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
Never could I have ever imagined that I would spend the better part of the 5th decade of my life battling a serious illness. Then on cue from the Masterful Maestro, Jesus Christ, a few tweaks in 1 type of medication and 2 supplements began to turn things around. What has transpired seems miraculous to me.
31 symptoms aren’t as bad right now as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone.
23 triggers of sometimes violent, convulsive episodes have diminished in severity as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone. A few days per week I have none.
And in a matter of a few hours from now, at 6:13 a.m. to be exact, I will be able to board a plane all by myself to head back to Rochester, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. An aggressive schedule awaits me for my follow-up treatment and medical visits. I’ll stay in a special condominium that will accommodate any ongoing chemical sensitivities; I’ll even learn to Uber and Lyft. Yay!
I am hopeful that things will turn out alright. I am slowly getting stronger and pain levels are coming down with various therapies that are finally working! Master Gardening activities are ticking up and I have a sewing project that I work on in the hours when I am feeling better. Call it my transition back into life.
What a good feeling. Thank you Lord for seeing me through to this day. Thank you also to my beloved, Steve, who has faithfully walked with me during thousands of dark days and nights. I am so blessed. Restoration is coming at last and I am as humbled as I am grateful.
Lord, please hold my heart and my hand as I make this trip. Let’s go! JJ
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
The question that I simply don’t need to ask again, yet have wasted too many moments wondering, is the one posed in this song by the Shirelles. Oh and Dionne Warwick. And maybe Amy Winehouse too. Such a classic song!
Each time I wind up in the Emergency Room, I wonder if my beloved will still love me the next day. This morning he referred to yesterday evening as “another date night!” Unbelievable. All this love continues after about 16 trips to the ER in the past 7 years. I am humbled and blessed beyond measure.
This blessing is hard to see sometimes when my body is breaking down in a new way once again. Looks like an ulcer in the lower part of my stomach is the reason for a month of abdominal pain. Over-the-counter and walk-in clinic medications did not solve the problem. So after a CT scan under the influence of anti-allergy drugs and some more potent medication, I am in less pain . . . but oh so worn out. I’ll see a gastroenterologist this coming week with an endoscopy likely to follow. Going to try to keep my stress level low in the meantime. I mean I don’t have any other of the risk factors that contribute to an ulcer (e.g. spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol) unless of course there’s a hidden H. pylori infection. So more testing is needed to figure this one out.
The other “love” that could be easy to question is that of my Heavenly Father. But I don’t. I look around and see tremendous blessings in my life in that I have a warm home in which to convalesce, enough food and clothing, and finances for the important stuff. My beloved is faithful and loving like “Jesus with skin on.” What I don’t understand is how these illnesses isolate me from friends and family outside of our home and most notably, my husband’s adult children.
My extreme sensitivities continue and are triggered by the fragrant products they (and many folks) tend to use. We are just not sure how to manage this reactivity with our Christmas gatherings rapidly approaching. We already had to decline having both daughters stay with us (which was a delight to host them in years gone by). A trial of having his oldest stay with us for about a week 2 months ago, despite extreme precautions, triggered a violent relapse in the convulsive episodes. I am now sensitized to even trace amounts of fragrance on her coat that was kept in a suitcase in our garage in between scheduled visits. Then I had a seizure spike 2 days ago when she returned from some travels to pick up her suitcase . . .
My heart is breaking from more than the loss of acquaintances and friendships: my relationships with my husband’s children never really got going. Steve and I have been married for 11 years and I got sick just 4 years into our marriage. I have been battling a serious illness for most of our marriage! You could say that my limited visits with his adult children gave them more time to adjust to the fact that their father is remarried. Well, o.k. maybe that’s it. I already sensed that I needed to lie low during their visits in the beginning anyways, focusing on serving them good food and comforts and not speaking up too much nor complaining when their Dad jumped to see them, rescue them when the trials of young adulthood came along. No problem. Fix the car? Pick them up at the bus stop? Join them at church? I just had to stay home due to illness factors and couldn’t go with their Dad to help them, that’s all.
They don’t really know me either though. We profess the courteous “love” greetings yet would I ever really see them again if something happened to their Dad? Oh dear, I should not even go there. I now realize that this barrier between us is completely out of my hands. Remember when I sent along baked goods with Steve for when he visited his family in Arkansas without me 2 weeks ago? Yes, I need to rest in the hope that what I could do has been done as unto the Lord. My Jesus and my beloved know my heart. They hold together the parts in me that are breaking and the inner tears. And the Lord also holds me in tender moments like these right now.
I need to know that your love. Is a love I can be sure of. So tell me know so I won’t ask again. Will you still love me tomorrow?