“I can’t take it anymore.” What’s your ‘it?’ Mine was more bad news from a doctor. I didn’t think life could get more stressful. But I was wrong.
It had been hard enough for me to bear knowing the challenges Chris faced because of his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And even more heart-wrenching watching mental illness (MI) ravage his life.
Life seemed to be back on track for Chris. God had helped us pass through turbulent waters and we were enjoying smooth sailing. Then multiple health scares plunged us back into troubled waters. Took us by surprise.
But who expects to have trials? Not me. I expected the opposite. We’d just endured trying times with MI. Somehow I thought God would space out our struggles. So we could catch our breath.
It didn’t seem possible for me to withstand the next storm. So I turned to the Bible for solace. God reminded me, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it [1 Corinthians 10:13 (MSG)].”
He also assured me that He’s the Good Shepherd who, “makes me lie down in green pastures” and “leads me beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2).” So I trusted Him to calm my fears.
The first few weeks of college for Chris seemed to be running smoothly. He communicated with me daily. Sometimes by computer, but usually by phone. He needed to hear our voices. Calling frequently helped him through the adjustment to his first semester.
“How are things going, Chris?” I’d inquire.
“Pretty good,” he’d replied convincingly.
“How are your classes?” I asked during his first week away from home.
“I like them. But mostly I like my schedule. I can sleep until noon just about every day.”
I barraged him with typical questions. Covering all the necessary inquiries about his physical needs.
“What are you eating? How’s the food? Are you sleeping well? Do you have warm enough clothes?…”
He tolerated my motherly interrogation. So I ventured into more sensitive areas.
“Are you interacting with others, rather than isolating? Are you taking your medication? How are things going with your roommate?…”
“Yes, Mom. I’m taking my medication. My roommate is hardly ever in the room,” he replied.
That’s probably less stressful for Chris. Kind of like having a room to himself. Thank You, Father, that Chris is willing to answer my questions and that he’s taking his medication. Thank You for calming my fears.
As planned, I drove to his campus Friday afternoons so Chris could spend the weekends at home. Like any mom, I needed to see Chris face-to-face. It helped to look into his eyes and know he’s okay. He really did seem happy. Until one weekend.
Like most Fridays, I had arrived at Chris’s campus early. I never wanted to make him wait. Chris approached my car walking stiff-legged. It was so pronounced that it looked like he was walking like a robot.
That’s odd. Is he hurt? He didn’t say anything on the phone.
“What’s wrong, Chris? Why are you walking that way,” I asked as soon as Chris opened the car door.
“My heels hurt,” he explained.
“Maybe it’s from all that marching you did in high school. I’ll get you some orthotics for your shoes while you’re home. They should provide added support and comfort.”
Problem solved. Or so I thought. Each week Chris seemed worse, not better. After about two months Chris began to complain of new soreness.
“My back and shoulders hurt.”
“Do you think it’s because of all the books you’re carrying across campus?” I asked, hoping that was the cause. Fearing it wasn’t as simple as that.
When the pain and stiffness spread to more parts of his body I realized Chris needed to see his doctor. When Dr. Kent saw Chris, he was shocked at the severity of Chris’s condition. Chris couldn’t turn his head, rotate his arm, or bend over to put on his shoes.
“It appears you have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chris,” he predicted. “I’m going to prescribe some blood tests. The results may confirm my suspicions. It will take several weeks for us to get the results. In the meantime, I’ll also prescribe some anti-inflammatory meds to ease your discomfort.”
Several days before Christmas Chris came home for the semester break. We got a call from Dr. Kent. The results of Chris’s blood tests had come in.
“It looks like…The results seem to indicate…It’s possible Chris has systemic lupus.” I didn’t know anything about the disease. But the doctor’s stammering and halting words concerned me.
Dr. Kent paused for my response. Fear gripped me. I couldn’t process the information. Dr. Kent explained the next step.
“No one wants to hear they have lupus. We’ll need to have Chris seen by a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. A rheumatologist will know if that’s the cause of Chris’s pain and stiffness.”
I hung up the phone and found Howie.
“That was Dr. Kent. He said Chris’s blood tests indicate he has lupus.”
“What’s lupus?” Howie asked.
“I have no idea. I’m going to check it out on the computer.”
A quick google search led me to the National Lupus Foundation and other sites. Someone recommended the book The Lupus Book; A guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel J. Wallace, J. D. So I ordered the book. Big mistake.
Wallace’s book arrived Christmas Eve. I had been busy making our holiday meal so I only had time to glance at the inside cover. I learned the hard way that it’s not a good idea to investigate lupus on my own. The information I read terrified me.
“Lupus, a disease of the immune system, can be quite deadly, claiming the lives of thousands of patients yearly.” Chris’s previous bout with psychosis prior to his stiffness seemed consistent with systemic lupus.
Does this mean Chris will die young? Had he overcome MI only to be struck with this deadly disease? Father, this can’t be. Oh, please, dear God, don’t let this happen!
I began to sob. I became filled with sorrow and fear.
Please, Father, calm my fears.
The well-respected rheumatologist had a long waiting list. We scheduled an appointment for a weekday so Chris could be seen as soon as possible. We’d have to wait two months before getting a final diagnosis. That seemed like an eternity.
The day came for the appointment. Howie drove Chris to the doctor’s office located in the city. I had to meet them there since it was difficult for me to take off from work. As I drove toward the city I realized that in a short time I’d find out Chris’s fate. I tried to ignore my fears. But it got harder as I got closer to my destination. I felt as though I was about to hear a sentence from a judge: life or death for Chris.
When I reached the city I drove through stop-and-go traffic. I noticed the narrow city streets were filled with teenagers and young adults. None were dressed in business attire. The streets seemed to be speckled with police officers.
Something’s going down.
Suddenly I heard what sounded like rapid-fire gun shots.
Lord, help me arrive at the office safely. And find a safe place to park.
In the doctor’s office I overheard someone talking about the firecrackers going off to celebrate the Chinese New Year. There had been no danger. I had feared the worst before knowing the facts. That’s precisely what I’d done with Chris’s diagnosis also. The specialist informed us Chris did not have lupus. He had psoriatic arthritis. A condition treatable by medication. Never deadly.
Months later, at a follow-up visit with his primary physician Chris needed more blood work done. The results of those tests revealed that Chris had developed a thyroid problem. He’d have to take medication to treat that condition. The total amount of pills climbed to fourteen a day. He hadn’t gotten an early-death prognosis. But I worried about his future. How would he manage college? Would he face more pain? More suffering?
Another illness for him? I can’t stand watching Chris go through any more pain. Please calm my fears and remove all my anxieties.