I’m 37 yrs old, and have been officially diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis for almost 2 yrs, although I’ve been exhibiting symptoms for 6+ yrs. The pain and stiffness of this disease, and the severity of my other conditions (I also have Ulcerative Colitis, fibromyalgia, and severe Gastroparesis) have prevented me from continuing to work in my dream vocation as a hospital chaplain. Ironically, after having suffered three small bowel obstructions (including a bowel perforation), a drastic weight loss that led to me getting a feeding tube, back surgeries, a Spinal Cord Stimulator implant, a pain pump implant, and multiple other major surgeries, I’ve found myself on the other side of the hospital bed, week after week, since the age of 30.
However, my daily struggle with severe clinical depression and my constant excruciating pain have both blessed me with the opportunity, as well as the obligation, to back my intellectual assent to my faith with the rubber-meets-the-road, difficult daily action of placing one foot in front of the other in moving forward in life even when I don’t have the desire to do so. I feel a responsibility to not give up–not to a husband or to children–but a responsibility to Christ Himself. Since only He knows how much pain I deal with on a daily basis, I feel that with each day I choose to say “Yes” to my life, I’m also saying “Yes” to Him. “Yes, the sacrifice of Your life on my behalf matters more than anything…more than the worst pain I feel on my worst flare day.” As long as I can remember His sacrifice, I can continue to make my own. This may sound cliche, but it still rings true: I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, but it doesn’t have me.
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