A man is climbing a mountain. He stumbles, regains his footing, takes a deep breath, and tries again. Sometimes it looks as if he will never make it to the heights to which he aspires. In spite of the odds, he keeps going—he keeps climbing. Faith is the same way. As we climb to loftier heights of sanctification, God drops pebbles in our paths. Will we trip and fall? Or will we pick ourselves up and keep climbing? Over the past three years, I have come to realize that my struggle with Crohn’s Disease has not been in vain, but that it instead has encouraged me to reach for the pinnacle of faith and peace.
December 7, 2006—that date marks the night I experienced my personal “Pearl Harbor,” as I later referred to it. Although I had been experiencing escalating abdominal pain over a period of several months, it reached a climax that December afternoon. My parents hurried me off to the hospital, and soon I was being rolled away toward the operating room. The anesthetics had begun to wear off sometime in the middle of the night when I finally asked the question my mother, who was staying with me in the hospital room, was probably waiting for: “Is everything all right now?”
She hesitated, but answered at last, “Everything is going to be all right.” It was not her words, but her tone that struck me as odd, for she sounded sad and grieved rather than relieved that all was over and done. I asked her if the surgeons had removed whatever had been causing the pain. She told me that they hadn’t.
Then what was it? To hear the lonely silence in the room was more than I could bear. I asked her, and she told me. I had Crohn’s Disease. Well, what was that? I had never heard of it, but it didn’t sound good, all the same. It was an auto-immune disease that could not just go away. I was “stuck with it.”
Accepting the fact was not hard that first night. I was still groggy from the anesthesia, too tired to react. I woke when the sunlight leaked through the hospital blinds and tried not to think about it. The days passed at a snail’s pace, and neither my family nor I had any answers to my problem. I was given steroids and medications, one of which I would most likely have to take daily for the rest of my life. I never questioned God that first time in the hospital, even though my attitude was not always a good one.
After consulting hospital nutritionists and various doctors, all with discouraging results, my father and sister visited me with new hope. My father’s exact words were, “We’re going to get you better.” We all looked at one another, willing to try anything. Friends in our church had amazing success putting two of their daughters on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We purchased a book which detailed how to proceed, and almost as soon as I returned home, we began.
I was—and am—extremely restricted. The SCD excludes all grains, gluten, all refined sugars, and starches. Needless to say, it was difficult. There were many times where I wished I could give up or give in to my cravings, but I forced myself to persevere. My health improved immediately, and for seven months I had no pain attacks. I was confident in the diet and myself. I suppose that was when God decided to give my family and me a dose of humbling. In late July of 2007, I became ill. It only lasted three days and I was able to care for myself at home, but about a month later, I returned to the hospital.
A change had come over me. I was confused and angry. For the first time since my ill-fated discovery, I questioned God. “Why?” I couldn’t understand why God was afflicting me like this. I wanted to be free of my medications and my condition. I feared for the plans I had desired for my future, marriage and children. It all seemed so impossible to attain with a condition as terrible as mine stamped on my forehead, so to speak. It didn’t help that my friends knew a play-by-play of what went on, even though, at the time, I had wanted everyone to pray. I realized later that I wish I had kept it quiet as much as possible.
My parents took me home after a week in the hospital, and we continued with the diet. This time, we saw everything differently. Not only did we have to be even more careful, but we also had to trust in God. Our trust in the diet had taken priority. Even with the question “why” still nagging in the back of mind, I prayed daily for healing and grace. I came to realize that God had been knocking at my door, and I had been too busy to realize that I had neglected Him. I needed faith not only at the foot of the mountain, where everything was smooth and easygoing, but also when the path became hazardous on the journey upwards. There was a greater purpose at work behind my condition, and all that had happened would “work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
In October of 2007, I was admitted once more into the hospital, this time for only four days. I remained faithful, although new pebbles were thrown in my path. The doctors wished to control the disease with stronger medications, medications I had heard could possibly be dangerous. I floundered in my faith, frightened and rebellious. I did not want to go on medications that could make me sick—or worse. Even now I sometimes fear the possibility. When I was hospitalized in September 2008, the question became an issue. I didn’t even want to think about it. The doctors did not push, but I felt the pressure all the same. My parents agreed with me, but also encouraged me to accept God’s will whatever it was. My doctor understood my concern, and stronger medications have not been pushed since.
Now, a little over three years since that first hospitalization in 2006, I still struggle. There are still times when my future as a wife and mother seem unattainable, or that I will never be able to stop worrying about what I eat. Even so, I have been mostly diligent with the diet, and I intend to keep at it for many years to come, if not always. I have not had a need for the hospital for over a year and a half. I am thankful for where I am at.
Although my faith is not perfect, I have reached for the top of the mountain. I have slipped; I have fallen. Every day, I pick myself up and keep climbing. God gives us tests to try our faith and love for Him. If He did not, what would that say about us? If I had no struggles, if my life was easy and uncomplicated, I might fear for my salvation. The book of James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4). Those verses always give me the peace I need to endure Crohn’s Disease and all other trials that make my path rough. Do not lose faith. Have that inner peace that surpasses all understanding. Keep climbing.
My intent for this blog is to share my knowledge of Crohn’s, the many different facets of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and its effect on various digestive diseases (including maladies such as Autism), and any tips or shortcuts within the diet that I have discovered over the past three years. If I can help even a little, I know it will be worth it. So stay tuned!
Above all, I wish to make clear that, without the Lord on my side, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has taught me many things about taking care of the body God has given me, and while it has worked wonders in my life, I recognize that it was the Lord working through my diet that made the real difference.
I will post at least once weekly, on Fridays or Saturdays. However, if inspiration strikes me mid-week, I will most likely let you know. So check back often, or sign up for e-mail updates!
God be with you on your journey to better health.