This is a long post about a severe health crisis that I experienced. I'm writing because my story offers hope for those with serious health issues. I'm also sharing my story because I've been telling people for years that you can't control what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it. This post is about how I got a chance to walk my talk and prove firsthand that upgrading your attitude during challenging times works.
On March 10th 2016 my colon burst. The medical term for it is a perforated bowel. I was in incredible pain but had no idea something was seriously wrong so I opted to lay low for a couple of days. I assumed I’d get over it. Finally after four days my husband insisted I go to the ER to get checked out. I passed out in the waiting room and the next thing I remember is a surgeon waking me up to sign a release form. He said he needed me to give him permission to do whatever was necessary to try to save my life. He told me he'd do his best but there was a good chance I wouldn't make it because I was so septic and had been for so long. Honestly I was so out of it that what he said didn't register. As soon as I signed the paper, I passed out again.
Six hours later I woke up and realized with no small bit of alarm that I had an awkward bag attached to my stomach! The nurse told me it was an ostomy bag and it wasn't permanent, that I only had to have it until my colon healed. In addition to the bag, I had 2 annoying drains coming out above my pelvic bones, and a whole bunch more annoying tubes attached all over. And I was in more pain than I knew was possible, so much so that me a non medicine taker was begging for meds powerful enough to make me hallucinate because they numbed the pain and helped me pass out!
As my new reality settled in it was sobering, but I decided to be optimistic! I told myself my body was strong and healthy, and I’d heal FAST! I thought the drains would be removed soon, and I’d be out of the hospital SOON, and I believed I’d be back on my feet within a week. And I told myself I’d be healed enough to get rid of the bag in about a month.
But what happened is I ended up staying in ICU for three weeks because I had massive amounts of infection that created all sorts of issues and caused me to be on an insane amount of meds and need to have dozens of tests and scans, and more painful drains inserted into my body. Before I got sick, I had no conception of what bowel perforations, ostomy bags, or sepsis were about. These were just terms I'd heard, but I had no idea what they involved. Now I know that sepsis is internal poisoning or toxicity, and it is severe.
To give you an idea of how serious my situation was, I will say it how my doctor explained it to me. He told a sepsis level of 15-16 is concerning. 20 is alarming. And 50 is lethal. People with a sepsis level over 50 rarely live. When they tested my blood in the emergency room, my sepsis level was almost 70. One week after surgery, it was still 38. When you're that septic for that long, coupled with being on massive drugs, it messes with your brain and cognitive function, etc. so for months, my brain jumped around, and I stuttered and couldn't pull up words in my mind or track words in a sentence on a page, or control my hands well enough to hold onto things or write. That alone was a major frustration.
In the hospital, I dealt with fluid in my lungs (mild phenomena), massive PAIN and edema (50 lbs. water weight), severe weakness, raging yeast infections from all the antibiotics I was on, an inability to eat that resulted in me having to have a nasty feeding tube pushed down my nose, and an inability to move my legs or adjust my body in bed, etc., etc. I couldn't more with help, and it hurt like crazy every time I did. Even though I could only manage short distances while leaning heavily onto a walker, I had to get up and take two or three walks every day.
Nurses were constantly coming in my room and making me get out of bed so they could prop me up in wheelchairs and wheel me down halls (every jolt hurt like crazy!!), and make me lay on my stomach (SUPER painful and uncomfortable!) so they could do more scans and tests and insert more painful drains into me. Not to mention that several times a day, someone came in to poke me with needles and such.
Physically I hurt like hell. And emotionally, it was all super frustrating and upsetting as well! Almost everything I was experiencing felt incredibly uncomfortable and painful and hard! At one point, I felt like screaming because they were making me lay on my stomach again. I could have another drain inserted into my butt cheek, and I was having a panic attack because it was so horrifically painful, and I heard a voice inside my head that I recognize as God’s Spirit say, You can either fight this, or you can surrender to it. In that moment of being pushed to my limits, I remember making a clear choice to surrender. I turned myself over to God and started focusing on my breathing, and somehow, I got through it.
Another time when I was feeling super frustrated because I needed to have two painful tests in one day, I heard the Spirit again telling me to, Be patient and trust the process. Once again, I chose to relax and go with it. Haha, I use the term loosely because there was no relaxing, but after that, I did my best to let go and not resist it. At least. During those days, I leaned heavily on my Heavenly Father. I prayed often and asked Him for healing and strength to help me get through! I thanked Him for everyone who was helping me. I knew many family members, friends, and even people who didn't know me but had heard about me praying for me. I felt the power of everyone’s collective prayers! I received a firm assurance that my body would heal and be normal and strong again. I chose to believe the Spirit's promise of restored health.
When it seemed impossible that my body would ever be strong and healthy again, I chose to have faith and focus on the assurances I'd received. My choice to surrender to a challenging experience and believe in miracles and trust a slow and laborious process of healing carried me. I experienced an abundance of blessings, including having food, calming music, essential oils, and a diffuser brought in from home. Plus, every day, I received fresh flowers, gifts, kind notes, and visits from people who loved me. And it was all of this that helped me get through an extended, uncomfortable hospital stay.
Finally, I got to go home. But I was far from well. On top of the ostomy bag, I still had a PICC line in my chest, two drains (one just above the front of my hip bone and a super PAINFUL one inserted into the upper part of my butt cheek), and an oxygen tube up my nose. I was so weak that I needed a walker and help with EVERYTHING and still could hardly get food down. I had a home care nurse that came 1-2 times a week and 1-2 times a week; I also had to go back to the hospital for blood tests and doctor for checkups.
For three months, I could only wear nightgowns and loose dresses on account of the drains and bag, and except going to the doctor, all I did was lay on a bed or couch because I was too weak and sore to do anything else. Whenever I stood up (ha, actually, I was bent over), my entire core section ACHED unbearably. Every time I took a step, it was laborious, slow, and painful. I couldn't even get myself a glass of water or make myself a piece of toast without collapsing.
When I was still in a lot of PAIN, my doctor stopped prescribing pain pills because they were opioids, and he said I'd been on them too long and was starting to get addicted. He was right; I was becoming addicted. So I went off them, and it was HARD, especially since I was still in PAIN. I felt like I was living in body hell. This was a most challenging and depressing time for me. (It's also when I became a big fan of medical marijuana because that's what I turned to that got me through.)
Another upsetting thing that happened was that my hair fell out in handfuls. All in all, I lost about 85 percent of my hair. And I still had an extremely painful drain port in my rear end that hurt every time I moved and made it impossible to sit or get in a comfortable position, and needed to be drained twice a day and oozed so much puss that I had to make bandages by cutting maxi pads in half and having them taped to my butt. That went on for over five months! Even though I'd chosen to surrender and trust the process of healing... I wasn't digging any of it.
I wasn’t a ray of sunshine initially, and as the days and weeks dragged on, I became pretty depressed and just plain miserable and witchy. One day a vision flashed through my mind. I saw myself standing in front of a group and speaking like I used to do, and I was telling them sometimes life knocks you down, and there's nothing you can do about it. Except to decide to get back up and go strong again. I'd said many times that the goal is to determine in advance when life hits you hard, you're not going to let it turn you into a victim, but you're going to do whatever it takes to get yourself to get yourself back up and on your feet as fast as possible. Sometimes that's the only choice you get to make, and I knew it.
I knew it was time for me to stop feeling sorry for myself, and start walking my talk. That day was a turning point for me. I KNEW WHAT TO DO and in that moment I made a choice to start doing it. The first thing I did was upgrade my thinking. I started to mentally count my blessings. I thought about everything that was right and good in my life and I felt GRATEFUL for it. I worked on being pleasant and thankful for what I had, instead of whining and complaining about what was wrong. As I focused on being positive and feeling grateful I started feeling better. And even though my situation was still hard, my heart felt happier and lighter.
Towards the end of June I finally felt good enough to get out of the house a bit. I was all bent over and I walked super slow and had to carry a big bag of pillows to sit on (because of the drain port) but I was OUT of the house. The first time I went to Costco I started crying. I might have been literally hung over the handle of the cart but I was up and was walking through the store and it felt SO GOOD to be doing something normal again!
In July I had a scan to see if I'd healed enough to have a reversal surgery (aka ostomy take down) but the scan showed I was still leaking, so my surgeon doctor referred me to "Abby", a colon rectal specialist. Abby did more tests which showed I'd formed a fistula. She said I needed another surgery to fix it. My heart majorly sunk. It was the last thing I wanted to hear!
I shared the news on Facebook and several well meaning people messaged me to tell me about someone they knew who'd had complications and wasn't able to get a reversal after all. They wanted to prepare me in case it happened to me. I started freaking out. Really worrying that it might be the case. Then one day I clearly heard the Spirit's voice in my head again. It said, you can either be fearful or you can be faithful, but what you feed will grow. Woah.
I chose to stop worrying and start exercising my faith. I prayed for an increased ability to trust God and believe in healing miracles and I asked for more faith than I had. The surgery to fix the fistula was scheduled for August 27th. It was a MAJOR and high risk surgery that took seven hours and involved removing almost seven inches of my rectum, as well as one half of my belly button. When I found out I thought, Oh my gosh that's A LOT!! The news was not thrilling.
During the second surgery, Abby removed an orange-size pocket of yucky pussy bacteria (her words were disgustingly foul and gross - worst she’d ever seen) and after that my hair stopped falling out. Oh YAY!!! My colon also healed without further issues, which meant on October 29 I was able to have a third major abdominal surgery and finally get rid of the bag! Then as my brother Mark put it, I got to start potty training all over again. And let's just say that it was a long and uncomfortable process I wouldn't wish on anyone.
On December 5th I had a colonoscopy to see how things had healed. Abby said everything looked (surprisingly) great and she released me from her care with a clean bill of colon health. That was a HUGE WooHoo! After nine long months of steady appointments I felt so happy to be finally be free from doctors! I still ached when I stood for too long, and I was still adjusting to going to the bathroom... but finally I was free to live my life without NEEDING to go to a doctor to get something fixed!!
Four days later around noon on December 9th, I got a call saying that my oldest daughter was dead. She was forty one, and had eight children, and it was less than two and a half weeks before Christmas. Talk about shock. One is NEVER prepared for this sort of a thing to happen. My heart felt broken. We had a viewing, a funeral, and Christmas, and I somehow managed to get through it all. Then im sure because of grief and an impaired immune system I collapsed and came down with the worst case of flu ever. And I coughed so hard that my incisions which weren't completely healed, felt like they’d been ripped open on the inside.
On February 7th just as I was finally getting over the flu, my dad died. He'd been sick and his death was expected so it was much easier to process. But still.... The day after my dad passed I went back to my doctor to see what was going on with the big bulge in my stomach. He said I had a big deal hernia and would need another major surgery to fix it, but I needed more healing time first. By April the hernia had become Big grapefruit sized and finally I'd healed enough that I could have another surgery. But my pre-surgery MRI it showed I had significant masses in my lungs so my doctor said I needed to get cleared by a pulmonologist before he would do the surgery. And all I could say is SERIOUSLY?!! You have got to be kidding! He wasn’t.
So, I went to a lung doctor who said I had a serious respiratory issue and needed to have a lung biopsy. And I thought Uggh. I didn’t want to have to go through another probing test again. In May I had a three hour lung biopsy where they stuck a tube down my throat and then went through the tube to pinch a bunch of samples. When I woke up I felt like a horse had kicked me in the chest, and then my throat and neck ached for days, but at least I didn't have an incision or scar to deal with.
On my visit back to the lung doctor to find out what the biopsy results were, in all seriousness he told me I had such a severe case of sarcoidosis (aka calcified scarred lumps in my lungs) that I "should" need to be on oxygen 24/7 just to breathe, and I shouldn't be able to talk without coughing and gasping and wheezing. He said I needed to take steroids because it was the only known treatment for opening my airways. I said thank you but no. I am absolutely not taking steroids! I told him I’d keep on using essential oils. He said he didn't recommend it because there's no proof essential oils work. I said HA. I'M PROOF... just look at me, I don't have any of the symptoms you said I "should" have. He said he had to agree with me.
My lung doctor said when he looked at the screen, and then looked at me, there was a huge disconnect because I didn't match up with what he was seeing there. He said my lungs were so scarred I should look feeble and sick but instead I looked and acted about twenty years younger than my age. And I didn’t have any symptoms at all. Then he admitted my attitude was refreshing. He said when most patients learn they have a disease they're more than willing to throw in the towel. He said he wished more people were like me. And he cleared me for surgery. WooHoo! The hernia surgery was scheduled for June 25th and on June 21st my left leg started hurting and itching like crazy. Then it broke out in painful sores. On the evening of the 24th I googled shingles and realized I had a full blown case. Most of my entire left leg was covered with sores. It was so unbelievable it was ALMOST funny.
The next morning I went to the hospital and got checked in and didn't say a word while they did all the pre op stuff. When they wheeled me into surgery my doctor was walking beside me so I told him there was something going on with my leg and don't freak out when he saw it. So of course as soon as we were in the operating room he looked at my leg and with EYES WIDE OPEN said he should wait and not do the surgery till this clears up. To which I said it's not a big deal and YES YOU SHOULD... PLEASE let's just get this surgery over with... Please! Just do it now I said. I'll be fine. And LUCKILY for me, he said “against my better judgement” and went ahead and did it (and there went the rest of my belly button).
The surgery was complicated enough that I needed to stay in the hospital for three days which meant every time anyone came in my room they had to put on a hazmat suit and it was a huge pain and all of the hospital staff were talking about me, and how I had the worst case (largest area covered) of shingles anyone had ever seen. And I was just there in my bed spraying on oils and rolling doTERRA Breathe stick all over my leg to relieve the you-wouldnt-believe-how-bad-it was pain because they worked and kept me from going out of my mind. I seriously don’t know how I’d have gotten through shingles without doTERRA!! They helped tremendously.
When I looked back at the whole picture of my health crisis journey it was all so bizarre that it was actually laughable. Before my colon burst I hadn't been to a doctor or taken medicine for over two DECADES. And then, in the past sixteen months I'd been under the care of three different specialist doctors, had four major abdominal surgeries, and spent over five weeks in three different hospitals! When I think about it it's still mind boggling that it happened to me. Especially because now that I'm perfectly healthy, strong and normal again. And I don't have any of the serious side effects I'm supposed to have. Yay! THANKFULLY!! I am very grateful for the doctors and medical procedures that SAVED MY LIFE and put me back together so I can have an awesome quality of life again! But honestly, while doctors and medicine fixed me up and kept me alive... they didn't heal me.
I supported my body and MY BODY HEALED ITSELF!
Here's what I did and still do, that helped my body heal so amazingly:
I pray everyday and thank God and angels for healing me. I tell my body that I love it on a regular basis and I see all parts of myself as strong and functioning optimally.
I practice deep breathing and I envision that my colon and digestive system are functioning perfectly. I visualize any cloudiness in my lungs dissipating and I imagine that the size of my lungs is expanding. I breathe out fear and pain, and I breathe in love and light. I feel and express gratitude for all the good in my life and I thank my body for healing so perfectly.
I drink water and don’t touch soda and sugary drinks. I mainly eat a clean plant based diet. I stay away from sugar or processed food and I use doTERRA essential oils on a regular basis. I take herbs and nutritional supplements, and almost every day, I exercise and push myself to my limit. I don't do everything perfectly all of the time, but these are my habits and I continue to do them on a regular basis. And I have an AWESOME ATTITUDE!
About six months after my lung biopsy my lung doctor called me. He said he wanted to check up on me and see how my lungs were doing. I told him my lungs were doing just great. He asked if I wanted to come get a MRI and I said no, I was in Hawaii hiking mountains and I felt so good I didn’t see a need to waste time or money on a scan.
A couple of months later my lung doctor called again and I told him my lungs were still doing great and I still didn’t think I needed a scan. He said it's a miracle I don't have any symptoms. I said thanks to oils, healthy habits and positive attitude! He said I really am a miracle and he’s very happy for me. We agreed it was time for him to close out my chart.
TO SUM IT UP Life is unpredictable and sometimes out of the blue unpleasant stuff is going to happen to you. You’re going to get lemons sometimes. Even when you're doing everything you can to prevent it, hard stuff is going to happen. And it might completely rock you off your orbit. And you will likely fall down. But you don't have to stay down!! You don't have to believe all the gloom and doom stuff that other people tell you! Just because they say something, it doesn't make it so! You might not be able to control what happens to you but you can always control your attitude! You always get to choose how you're going to react to the challenging things of life!
You can make lemonade! I hope you do!
I hope when hard stuff happens to you, you will remember that YOU and your thoughts and your words and your attitude are powerful, and if you do your best to stay positive and grateful and faithful, and believe in miracles... something GOOD will come out of it.
When hard stuff happens you can either choose to turn to God and surrender, and trust Him to help you through the process. Or you can choose to turn against God and curse and blame Him for your problems. You can choose to let the hard things in life make you bitter, or you can choose to let them make you better! You can lay yourself down and think you are a victim... or you can rise up and become VICTORIOUS! I hope you will choose to let hard things make you BETTER :) I hope you will hold your head up and become victorious! Because it's this, and not your circumstances, that will make your life turn out good!
Keep your chin up and keep on making lemonade!