This is not easy for me to share. There’s not many people that know my whole story, but it’s time. I feel that if I can bring hope and encouragement to one person, then what a gift that would be. This is my story, The health struggles I’ve endured, and how I Overcame…
Nothing could have prepared me for the pain, torture, grief and loneliness that was about to affect my life. It was spring of 2008 when my digestive issues/disorders were just starting to take place. I had been struggling for quite some time with cystic acne on my neck so I went to see my Dermatologist, he prescribed me Minocycline to help clear it up. He also gave me specific instructions on how to take it and the potential side effects. The worry wart in me followed his advice and protocol exactly! Unfortunately, things did not go well for me. One day, three months into taking the medication I went to the ER with horrible stomach pains. I was later diagnosed with Gastritis and was immediately pulled off the Minocycline and put on a Proton Pump Inhibitor (acid reducer). Things only began to get worse from this point on. Close to a month into taking The Proton Pump Inhibitor, I began to get a crushing pain in my chest. For three long months I had constant and unbearable chest pain. In and out of the doctors every week for tests, and left with no answers. I felt helpless, depressed and paralyzed in pain. The doctors kept thinking it was my Gallbladder, but every test (ultrasound, x rays, etc) they would do on my Gallbladder would come back normal. They ended up doing a barium swallow on me and diagnosed me with severe acid reflux. I thought that was very strange because I had never had acid reflux in my life. I was told to keep taking the Proton Pump Inhibitor’s, so I did and nothing changed. Still excruciating chest pain every day. Finally they decided to do a Radionuclide Scan at the hospital. This was the only test that actually showed that there might be a problem with my Gallbladder. The scan showed that my Gallbladder was functioning just slightly below normal range. I then got a referral to a surgeon (upon my request) to see if I could have it removed (thinking this had to be my problem). I went in and had my surgery date set a month out from this point. I really thought this would be the answer to all the problems I was having. During the weeks before my surgery date I decided to see what would happen if I ditched the Proton Pump Inhibitor’s. Within two days of being off that medication my chest pain was gone. I was feeling so much better. I then decided to do another test for my acid reflux. The test findings showed that it was gone. (I truly believe I had the opposite effect happen with that medicine. I still can’t take them to this day, because I get the the same exact side effects). I was now left with a huge decision. Do I still go through with the surgery even though I’m now feeling almost 100% better, or should I cancel it?! Sadly I let fear sink in. Without really taking the time to think things through , I went ahead with the surgery, I wish I never had.
The surgery took such a toll on my body. Just four months post surgery, I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is a condition in which your stomach cannot empty food by itself. My doctor then decided to do a Gastric Emptying test on me. The results showed that only 10% of my stomach was pumping my food. He then proceeded to put me on a medication to help my stomach empty. It really didn’t do any good. For three years I could barely eat any food. My daily diet consisted of a half a packet of oatmeal in the morning, half sandwich for lunch and for dinner something very small . I remember calculating my calories one day and realized that I was only getting about 500 a day, if that. I was lethargic with no energy. I had wasted away to 106 pounds which was very skinny for me at a height of 5’7 . I told the Lord every day to just take me to heaven. I didn’t want to live like this, it was complete torture. Quite honestly I was mad at the Lord for allowing me to go through this. I felt robbed. It just didn’t seem fair. My poor kids were very young and their mom was not there for them like she should have been. Thankfully I have a very supportive husband who picked up the slack for me on a lot of days. I can’t imagine the toll it took on him. To work full time , come home and work again. One night about a year after being diagnosed with Gastroparesis, I woke up with excruciating pain in my upper abdomen. I really thought I was dying, the pain was beyond anything I had ever felt. I was rushed to the hospital and they did some tests on me. The doctor came in the room and told me that I had Pancreatitis and that he was going to admit me for a week. I was able to leave after five days, but boy was that the longest five days of my life. I was on intravenous fluids the whole time, no food or drink. Every day my Husband would bring my sweet babies to come see me in the hospital. It just broke my heart to have them see me like that. Again I was questioning The Lord. Why God , why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why aren’t you healing me God? I believe you can heal me, I trust in you, I have faith….why aren’t you answering my prayers? Little did I know at the time, his plan for my life was far greater than anything I could’ve imagined.
Another two years went by still feeling ill and sick every day not being able to eat very much food. I was tired of being sick and tired, I was desperate. I’ve prayed enough prayers and waited long enough for my healing that never seemed to come. I didn’t want it to get worse and have to be on feeding tubes one day. So I decided to look into getting a Gastric Pacemaker put into my stomach to pump my food for me. It utilizes a device to give mild electrical stimulation to the nerves in the stomach which then helps relieve your symptoms. This would be the answer to all my problems! This would make me feel better! I could eat again! I could live again! I could be a mom to my children and a wife to my husband! Yes this is my answer and my soon-to-be ultimate healing!
***Well not sooo fast Natalie, God is going to give you that miracle that you so desperately waited for, In His Timing….and his timing it was! I was not prepared for this to say the least! I’ve always believed in miracles, seen miracles and heard of miracles, but when you get your own miracle it’s a totally different story.
So here’s what happened next! One day I was sharing with my brother the exciting news… I had heard back from my health insurance company. They would cover the Gastric Pacemaker surgery that would allow me to eat more and feel better again. He was so excited for me and knew that this is what I had hoped and longed for. That same night he went to his Bible study and shared with his group my struggles and the exciting news of my insurance covering that particular procedure. It was a great first step in the right direction. He asked for continued prayer over this whole process and the stages of moving forward with it. The group then proceeded to pray for me that night, but they didn’t pray that I would get the procedure and that it would work. They prayed that God would supernaturally heal me and that my stomach would start working on its own again. I have had many people pray that prayer, including myself. I remember the next day my brother telling me how they had prayed for me. My thoughts were, Okay well I prayed that prayer before and it hasn’t worked. So I really didn’t put much thought to it. I don’t know why but for some reason it was different this time. I swear to you within two days I started to feel better, then the next day I felt even better than the day before that . After two weeks , My stomach felt better than it had in a very long time. I was actually able to eat a full meal again. I called my doctor in amazement, and asked if he could please schedule me for another Gastric Emptying test so I could see what my stomach was functioning at. I went in and had the test done. Within a couple days I got the results back. I couldn’t believe it, I felt it… but I couldn’t believe it! The doctor called and told me that my stomach was functioning in normal range. I just remember crying tears of joy. He did it!! He Healed me!! I’ve got my Miracle!! From that point on things just continued to get better and my stomach never went back to that state again. For those of you that don’t know much about Gastroparesis, there is no cure! There’s medication to help you live and deal with it on a daily basis but, there is no cure! I was off all medication within weeks of my healing and I have never looked back. That was back in 2012. Since then it’s only made me a stronger person knowing that God is Faithful and he hears my prayers, and not only that but he’s there with me every step of the way.
In late 2013, I was diagnosed with a Hiatal Hernia. It was causing a lot of reflux, and from that I was diagnosed with Barrett’s Esophagus. I was so discouraged I didn’t know what to do. The surgery for that looked and sounded horrific. I really didn’t want to have another surgery. So that was not an option. I noticed that when I was eating my throat would swell as well. So I went to see my Naturopath. He immediately diagnosed me with a Wheat and Dairy allergy. I was like …Really Lord, now this too! Mind you I had already had celiac biopsy testing, blood work and a skin patch test that all came back negative to being sensitive to Wheat and dairy. It took some time to get used to eating guten and dairy free, it was very hard in the beginning. I honestly didn’t know how I could do this the rest of my life. Gluten and dairy are in everything, going out to dinner seemed impossible. My options were pretty much next to nothing. Eventually I adjusted and it became easier and easier as time went on. My throat swelling also went away. After a few months of eliminating gluten and dairy, seeing a Chiropractor for manual adjustments, getting off supplements that increased the acid in my stomach, I then went back to the doctor and had my throat checked. The results came back that my Barrett’s Esophagus was gone. My Hiatal Hernia eventually stayed down.
It’s now Spring 2015 I’m lifting weights again, feeling pretty good, and just starting up my food page on Instagram. Things are better and I’m living my life to the fullest with no objections. Then once again my life comes to a standstill. My neck starts having pain, my feet hurt and I start experiencing excessive clear mucus in the back of my throat with constant throat clearing. I also start experiencing excruciating nerve pain in my elbows and hands. This literally all starts around the same time ( late spring 2015 ). I thought my elbows and hands could have been an overuse injury because of the time I was spending on my phone trying to engage and grow my food page. I had to stop working out because it exacerbated the pain. I also cut way back on my electronic devices, which did help some. The next two years I tried everything to get better and when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING! From a Physical Therapist, Orthopedic Doctor, a Steroid Shot in my hand, Nerve Conduction test ( normal ), Naturopath, Candida Diet, Podiatrist, Ultrasound of Calf, Foot Splint, Blood Testing, Steroid Pack, Chiropractor, another Physical Therapist, Family Practitioner, MRI of my neck ( normal ), Neurosurgeon, Osteopath, Nerve Hydrodissection in my elbow, Acupuncturist, another Acupuncturist with Ultrasound, Kinesiologist, ENT specialist, CT of sinuses, back to another Physical Therapist, Elbow Splint, and finally a different Orthopedic Doctor who did an MRI of my elbow which did show some fluid on my ulnar nerve. I finally felt like I had an answer to my elbow and hand pain. He injected steroids into my right elbow to see if it would help. It didn’t work, so we tried another spot on the same elbow to see if that would work, and that didn’t work either. The steroid shot ate my cartilage and deformed my elbow leaving me feeling whipped by defeat and insecure. Those two years were a vicious cycle of Tug of War with the Lord…trusting Him, trusting myself, trusting Him, trusting myself. I finally decided to give everything a rest and completely turn my whole being over to Him once and for all. I stopped going to doctors and just stood still. God did not disappoint. That’s when things started to turn around for me. I am now doing some neck stretches and using a Lacrosse Ball to loosen up my Trapezius muscles. My neck pain is much better. I don’t use my electronic devices like I used to, and I’ve cut down on caffeine, chocolate, and other foods that aggravate my symptoms. I can’t believe how much better my elbows, hands, and feet feel when I stick with it! Its truly a miracle. I wholeheartedly believe I am now on the road to recovery it’s just a matter of me staying committed! It’s not the easiest especially as a food blogger, but I allow myself a few cheat days here and there and that’s when I do my baking. It’s amazing what food does to our body. I spent thousands of dollars over the last two years trying to get to the bottom of this, and all along food was one of the offenders. From here on out I’m just living by faith trusting God to take care of every single one of my needs because he always has and I know he always will.
I’ve come to know life will always bring some sort of new struggle. However, No more… No more living in fear… No more feeling alone… No more stealing my Joy… God is where I put my hope, faith, and trust… His timing, not mine. Standing on this mountain top. Looking at just how far I’ve come. Seeing how much he’s done in my life. I realize through all these scars and battles I’ve endured … Never Once did I ever walk alone. Never Once did he leave me on my own. He is faithful no matter what. God does not guarantee a life of luxury and ease. It’s a Tough Faith, a constant commitment to hang on and believe him against all the odds. Don’t lose heart , your greatest and best prize yet awaits you in heaven 🙂
Biblical Notes used from the NIV Bible
Song Lyrics used by Matt Redman