|East Coast, Taiwan|
Saturday, December 12, 2015
I feel it's time to fill my friends in on what's been going on for me the past few weeks. I'm not really sure where to begin.
Do I start with some background? How I woke-up one morning with double vision? How it got worse and I went to see a neurologist? I had an MRI where they found a spot on my brain stem and this began a month of tests, and doctors' appointments and even a stay in the hospital here in Taipei. After many tests that came back pointing in a direction, I was med-evaced to the states. Chad and I went to Cleveland Clinic last week. At the clinic, I met with a neurologist, underwent another MRI then was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Do I talk about the shock? I went to bed fine, then woke up with a life changing event. When the neurologist came into my room in Taipei, I felt like I had a first row seat to the destruction of a building. Test after test carefully laid a stick of dynamite in the foundation. I watched the fuse be lit, then the building crumbled within itself, leaving a plume of dust in its place. I sat, glued to my seat, the breath sucked from me. I stared at the space that used to hold hope and dreams of life to come. Now all that could be seen was thick dust blocking all view. It hurt to have my tight grip on the life I had planned, pried open. Slowly the dust began to settle. Eventually I was able to get out of my seat and walk around the rubble. I bent and picked up a brick. I looked at it carefully. It was rough around the edges, but held possibility. It will take time. I have to adjust to a different view of my future, but new dreams will be built. They may have similar features as the last ones, but life now holds different possibilities.
Do I talk about the difference between two doctors? The neurologist here in Taipei gave me a diagnosis in the hospital. By looking at some results, he came to the conclusion of MS. Maybe it was a gut feeling he had or maybe it was simply a process of elimination. I will never forget the compassion in his eyes. He laid his hand on my shoulder and bent his head in sorrow. We may have had a bit of communication difficulty between us, but the language of compassion crosses all language barriers. The neurologist at Cleveland Clinic was great. He laid everything out in a scientific, logical manner. He explained everything to me in simple language that I could understand. He was patient and answered all my questions. In the initial meeting he gave me some hope. Patients that come in with my symptoms can go two ways. 50% get over their symptoms and never have any other problems. The other 50% go on to develop MS. I really felt the hope of being in that first group and left encouraged. I knew that if they found one spot on my spine in the MRI I would be having, then it would be confirmed MS. When we sat with him a few days later to review the results of the second MRI, I was shocked to see my spine, covered in white spots. The doctor said "You have MS" and plowed ahead into treatment options. After a few moments, he looked up and said "This is what you were expecting, isn't it?" Chad and I both mumbled a yes although I knew we were both shocked. I liked both doctors and I needed both doctors to understand what was going on. I need a doctor here and a doctor there. But the compassion in the doctor here is something I will always remember. Even though he deals with difficult cases every day, he still felt something inside of himself that reached out to me. It wasn't just clinical to him, he took a moment to remember that I am a person and this will change the rest of my life.
Do I talk about my faith? It's central to who I am and I can not go through anything large or small without it directly influencing my response. Throughout this time, I have been amazed at the cloud of peace I've been riding. I don't have an unrealistic notion that the road ahead will be easy. I don't think the symptoms will magically disappear and I will go on with only memories of this time. I do know that Jesus will continue to hold my hand through this. On the good days and the bad. I don't believe that MS is a punishment for something I did. I don't believe that God was pouring out sickness on the world and this is what I got. I do believe that this world is full of horrible, awful things and that when they come to my world, I don't have to deal with them alone. I believe that God is walking there with me through those things. I don't have to do this alone.
After spending a few days with my family and a few close friends, I heard several stories of people who are doing great with MS. The hope of medication is that it will stop the progression of the disease. Nothing can undo the damage that has already been done. There is hope that we can slow things down and MS will have little effect on my life ahead.
The idea of living life with purpose each day has been prominent in my mind. Sometimes it takes a good shake to look at life and determine to get rid of some of the clutter. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that yet, but I think it is important. There are things I feel are important, and when they get pushed aside because of clutter, then it's time for change.
Just as being a Christian and an expat directly influence my blog and what I am thinking about, MS will now be added to that mixture.