We all have moments when things barge into our lives uninvited and unwanted; moments when we are invaded by things we’d rather not face. There are many different chapters in my life story, but the chapter currently being written is the one that includes MS. In the summer of 2014 my life was invaded by an unwelcome disease, Multiple Sclerosis. This is my story.
I had been feeling “off” for quite a few months. Mostly I was more tired than usual and felt all around weak. It was weird. Some days I could run 15km, and other days I could barely make it across the street. I can actually remember saying to Clark on a number of occasions, “I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out there was something seriously wrong with me.” I just knew something wasn’t right.
On May, 31st Clark and I woke up to go kayaking. I have awaken before to my arm being asleep, but this day was different. I pumped my left hand a few times to try and bring back the circulation, but it wasn’t changing. I don’t know how else to explain it except that it felt like my arm fell asleep and never woke up. We went kayaking that day, and I periodically stopped to check if the feeling had come back. Nothing. A few days later I went to the walk-in clinic and the doctor diagnosed with me carpal tunnel on the spot and told me to wear a wrist brace. I was relieved, but something still didn’t seem right. But hey, what did I know?
The next week Clark and I went on vacation to Radium Hot Springs, near the BC/Alberta border. It was beautiful! You can sit out in the hot spring-fed pool for hours taking in the beauty and fresh air of the Rocky mountains! I love being warm, and hot water is no exception, so I spent hours by the pool, relaxing in the heat of the springs. But something wasn’t right. My arm got dramatically worse and I could barely hold up my own body weight. I could barely separate my fingers and my arm was too weak to pick up my water bottle. “God, give me strength.”
I went to a walk-in clinic and the doctor assured me that if I wore my wrist brace, the carpal tunnel would get better and the strength would come back to my arm. Maybe I was wrong. My chiropractor thought maybe there was a pinched nerve in my back, but after couple weeks of repeated tests he looked at me with concern in his eyes, “I think you should try to find a new doctor who will run some more tests.” I could feel the fear creeping in.
At the end of June I woke up to the most intense leg cramp I had ever experienced. The pain paralyzed me. I fought to bring my hands to my calf but my body wouldn’t move. I couldn’t stop the tears from flooding down my face. “God, make it stop.”
I was certain that something was wrong and drove myself to the hospital. After explaining my symptoms to the doctor, he ordered some blood work and a CT Scan. Finally. Maybe now I’d get some answers. He came back with the results and asked to speak to me privately. Oh no, this couldn’t be good. “Kim, your scan came back clean. Are you under stress? Or do you maybe need to talk to someone?” Oh my word. The doctor thinks I’m crazy. He discharged me and I returned home wondering if this was all in my head. Could I actually be going crazy?
July ushered in the beginning of camp season and Clark and I hit the road for 5 weeks of intense ministry. Every summer we travel to different teen camps to speak to students about the Bible. They are some of my favourite weeks of the year. We began the season at Nanoose Bay Pentecostal Camp on Vancouver Island. A few days into teen camp I noticed a strange sensation in my feet as I sat on the edge of the bed. My toes were tingling and I felt strange vibrations up both my legs. But the strangest thing happened whenever I looked down at the floor. A buzzing sensation, like an electric shock, would shoot from my neck down my left leg. What was going on?
I did all that I knew how to do when something weird was happening in my body, I googled it. “Electric buzz with neck flexion.” Lhermitte’s Sign. Multiple Sclerosis. What? I read and read and read. Apparently this strange buzzing was something called Lhermitte’s sign, a diagnosing symptom of MS. I was in shock.
I knew I couldn’t get ahead of myself, but I was scared. I had to preach that evening and I couldn’t stop thinking about my body. Did I have MS? “God, give me courage.”
A few days after arriving home from camp I found a new family doctor and went to see her for the first time. After describing my symptoms she said the two letters I was dreading. “I think we need to rule out MS.” She sent me for blood work, X-rays, and scheduled an MRI. I knew an MRI would reveal the truth.
In the meantime, Clark and I boarded a plane and headed to Oklahoma for another week of camp. My arm was still numb, my body was buzzing and tingling all day long, I could barely stay awake for more than 4 hours at a time and I was experiencing pain and vision loss in my left eye. It was during that week at camp that I cried before God, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do what I felt called to do. “God, make me brave.”
When I returned from Oklahoma I went in for my MRI. I was scared, but relieved that I would soon have answers. I laid still in the MRI tube singing worship songs in my head to the beat of the machine buzzing. It was going to be ok. Oh, I hope it’s going to be ok.
As I was packing for our final camp in Winnipeg, Manitoba I received a call from my doctor’s office. “We received the results for your MRI. The doctor needs to review the results with you.” My heart instantly started beating faster. I know that no news is good news when it comes to test results, so in my mind, this was not good. Unfortunately, because I was boarding a plane the next day and my doctor was out of the office for a few days, I would have to wait until I was home from camp to get the results. It felt like the longest week of my life!
To say that I was distracted during that camp in Winnipeg is an understatement, but I knew that I needed to do what God had me there to do. “God, help me speak with boldness.”
August 25th, the day after I returned home from Winnipeg, I sat in my doctor’s office. I was prepared for the worst, but still hopeful that everything was going to come back ok. “Kim, it looks like you have Multiple Sclerosis,” my doctor told me. She read the MRI results noting that the scan revealed that I had demyelination of the nerves in my brain. “I’m referring you to a neurologist who will confirm the diagnosis. I’m so sorry. Are you ok?” I smiled nervously and assured her that I was fine. I was fine right?
The moment I stepped out of the office I burst into tears. Multiple Sclerosis? This was crazy. I got in the car and in a shaky voice I said to Clark, “I can curse God and get mad at Him that I have this disease, or I can worship Him anyway because He deserves it.” I leaned over and turned on the song It is Well by Bethel Music. “I’m going to worship.”
My head was spinning. I work at a college and in the next few days students were going to start arrive for the beginning of a new year. I needed to pull myself together. That night I woke up to another intense spasm in leg, causing me so much pain that I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was so scared. I decided in that moment that I wasn’t going to let this disease define my life and at 5:45am I rolled out of bed, put on my running gear and set out to show my body who was in charge.
About 3km from home my leg seized up and I could barely walk. Maybe my body was in charge after all. What was I supposed do now? “Jesus, I need you.”
To be continued …