A continuation of my faith journey with Crohns disease.
One of the benefits of having a chronic illness is that it never goes away… i.e., the term “chronic.” What often happens with Crohns patients is that, at the ileum, over a five year period, ulcers will continue to occur until there is enough scar tissue to cause a complete blockage of the intestinal tract. Other primary symptoms during this process is intestinal swelling, which causes a bloating of the stomach.
So, during the first five years of having Crohns I would have to deal with these intense bouts of intestinal swelling and stomach pain. My intestines would swell shut, but, apparently, the stomach and intestines are not on speaking terms, as the stomach would continue to attempt to move food into the intestinal tract even though it had completed swelled shut. The end result is that pressure would continue to grow in the stomach and I would get more and more bloated. For me, this entire process took about 14 hours of excruciating pain. At the peak, my stomach was so bloated I looked nine months pregnant.
Now, Paul, who had to deal with all of this years before I did, taught me an important lesson. Taking a lead from our mother, who spent our childhood instructing us to offer up our problems to God, Paul said that, when going through these cramping phases, to offer that intense suffering up to God. “If you’re going to go through the pain anyway, why not offer it up to God and let him do with it what he wills. Maybe it will decrease the suffering of someone else, maybe you will be rewarded with greater mercy or grace… I don’t know, but the important thing is not to waste the suffering.”
No one knows why God allows suffering. Maybe it’s as simple as that, through suffering, many people are brought to prayer. Maybe suffering is the end result of a series of free will decisions that ended badly. Who knows? Paul’s point was to offer the suffering Crohns was giving us to God as a sacrifice. So, when these waves of intestinal bloating and cramping would hit, I would offer it up to God. In the most basic sense, doing so at least gave the event some purpose, some greater meaning than me just lying on the bathroom floor counting the seconds until the pain subsided.
About the time when these cramping events became more frequent and intense, my wife and I were now married and she was pregnant with my daughter. I had been going with her to natural childbirth classes, going over breathing techniques and regulating pain, etc. So, as I’m on the floor one night in the bathroom, I thought to myself, “you know, I’m going to time how long each of these waves of cramping last. I’ll uses these breathing techniques from the childbirth class and see if I can regulate my pain. Plus, I’ll be able to get an idea of what my wife will go through when our daughter enters the world.”
So, I’m lying on the floor and the next wave hits. Click! I hit the timer on my watch and breathe. Breathe. Pain. Breathe. Pain. Breathe. Pain. The pain is so intense I lose all sense of time. Suddenly the pain begins to subside. When it completely dissipates, CLICK! I look at my watch, proudly. Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds! That was it! Thirty measly seconds? I was like “Holy crap!” But I didn’t say crap. “Wow! Giving birth is going to stink!”
Which moves us to the second time Crohns almost killed me.
To be continued…