Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thank You

Dear family and friends,

I've been so grateful for the concern so many of you have felt for me and expressed to me. So here is an update on my health, with possibly more details than you wanted—but I feel that you deserve to know what's been going on because you have been so caring.

I made a list the other day of all of the doctors or health-care practicioners I've seen in the last year. Just so you can get an idea of the journey I've been on, here's the list:

1. my family care physician (for fatigue and shortness of breath). He upped my synthroid.
2. internist #1. He decided within five minutes that my problem was anxiety.
3. internist #2. He took a long time with me and referred me for lots of things (allergist, pulmonologist, ENT). Thought it was sleep apnea or anxiety.
4. pulmonologist #1 for sleep study evaluation. We decided I didn't fit the category of sleep apnea.
5. OB/GYN. He diagnosed mono.
6. allergist. No known allergies.
7. CT scan reveals a deviated septum.
8. ENT recommends surgery.
9. surgery for deviated septum.
10. back to ENT for post-surgical infection.
11. gastroenterologist conducts an upper endoscopy and finds hiatal hernia.
12. pulmonologist #2 diagnoses asthma.
13. chiropractor gives me colloidal silver and various other things.
14. Chinese herbalist gives me various herbal remedies.
15. sacral-cranial manipulator "manipulates" me and prescribes chlorophyll.
16. nurse practitioner for hormone balancing.
17. FINALLY I GET INTO A DOCTOR WHO LISTENS: Dr. Roy Gandolfi, internist.
18. pelvic and abdominal ultrasounds find a congenital (benign) kidney condition (not the source of my problems) and a gall stone (probably not it either).

And the last one I haven't included in the list because I will explain it below.

So you see how crazy this year has been. I don't really want to get into the symptoms and why they stump doctors (and me). What I want to talk about is that last weekend I went to Las Vegas with my sister . . . and felt pretty good all weekend. In fact, I felt pretty darn good. And, except for one bad day this week, I have felt progressively better every day since then. Today I actually felt a big difference. I told Roger, "I no longer feel like a sick person! I feel like a well person with a few health concerns."

What in the world made the difference? Two things.

1. First of all, earlier that week I went and visited a counselor, Dr. Lynn Johnson, who had given me a few weeks of therapy way back when I was seventeen and depressed. I went to him because in conversation with a family friend in our ward (who also happens to be a therapist), I came to a huge realization about myself:

I have always believed I would die young.

It's like I had this duty to atone somehow for the fact that my life has been so easy and happy, and also because my mother and her mother both died young. Subconsciously, I really think I had accepted as a fact that I would die young; it was only a matter of time until it hit.

Once I realized that this subconscious belief has been affecting the way I react to my REAL symptoms and thus leading to anxiety-produced symptoms which could interfere with an accurate diagnosis, I immediately started feeling a little better (just getting it out there helped!). But I was determined to do whatever it took to reduce my anxiety and correct my illogical thinking. (If I don't straighten out my mind, I thought, I'm going to kill myself off with these thoughts!)

So, anyway, I went to Dr. Johnson and he taught me some little self-hypnosis tricks and basically let me talk it all out. It helped a lot.

2. I thought at first that it must have been the sunshine in Las Vegas that made the difference. Probably it had some effect, but I discovered something else when I looked back at what happened that weekend:

It was the weekend that many of you fasted for me.

I can't tell you how touching it is to me when you come to me and tell me you fasted for me. It has been an amazing experience. Several of you have bigger problems than mine, and still you fasted for me. It is extremely moving to me. Thank you, thank you so much. I really believe I have benefited from it.

And so now I want to just list some of the things I have gained as a result of my illness. These are ways in which my life is richer now (hopefully for good), BECAUSE of my illness, that would not have been in my life without it.

1. The ways that my love for my family, both immediate and extended, has grown through all of this.

2. The relationships with some people in my ward which have grown stronger because others who are chronically ill reached out to me, or others who are well served me.

3. A new and deeper sense of contentment with my life exactly how it is, without so much anxiety about finding out what I'm supposed to be doing (with my writing, for example). A deeper enjoyment of just being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, ward-member, friend, sacrament meeting chorister.

4. A greater mindfulness moment-to-moment, with greater patience and relaxation in general.

5. Mediation and yoga, which have changed my life.

6. A greater appreciation for the mystery of our bodies, what they do naturally without our thought (usually), and a deeper meaning to the blessings I say over the food ("please let our bodies be able to digest it and benefit from it"). A greater enjoyment of simple things like taking a walk or dancing around the room—even just leaving my bed or the house.

7. I much more intense feeling of compassion for others when I hear of their troubles. This blessing has been surprising to me. While I've been sick, several friends and family members have confided their troubles to me, things I had never known about, and I have felt for these people deeper than ever before. I think my heart has grown somehow.

Not a bad haul, is it?

I'm not fully healed. I am still struggling. I'm not quite to the point where I can look back on all this as "something I went through." But I just needed to take some time today to celebrate how sick I DON'T feel. I am better now (I think I'll live!) and I'm going to rejoice about it and about the gifts the Lord has given me.

Thank you again for your kindness and prayers. I have felt it. I am so blessed.


Rachel said...

So glad you had a good break of a weekend, and a break in the worry. Wish there was something I could do for you. My mom and her mom both died young, too, but somehow I always assumed I'd get to bypass that sort of thing since what they had wasn't related...
thank goodness mine isn't anywhere near as serious as what they had. In fact, because of my grandmother, I may have saved my life a lot of trouble by correcting some of the possible problems early on.

I know I'm far away, but I think about you often.

Jennifer B. said...

You are truly amazing and inspiring. I'm praying for your full recovery.

Ang said...

Darlene, so glad you're feeling better. What a journey! The list of doctors alone is mind boggling. I respect your insights so much (about a lot of things) and will keep praying.


Darlene said...

Thanks, Rachel, Jen and Angie, and to the others of you who have sent me private e-mails. I'm so grateful for your prayers and support.

Annie said...

Isn't it amazing how the Lord turns trials into stepping stones! I am glad for the things that you are learning and I hope that this new treatment of Yoga and Dr. Johnson helps.

heap much love,