Learning New Things.
That summer, I decided to live on campus after the school year ended, yet again. I was working, taking music lessons, and still lived alone in my small dorm apartment. The disease was ever on my mind. I was reminded of it multiple times a day. Symptoms here, anxiety there. The drive to feel normal kept me going. I was still learning new things about my disease and how it affected other parts of my body. I remember a pretty severe dizzy spell that lasted for a few weeks that summer. It was simply seasonal allergies, but it was a first for me. My body responded differently to things.
I still did not understand that I was suffering with an autoimmune disease. I still did not understand what was physiologically happening in my body. I did not understand the correlation between the physical aspects of Graves' disease and mental health. I never knew what to expect. I did not know what was a symptom of the disease or a side effect of medication. I felt I couldn't trust my doctor because she was fiercely negative, difficult, and argumentative. That summer, I switched endocrinologists.
The Visual Symptoms.
Before school started up again, my hematologist (a blood specialist) released me, saying I was, “too healthy to continue in his care.” It was a magical moment. I walked out of that office so full of joy that my skin tingled. No matter how healthy or unhealthy, when you struggle with disease and a doctor says, “You’re too healthy,” you've basically won the lottery. The crushing weight of fear on my chest became a bit lighter.
His office was located inside a large cancer center and his practice was shared with an oncologist. Despite all the frustrations and personal issues I dealt with, I was always humbled by walking into that building. Every person in that building, including staff, was visibly sick.
(Google image "Graves' Disease" and I promise you'll either laugh or have nightmares for days) O_O
In my senior year of school, I lived with two of my friends in a dorm apartment. Living with others certainly helped distract me from my fears and gave me some peace of mind.
Whenever I caught a virus, I felt so relieved. Normal, healthy-minded people would be discouraged, but I felt a sense of freedom. I could EXPECT all of my symptoms. I thought, “Thank goodness this is not some weird unknown part of the disease." Once I recovered from a virus, a small part of me started to feel nervous again. Back to the unknowns.
My prayers were not acclamations of love and praise, but the cries of a beggar. A person pleading with their attacker, “God, please don't kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please keep me safe. Please don’t let anything happen to me. Please, please, please.”
I remember the morning God spoke to me through a Psalm...
Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”
I had spent the previous night like most nights: worrying, fearing, doubting, but this Psalm crushed my fear. From the moment I read it, I knew this disease would not kill me and I was not in danger of dying. The words were life to my body, my mind, and my soul. These words are my treasure. I prayed these words. I read them constantly. I kept them so close to my heart. They give me hope, strength, courage, and peace.
In my senior year of college, I wrote a three movement string orchestra piece based on verse 7 of this psalm, called “In the Shadow of the Almighty.” The live performance is here, if you're interested:
(My apologies! The recording got wonky and stopped for a few seconds at 12:47).
Sometime in the spring, I was taken off my medications. I don't remember exactly why; whether it was a trial and error thing to see what would happen, or whether my endocrinologist thought I didn't need them anymore. Either way, it felt amazing and liberating to be off medications.
I graduated in May 2009. I remember the morning of my graduation, my parents gave me a necklace that said, “Hope." It was so special to me. It reminded me that with hope, I could overcome anything. With hope, there's a vision, there's purpose, and there's a future.
I went home that summer to prepare for graduate school in the fall. Despite everything my doctors said and all the fear that had convinced me otherwise, I went into remission.
Be blessed and be well,