It’s not time yet

While it may be time for celebrating a Christmas holiday, preparing for the new year about to begin, or maybe completing something else on the “to do” list, one thing is for sure: it’s not my time to go yet. But what does it all mean?

Sunday was a particularly difficult day. Taking a particular anti-viral medication in the wake of a return of shingles left me with few options other than continuing it for awhile longer than in the past. I had just sent a message to my Doctor via the patient portal at our local health system asking if he would he extend the prescription? He agreed. But what was I thinking anyways?

Considering it a good idea to add a a supplement that fights viral infections, two days prior I had added a low dose of one about 2 hours after the dose of the prescription medication. That was a BIG MISTAKE. Within the hour I would begin what would become a day and one-half in bed with on-and-off convulsive episodes. Holy cow! Here we go again! Was it die-off? Overdose? Redistribution of toxins from another source other than that which I had intended to target? Who knows?! The result was disastrous. Too bad that the weather was very mild and sunny for a December day; my hopes to get outside and take the pup for a walk were trashed. Hubby went for his 20-mile cycling ride. I had to stay in bed, taking 2-3 hour naps after any activity such as making a meal. Another weekend was LOST to factors of illness.

Perhaps it is exhausting to be battling FOUR infections at the same time? Indeed it is. Yet that is exactly where I find myself: 3 strains of herpes infection (zoster plus the reactivation of EBV and HHV-6) in addition to a MARCoNS sinus infection. Treatment for the latter has included a complexity of rotating nasal sprays and rinses. I was nine days into the treatment of shingles with famcyclovir TID. Yes, shingles had flared up for the third time in as many years, this time with severely itching and burning lesions on my upper back. Increased fatigue was profound. As the days wore on, the convulsive episodes appeared to be coming down again as well as reactivity to sensory stimuli. It seemed like progress. However, this trending did not last beyond that extra dose of an antiviral supplement called Lauricidin.

Evening came and my saint-of-a-husband had already helped me with a couple of rescue remedies in the afternoon. He lain beside me as another episode ramped up, this one more aggressive with guttural utterances that were as frightful as they were embarrassing. Seizure spikes and vocalizations emerge much like vomiting does during the flu. It just comes out of you and there is nothing that you can do about it. One arm shakes repetitively so fast that you think you will either sprain something or fling a hand right off the rest of the extremity into the air . . . then a leg on the opposite side repeats the pattern about 9 inches up off of the bed! Try to cover up to stay warm and just the initiation of movement exacerbates the intensity of the convulsions, sending my body further out of my control. I gasp for air then pant vociferously lest I pass out for a lack of oxygen. Then the pattern cycles again with new, involuntary movements that send my head and neck into spasm, along with great pain. I could not even grab my neck this time to protect myself from further injury. A headache follows every time.

Tears pushed out from my face with weeping when I could breathe more than a couple times in a row. Somehow I blurt out to Steve to please pray. These episodes have appeared demonic more than one time in the past and I sensed that could be the case on Sunday night as well. It was just too frightful to be a simple seizure. Precious Lord, why do I have to be awake and witness this hell, burning it into my memory then try to function sometime later as if everything is alright again with the world when it certainly is not? It’s like an abusive trauma that repeats over and over again so that your spirit never can heal, always remembering, always fearing its return. I may never know the answer to questions that I have asked, researched, prayed over with THOUSANDS of convulsive episodes over 8 years of chronic illness. And grievously, dozens of the episodes have been really dark ones like this one. But only 2 have been true near-death experiences.

My breathing got shallower yet I was not gasping for air anymore. The room was already dark from Steve turning out the light for me to decrease sensory stimuli; my vision was dimming further as I felt my very life closing in on me, my left eye pulling shut on its own. I started to feel as if I was leaving my body and wondered if I would pass out before my breathing would stop altogether? Is this how it works when people die in their sleep? Or does their heart stop beating before they gasp one last time for air? Do they know what is happening and does it terrify them when they cannot stop the train wreck from reaching its fatal impact? Why did I seem so far away in my mind’s eye yet still feel the painful stiffness of my weary frame shoved into the foam topper on the bed?

Somehow I became aware of my beloved lying behind me and blurted out my final goodbye, “I love you Steve.” He replied, “I love you Julie.” It’s all I could say. Then I saw him in front of me. Well not really but in my mind’s eye, I saw the archangel Michael coming for me. He told me to follow him and drew me away from the present tense towards another dimension of space and time. “Follow me,” he repeated. I saw no white lights as the scene was actually rather dim making it difficult to see anything else but the back of his right side as he turned to lead me away somewhere. I didn’t ask where, I just “went.” Then I became aware of another figure. This one did not show me His features but I knew Who it was. It was Jesus. He looked at me for awhile with tenderness yet directness all the same. Time did not stop or move forward . . . it simply was not there. It appeared that some sort of evaluation was going on or maybe it was some sort of test. I had no thoughts. I just waited there before His presence.

Then my Lord spoke. “It’s not time yet.” I wondered in my spirit what He was talking about? I couldn’t process the words. I actually do not recall breathing just then. By this point, Steve had reached his arm around my waist to check if I was still breathing. He would tell me later that he was wondering in this moment if I was going away for good? The seizing had stopped. I had become unusually quiet. And I had stated the phrase that many people say before they take leave from this life: to express their love for the ones in life they hold so dear. I do recall hearing him sniffling. At some point, he got up to blow his nose. I was becoming aware of my surroundings although still engrossed in the encounters I was having: quiet in my spirit, listening submissively, starting to realize how similar the present reality really is to that of an eternal one. THEY ARE ONE AND THE SAME. I had felt myself “leaving” but never felt separate from my body per se. What was happening to me?

Michael led me backwards, fully back into my fragile frame and the place of brokenness where I have spent tens of thousands of hours, there on our bed. I wept deeply. Bitterly. Tenderly. To the point of emptiness. I took inventory of my self, my situation. Where am I now? Let’s see, I am still lying here and yes, still breathing. Steve is still here with me and the room is still dark. I am not convulsing anymore. I am finally warm. My body feels war-torn with pain throbbing from every joint, burning flaring in the tips of my toes and fingers. (That burning is an indication to me that these episodes are a medical crisis yet to be solved as it has a name: peripheral neuropathy. It gets worse during and after episodes.) My mind was too empty, too traumatized or maybe in shock of what I had experienced to say anything aloud. I just had to dwell there with my beloved for many moments before I could re-orient myself to life again. I wasn’t 100% sure that I was back in the world yet.

Finally I asked Steve, “Am I still here?” “Yes,” he said quietly. He would later say how grieved he would be if he had lost me that night. His eyes reddened and we both cried on the inside, me crying all over my face as well. Eventually I asked him if he wanted to know about what I had experienced and he did. He believed my story. Something had stirred in his spirit as well. I believe that is why he reached out to check if I was still breathing. We didn’t and don’t really now how these things work, the Biblical perspective on near-death experiences, nor what it all meant for our lives together. Does this mean that I am cured now of the seizures? Did it mean that I would now be free from demonic oppression? Did I really have an encounter with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or was it some cruel trick by Satan and his minions? If it was a test ordained by God, did I pass?

I crashed into a deep sleep for a couple of hours, even though I had slept or napped most of that day. I woke up in the middle of the night ravenously hungry with gunk in my nose, forcing me to get up to do a nasal treatment and make some food. By the time I was done with all of that, I was wide awake and it would take hours for me to get back to sleep. Too soon I would need to be awake for a medical appointment, some errands, and a visit with the first of Steve’s family now in town for the holidays. How in the world would I do all of that on THREE HOURS OF SLEEP, an ENTIRE WEEKEND OF SEIZURES plus a NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE? By the grace of God, of course. And so I did. I made us a fabulous breakfast and did everything I needed to do, albeit loopy and somewhat forgetful in a health food store later that afternoon. It was over 18 hours before I could get back to bed again . . .

I have come to see that time and eternity might not be that different from one another. We measure time with our watches but our Lord measures our hearts within the experiences He ordains for His purposes. I need to reflect and study all of this some more. How I managed to get my errands done plus a short-and-sweet visit with Steve’s family is beyond me, perhaps supernatural. The day after was a mixture of sleep and a return to sickness with a terrible seizure spike right before I was hoping to go to a Christmas Eve church service with Steve and his family. It didn’t happen. Dang. Very sad. One thing has became very clear though: I am done with famcyclovir! My time on that medication is NOW OVER.

The rest lies at the foot of the cross with my Jesus. After all it is Christmas: when we celebrate His victory over death with the miracle of His birth. Maybe there will be a miracle for me too? JJ

DF-09134 Nativity , May 18, 2006 Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.com To license this image (9139053), contact NewLine: U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207 659 2815 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020 +1 212-686-8901 (fax) info@wireimage.com (e-mail) NewLine.wireimage.com (web site)

You just don’t know what you don’t know

I’ve got 2! How about you? Ugh.

When I was ruminating about how to manage some new symptoms, I stumbled upon the benefits of unsweetened bitter herbs in balancing blood sugars. This discovery has helped manage some wild fluctuations but it is not a fail-proof strategy. I still bottomed out yesterday with seizure attacks at the kitchen table about an hour after following this new sequence. My beloved had to feed me while I shook, leaning precariously on our glass dining room table. It hurt. This situation is still hell.

It’s clearer more now than ever before that the swinging of my blood glucose levels is contributing to seizure attack episodes and the difficulty managing both of them. The endoscopy ultrasound (EUS) this past week found a particular type of pancreatic cyst, pre-cancerous but one in which surgery is not currently recommended. So while I grasp the magnitude of what a 6-month surveillance program looks like for the potentially deadliest of cancers, I am dealing with yet another new diagnosis: pre-diabetes. Say what? Tis much to bear right now.

I’ve spent most of my adult life managing “borderline hypoglycemia” with diet. This means no concentrated sweets, higher fiber foods, protein-rich snacks between meals and only low-sugar fruits with the baseline concerns of dairy-free, gluten-free, low-medium oxalate, largely organic/non-GMO, and lower in the categories of red meat and night shades. Whew. It’s a miracle that I have found anything to eat at all! Or that I have not gained a ton of weight when battling serious illness these past 8 years. Food is fuel and there are now more specialized products on the market from which to choose. Thank you Lord! “They say” that hypoglycemia can turn into diabetes sometime in a person’s life. I also understand that pre-D can be reversible with lifestyle changes. O.k., so let’s go for that option.

Still I have come to the end of my ability to figure out what to do now. The Docs say that the pancreatic cyst, even though it’s in the organ that manages blood sugar for the body via insulin and glucagon, has little to do with blood sugar difficulties per se. Full blown diabetes is associated with a greater risk of cancer when you have a pancreatic cyst. What about pre-diabetes? “I can refer you to a dietitian if you like,” said the Nurse Practitioner in the gastroenterology oncology department. Why sure! What else have you got that I haven’t tried already folks? Exogenous ketone supplements without the sweeteners? I’m on it, however even the ketogenic diet under the direction of a hospital dietitian didn’t help me two years ago. Too much fat these days triggers belly pain anyways. Tough challenge for sure. Referral is now pending.

Call me cynical because I am. I am in shock. Thankfully there are Facebook and online support systems, even apps for these diagnoses so I will avail myself to them. The isolation of being home alone dealing with all of this is crushing however. I tried leaving the house the day before the EUS procedure to get some errands done and came home really messed up. I always carry a lunch bag of special foods and water with me when I leave the house. And now it’s just not enough. I’ve reached out to my Doctors at Mayo Clinic to see if there is more expertise out there on these matters, particularly in connection to the seizure-like episodes. I cannot get into see an endocrinologist locally until JANUARY!

I just don’t know what I don’t know right now. Are you working Your plans somehow through all of this my precious Lord? Help me Lord! JJ

P.S. My new favorite snack is Hippeas Himalayan Happiness

HIPPEAS Organic Chickpea Puffs + Himalayan Happiness | 4 oz, 6Count | Vegan, Gluten-Free, Crunchy, Protein Snacks

JJ Update

Bed bound, all of this beautiful day today.
Food is often triggering convulsive episodes so we are examining blood sugar issues with diet refinements and testing.
Had to take a steroid today to stop episodes; bad for me due to osteoporosis.
Having MRI workup in 6 days of a pancreatic cyst. It was identified 9 MONTHS AGO AND LOST IN THE FOLLOW-UP when diagnosed with hiatal hernia at that time. I found it when filing some of my medical records.
Nausea is lower after stopping a supplement that was reducing the episodes. Hard to choose between blood sugar stabilization with an unexpected side benefit of reducing episodes (with Biocidin) and the nausea it magnified. I went for less nausea hoping to figure out interim strategies to address blood sugar.
Waiting to be scheduled with an interventional gastroenterology specialist who happens to be the director of a large hospital cancer center here. One of the best in the Midwest.
Probably looking at an endoscopy ultrasound procedure thereafter; lab workup has started.
Hungry again . . . Afraid to eat.
Have volunteer responsibilities now and concerned about meeting them.

Please pray. This could be a new course of care that leads to a cure for my worst symptom. Or cancer. Holy cow! Having severe spiritual attacks.

Leaning on the Lord . . . Pic is from a better day 2 weeks ago. Our God reigns! And Yay God for that sweet evening with my hero, Steve!

Peomenade Park, Fort Wayne, IN
September 2, 2019

A new answer to another question I did not ask

Life never ceases to be an adventure if that is the perspective you choose.

Perhaps an underlying theme of the Hope Beyond blog when it began would have been, “the plot thickens.” Or “deadens.” Flash forward about 7 years since my first blog in August of 2012. At my current stage of recovery from serious illness and a turn for the better-but-not-done-yet, I’m going to attempt the theme of “a new adventure awaits.” How is that for positive thinking?

A little trellis project almost 11 years in the making gets completed this weekend! Yay God!

I haven’t written in awhile. Since March of 2019, there are more moments of functioning better each week and I am taking advantage of them. There are also more very long naps of which I am forced to take advantage as well! The the new direction in my healthcare of getting off of thyroid medication created some problems then had an unexpected turn when parathyroid issues were discovered. My labs in both and related camps are all over the place, making for a Peter Faulk’s, Columbo-style of in-depth investigation raise more than one eyebrow of intrigue. Could there be another causative factor to consider in the convulsive episodes, requiring its own investigation? Yes, it appears so. Sure could be possible that the thyroid nodules, albeit shrinking, hid parathyroid tumors that are additional culprits in serious illness. Both hyper/hypothyroidism AND hyperparathyroidism can explain my clinical presentation. It appears that I am dealing with both. Who knew?

Well the Lord knew all along, the factors and their purpose for a nearly 8-year derailment in life as I once knew it. I am beginning to see that everything I have learned to date has NOT been wasted. I would not be able to respond as quickly to new information if there were still dozens and dozens of other medical conditions to rule out or address. I would not have a deep compassion for those suffering chronic illness today. My faith would be weaker and very likely my marriage. I could go on.

Very few folks have had as many medical tests that I have had, even in the community of persons dealing with chronic illness. Some folks stop after medical professionals label you with depression or anxiety. And if a person persists with extensive testing, very likely it’s peppered with questionable, even dangerous energy techniques akin to quackery. Thank the Lord that I didn’t spend very much time with energy medicine. He let me see the demonic influences and/or lack of science then helped me get away quickly thereafter (e.g. Rife treatment using sound and light frequencies hurt me badly.) Other times my Jesus simply closed the door to a promising yet deceitful avenue even before I was tempted to get near it (e.g. tai chi and yoga). This was very difficult at times when I felt desperate in my personal hell or conversely, when the testing and treatments were recommended by my brothers and sisters in Christ. I simply had to decline with blind faith even if that decision appeared to prolong my suffering in their eyes. Very tough road indeed.

Today I welcome the new answers with more of a sense of adventure than fear. Will I need neck surgery if a parathyroid adenoma is discovered? We are not sure yet. My labs don’t fit the typical profile and I have been in that camp dozens of times before. But when 1) both cardiovascular AND osteoporosis can be related to both thyroid and parathyroid anomalies and 2) calcium trafficking/dis-regulation problems can contribute to neurological symptoms, then it seems logical that both would need to be addressed. Incredible. Separate body processes in which anomalies can be the root cause of disease in the 2 different organ systems. And to think that this new adventure would have never happened if I had not gone to Mayo Clinic in February looking for answers about autoimmune disease. But there is no AD. Maybe not even a Functional Movement Disorder. Just another new answer to a question I did not ask. Holy cow! JJ

Psalm 34:8 New International Version (NIV)
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Changing seasons, changing gears

As the winter loses its harshness on this second day of March, so have I. Seems that I am letting go of a few things inside and out as a change of season has landed on our doorstep . . .

Our trip to Mayo Clinic ended with a focus much different than the one we had when we arrived. Briefly, the expert neurologist informed us that my labs that I had painstakingly collated from home were “garbage,” that my problems appeared to be psychiatric, and that further testing would be a waste of money: we see 150,000 people a year in the Autoimmunity Clinic. You don’t have it! A second neurologist expert used more functional terms yet still claimed that “even a 3rd year medical student knows the difference” in the various differential diagnoses. So we (my healthcare providers to date + myself) are idiots? So it seemed as we entered the weekend in Rochester, Minnesota . . .

Six days after that first appointment, the shock of what they were telling us had worn off. The exhaustion and soreness from extensive lab testing, EEG, lumbar puncture, and 5 additional consultations gave way to a new direction in my ongoing recovery from a serious illness. It was a tough mental journey while literally trapped on Sunday in a Minnesota blizzard but I did get there. First, on Monday an Endocrinologist determined that I was on too much thyroid medication and it could be contributing to my symptoms. Holy cow! The new medication was ordered that afternoon and sent on its way to our home address. Days later, the adjustment process is both rocky and underway.

Second, the physical rehabilitation department has a special program for what they term a “Functional Movement Disorder.” The physical and occupational therapists retrain the brain using specific balance, breathing, and movement techniques within the context of stimuli for me that trigger my convulsive episodes. Interesting. A trial run of this approach was horrific! In retrospect however, I recalled an evaluation in a local Balance Center 2 years ago and treatment that was recommended for a “Mild Vestibular Disorder;” it was also horrible and I couldn’t do it in tandem with other treatments my Doctor recommended at the time. The Mayo Clinic staff say that their approach is different so I decided to begin their PT and OT home programs regardless. What if it helps? In 3 days since then the convulsive episodes have not yet changed but my balance is improving! Yay!

I don’t have an autoimmune disease as defined by the Mayo Clinic. My labs are also negative for various infections and inflammation, glucose and other markers for which my blood and cerebral spinal fluid were tested. But some other labs are waaaaaaaay off and those are the ones in focus right now. If I can progress in my home exercise program, and I suspect that I will do so quickly, I have the option to return to Mayo Clinic for a 5-day intensive Functional Movement Disorders Program. Perhaps within a couple of weeks I will know if this Program will be effective for me: if the techniques begin to change any aspect of the episodes then, Lord willing, I hope to return to the Mayo Clinic. By then my thyroid status should be moving in a better direction as well. It’s all good I guess.

Funny how enduring very early morning appointments under duress in a strange place with 1-2 hours of sleep painted a much different picture of me to these clinicians than what I am presenting now! Tonight I still feel depleted yet my stress level has gone down significantly. All of the laundry and unpacking is done along with the myriad of things you have to do after returning from a 9-day medical trip. (Our trip to Mayo Clinic was extended twice to complete all of the consultations recommended and requested.) The expenses were immense and we haven’t even seen the medical bills yet! (Did I mention that the water heater needed replacing 3 days later? Ugh.) Still I am stabilizing and in a better place than when I was struggling to just breathe 2 weeks ago.

The seasons are about to change and the gears of treatment planning for me are moving forward as well. Gentle Reader, you know my mantra will remain that Lord willing, I am going to get well! And to Him be the glory! I am grateful that Steve and I got to go to the Mayo Clinic and learn so much on so many different levels. What other levels you ask? Well that will be a bit o’ prose for another day of course. Until then Godspeed my friends, JJ