 years old, I started the life of having a chronic disease where there is no cure (except surgery to remove the diseased area, but there is no guarantee it won’t return in a different area of the GI tract). 75% of Crohn’s disease patients have surgery at some point in their life.  I was taking several medications, receiving IV infusions, and was fearful of the future. I even became depressed as a side effect of one of the drugs.

Crohn’s disease became my thorn in the flesh. If this was Satan’s doing, he meant harm, but God meant it for good. I am weak, and He is strong. Yet, stay tuned to see how God’s power has been made perfect in my weakness…