A cousin of mine.
I feel like the less i say the better as to not take away from her story just as it is.
She is beautiful and courageous.
Here she is – The article she wrote for me and a quote to start off with.
“It always amazes me to think that every house on every street is full of so many stories; so many
triumphs and tragedies, and all we see are yards and driveways.” –Glenn Close
I like stories with tension to resolve, truth to uncover, and explanations for the unexplainable. I love
real-life stories, also, where things are unpredictable… but it took a while for me to become comfortable
with my own story.
This particular part of my story started in August 2003 when I went to a Lancaster City hospital for
vaccinations. I had just graduated from high school that spring and the whole world lay before me to be
explored, experienced, and embraced. On this hot, humid day I was getting 5 vaccinations in preparation
for a long-dreamed-of-missions trip to India.
About 12 hours after receiving these 5 vaccination’s my body began to react violently. I started to shake
and felt incredibly cold. I was chilled to the bone despite the oppressive heat of August. As the minutes
and hours passed I experienced symptoms I had never felt in my life – the feeling of being sunburnt from
head to toe and a migraine – along with flu-like symptoms of fever and nausea. The next day and a half
is still only a blur in my memory. When I finally pulled through the worst I crawled – not walked – out of
My body seemed to really bounce back after the odd reaction. At that time no doctor or nurse looked
deeper into what caused the reaction or wanted to take responsibility for my case. I was able to go on
that mission’s trip to India and both the reaction to the vaccines, and that day in August, were pushed
into the back ground as I bounded forward in life.
But odd symptoms kept cropping up over the next year. Many caring people filled with get-well-tips
and answers told me to try this, take that, and go there. We began to run test after test but each one
returned negative. One doctor finally pulled my mom aside and asked her if we have a history of mental
illness in our family; he was strongly suggesting that my pain was merely in my head.
By the 2 year mark I was not only officially sick but my immune system was also crashing. I was being
diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Adrenal Fatigue, Lyme Disease, and a myriad of other diagnosis.
I have always been a dreamer. I have dreamed a thousand dreams that died a thousand deaths. Now I
was being forced to learn to live with pain and the limitations my compromised health presented. For
the first five years, or more, I kept giving things up as my condition seemed to slowly worsen. Every
low point seemed to get a little lower. I stopped drawing. I finally even asked my brothers to pack up
the remains of my art studio. My life-long dream of living in India was put on the shelf. And when I
tried learning to play the Ukulele I soon hung that up when the more complicated chords proved to be
impossible to play with swollen, arthritic joints.
I learned so much about God, and about myself, in the past 10 years that I finally was able to embrace
my pain as a gift. I learned that my self-worth doesn’t come from what I can do but from who I am in
Jesus. I learned how to live life slowly enjoying moments instead of always looking forward to the next
big event. I learned to let go… most of the time. I learned that that as nice as it is to have things “nice”
my perfectionistic tendencies could be the death of me. Though I don’t always feel confident in my
ability to face whatever my future holds I am always confident that I can cling tightly to the hands of
The One who holds my future. I learned to laugh loudly and to laugh often. And it really is true what the
great philosophers have said that the more deeply you allow yourself to experience your pain the more
deeply you will be able to experience joy.
I’d be lying if I led you to believe this journey has made a saint out of me. You can ask the people who
live with me and they will assure you I am still quite human. Many days I just made it through by the
grace of God. I could only laugh because I had already cried till my eyes were dry. I could only smile
because I had chosen to find joy in something outside of myself. I could only keep on going because I
knew that this here-and-now-life was merely a prelude to my Real Life in Heaven. And some days I only
hung on because people were praying for me.
This has been the longest journey ever in which I have changed so much I barely recognize myself. Pain
has a way of making a person rethink everything they previously thought they knew. These days my
lows are not so dramatic and low, and my highs keep getting better. I do still live with daily pain and
take pain medication. And though it took many, many years till I finally found a doctor who recognized
what actually happened the day I reacted to those vaccinations – and began to take steps toward
dealing with heavy metal toxicity that caused the reaction in the first place – I am still on a bumpy,
painful journey of healing. The many previous diagnosis that were given to me are slowly disappearing.
Every year holds fresh hope and more healing. Except for a few swollen joints in my hands, and an
occasional limp in my walk, I can appear “normal” to the public eye. But my life isn’t quite normal and
pain is still my daily companion.
Right now I am waiting to hear back from the Paracelsus Klinik Lustmuhle in St. Gallin, Switzerland. I
am not sure exactly what the correspondence will include but they have received my complete medical
history, my current diagnosis, and my state-side doctor’s suggested treatment. I believe the e-mail will
confirm if they can help me, how long I would need to stay in Switzerland, and what their treatment
plan would cost. I have done my research and my doctor has been observing this Klinik for years. This
particular Klinik opened over 50 years ago, and while some of the procedures they specialize in are
now available in the States everything State-side is still dubbed research. I feel confident that this Klinik
would offer me what I need to take my health to a whole new level. I also hope to be able to reduce – or
even eliminate – my pain and have medical assistance to come off the narcotics I am currently taking to
manage it. I don’t have a clue where all the $$ will come from to pay for this trip but that is where I have
to move forward praying, believing, and trusting.
In all my wild dreaming I never dreamt of traveling to Switzerland. I am still learning that God is full
of surprises, and delights in delighting His children. And so, as I wait to hear from the small country of
Switzerland I have been immersing myself in all things Swiss. I went from knowing nothing to actually
feeling like I am getting a feel for Switzerland. I really was/am ignorant about this beautiful little country
that is light-years head of the US in the medical field. It is absolutely fascinating! This little land-locked
country of 8,136,700 people has four official languages, a rich cultural history, and a library containing
books dating back to the 9th century. There is so much more to Switzerland than its cheese and The Alps.
Besides currently researching Switzerland I love all things related to words and writing. Writing has
become not only an outlet but also a way of processing My Story. I love spending time with my five
favorite little girls: 4 nieces and 1 god-daughter. And my 4 nephews hold a very special place in my heart
also. My sisters are best friends and biggest cheerleaders, and I hang out at their houses whenever I
get a chance. Relationships are important to me and I try to spend as much time as I can with my family
and friends when I am not in therapy or going to another doctor appointment. Music and laughter and
counting-my-blessings has also been my go-to when pain tries to strangle the joy out of living.
And so, here’s to encouraging you as you live out your story: let’s stop living life mechanically and
choose to take the time to embrace the moments. Life is not about that next stage or the next chapter;
life is NOW. Like every good story ours will also be filled with pain and joy, triumph and tragedy,
confusion and clarity. But in embracing our stories, and handing the pen back to God, we can find
meaning in it all and new purpose in what seems to be complete purposelessness.
Diane is talking again so as not to confuse you.
Marita and i are not close in age. Not that it matters in real life but i say that to say that until i read this article it was a little fuzzy to me about how this part of her story started. I remember the day (years ago) that i was introduced to her art studio. I was shocked. I had no idea the kind of talent she had. I don’t remember a single picture i looked at but i remember the feeling of wonder. Just the feeling from walking in and looking around. She HAS serious talent. I only saw it once. I’m dissapointed that she can’t use that talent anymore. Or that it is no longer hers. But she found a way to move past it. And develop other talents. Just as beautiful and just as strong. I WANT to be that. No one would ever ask for the kind of journey Marita is on. She is owning her life the whole way and i read her story over and over and over… Marita, I loved taking your photos. I love your creativity that you brought to the shoot. Past and Present is represented with no bitterness or pride. Only LOVE and a big big heart. Your story makes me smile and hurt at the same time and that is what life is made of.
Her baby goddaughter.
I hope her story has inspired you, too. Happy Monday. -Diane