Saturday, July 16, 2011

Balance Sheet: Profit and Loss

One year ago today (July 15), my rheumatologist confirmed that my two weeks of chest pain and breathing difficulty were due to a lupus flare in addition to the asthma previously diagnosed.

He put me on a higher dose of steroids and commanded no exertion, no sun (which is a lupus trigger), for at least a month, since he suspected inflammation of the lining around the heart.

The heart? Really?

My mom was with me at the appointment, and she asked tentatively, "But her youngest nephew's first birthday party is Saturday. It's only an hour or so away. Can't she go over there just for a little while? If she lies down in the car? She really, really wants to celebrate with him."

My very reserved doctor visibly became angry, or maybe not angry...fierce. He leaned back in the chair, crossed one leg over the other, and pantomimed smoking a cigarette. "I can't help what she wants to do. If she wants to smoke a cigarette, she can smoke a cigarette. But I can tell you this:

"Decisions have consequences."

We drove home from the appointment in a bit of shock. I knew I felt the sickest I'd ever been, but bed rest? My heart? Really really, Lord? I guess I hoped the doctor would make it all better.

Last July's family events were only the first of many losses in this last year. Celebrations I couldn't take part in, family needs we couldn't help with, knowing that my needs kept A. away from meeting needs in his family of origin. Inability to give back by earning income or even do most of my homemaking responsibilities. Missing and longing to see family members who only live an hour or hour and a half away. Missing lots of church services, learning opportunities, fellowship opportunities. So many things relinquished or reshaped by these new limitations.

My body and circumstances are so much better than a year ago:

Last year at this time I was so weak I was afraid to shower without someone in the house (someone, that is, who could dial 911 and not just bark and lick my face if I passed out). For weeks more I would at least text my mom, "If you don't hear back from me in 15 minutes, call for help and come over."

Today I drove to Target to pick up prescriptions. Extending the outing for the Starbucks drive-through or bank felt like pushing it, though. I still need back-up for lots of things, but not basic hygiene.

The asthma is stable, other health concerns have improved, I can go to church sometimes and participate in occasional, judiciously chosen family events, and the pain is less than it was, although I am still waiting and praying for a pain-free day.

After many tests and ruling out other possibilities, the diagnosis of the chest pain is costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage connecting ribs to sternum. As my doctor says, "It is just pain." Just pain. Not my heart or lungs. Not life-threatening.

All the diagnostics also revealed an unrelated, asymptomatic heart valve issue the doctor needs to watch.  Now we know, and it's under professional medical care.

Still, it's easy to focus on the losses instead of the graces, which are significant:

My husband has loved me well this last year. If I had any insecurities about his commitment, his service and care have erased them.

Kindness, friendship, and support have come from surprising places.

"I can't do this. Will you please help?" may yield surprised or confused looks but usually also yields compassion and assistance. And it's good for me to die to pride that way.

I have been more available to pray for and listen to others.

My desire for corporate worship has grown stronger through the times of absence from it.

I think I am learning to know God better by writing here and listening to your comments.

Maybe, perhaps, just a little, I am growing better at letting go of my wishes and way.

Thank you all for making this last year better, for your presence here, for the prayers you graciously offer. I'm grateful for you.

P.S. The low back pain has returned, despite all the anti-inflammatory and pain medicine the chest pain requires. Monday I have an appointment to investigate this. I would be grateful for any prayers God leads. We are praying for discernment for the doctor, a simple and remediable explanation, and perhaps some new advice for the chest pain, too. Again, I'm thankful for you!


  1. What a year, dear lady. Will pray for the low back pain to be resolved. I am thankful your health is better than a year ago (encouraging), and will continue to pray for healing and fruit in this season He's providing. The Holy Spirit does bring your name to my mind for prayer often. . .

  2. Oh, Christina, you know I'm praying. Lately, it's my blogging friends for whom I pray, most, when I'm awakened in the middle of the night and waiting to fall asleep, again. You all have become so real to me.

    Thank you for sharing your struggles in such detail. It's a privilege to be able to pray for you in specific ways, and your willingness to share and ask for help in the form of prayer reveals so much. You bless me in inviting me to participate in the Lord's work in your life.

    Lots and lots of love...

  3. I am so sorry you have been through such a tough year. I pray with this comment that God will continue to strengthen your body. And I thank him for the attitude you have in finding ways to be thankful for other things in all this.

  4. when i think of how much trouble i have counting my 'trials' (the word is excessive) as pure joy, it makes me realize how hard it must be for someone undergoing genuine trials, as you are, to think of them in the way St. James recommends. but, as you indicate, those trials are producing perseverance in you, and they will make you complete.

    as Brandee says, we are truly privileged to be able to pray for you in the ways you asked. however much we'd want to, (at least most of) us crumbles live too far away from you for us to be able to help you and Allen with chores, shopping, getting to appointments, or the like. nor do we have the medical expertise to heal you, or relieve your pain. it is *such* a comfort to be able to lift you in prayer to the God for whom all things are possible, and ask Him to do for you all the things medical and practical that we are unable to do!

    much love...

  5. Amy, Brandee, Shanda, chris~
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and kindness.

    Brandee, I mainly wrote this out to process the past year for myself, but A. advised me to post it. He said you all would want to know these things so you could pray with understanding. Your comment seems to confirm that.

  6. Yes. My friend Bob Pino taught me so much, and one lesson had to do with his willingness to share exactly what was going on and ask for prayer. When we pray for one another, we help one another, and we are blessed in being helped and in being helpers. Relationships between people strengthen, and--through prayer--we have (as my friend Billy Brown would say) an opportunity to participate in the Lord's work and get to understand him, better. I try to live wide open for so many reasons, including these. Praying for you with love.

  7. @Brandee Shafer Thank you for that testimony, Brandee. Please keep those prayers coming. God bless you, friend.

  8. Dear Christina,
    You are amazing! You are so gracious and humble as you walk this path of suffering. I am in awe of how He is making Himself so powerful in you. I believe everything He allows us to walk through is used to refine us and to Glory Him, when we allow Him to sustain us through it. The depth of your spirit is testimony to the work you are allowing Him to do in you. Thank you so much for testifying to His Hand on your life. You are loved and loved and loved.


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.