My wife is the Guest Blogger this week and writes about living with an illness long term:
The Thirty Nine Steps
We really welcomed our move to Cornwall. There had been some delay. We headed an ever-growing chain of interested buyers, so made the decision to arrange a bridging loan. It was risky, but John had to start his new job. We were separated for a time, but eventually moved on 5th November 1972 in the rain.
Our children – six and three – thought our new house was great, with bedrooms downstairs built into the hillside and 39 steps up to the front door. They ran up and down and in and out excitably. The beach was just down the road – a new adventure to be lived. Our new home was light and bright with views of sea and countryside. We felt really blessed.
Fortunately the house sales went through and within two months we began making our mark on our new home, starting with the upstairs bedroom. John had agreed to my mother living with us.
The moving was tiring and I had painful toes on my left foot causing me to limp and I was feeling most unwell, so introduced myself to the doctor who arranged blood tests. When I returned for the results he said it wasn’t gout, but sorry to report that it was rheumatoid arthritis, a crippling and disabling disease. Treatment was offered and he recommended seeing a R.A. consultant at Bath. I quietly received my ‘sentence’ – there was no offer of talking it through. My mother had developed R.A. after my father died and I had seen how it gradually claimed movement.
It became a daily battle, but I also saw it as an opportunity to achieve the impossible. I sought to be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend wherever I could. A three-week stay in a rheumatoid hospital was an unforgettable experience. There was an understanding amongst us. We laughed and cried and listened and encouraged each other. Drug treatment was offered and started.
Within weeks of leaving the hospital I visited my mother who was struggling. I gave all I could and wanted to stay, but returned home. She died ten days later. I was devastated. The nurse who assisted my injection suggested I speak with the new doctor. He came to our home and stayed three hours sharing his understanding and belief in a living God who comforts and helps and seeks a relationship with us. I had attended Sunday School and church services for years but the reality of a personal God had not registered.
I met Myrtle who pointed me to a retired doctor, who asked if I was a Christian. I thought I was and believed Jesus was – just – an example. She took me to a healing service where I heard the Gospel preached simply but powerfully. I responded to the heart message that Jesus died for me because He loved me. Prayer for healing followed and my body was free.We ‘flew’ home that evening. I tried to share what had happened with villagers, church and friends, but it was not received, but I chose to walk with Jesus and one step led to another. It was not an easy path, but mishandling only made me more sure of Jesus being my saviour and friend.
I became very tired ‘doing’ wherever needed and the R.A. symptoms returned and I became less and less able. John has spoken of not handling illness well, but he certainly played his part in keeping things going. I shall always be thankful that he chose to stay. Also our children coped well with an unwell mother which they say has shaped not harmed them. They are both caring father and mother with their own families.
Looking back, the years have been difficult but certainly not wasted. I was involved with playgroup as treasurer, and on the school parent teacher’s committee, started an over sixties club in the village – it’s still operating – assisted with a ladies discussion group for ten years and I visited and encouraged the elderly. For years we were very involved with the village church, where I became treasurer for twelve years, but now we are more selective. More recently I have been part of an art group and producing flower and hand drawings that speak of God’s wonderful creation and His touch. Also we have just started a singing-for-fun group, giving expression to joy.
I have had two falls within a year causing fractures and lack of balance, but I am alive and seek to live productively, but also more closely with my God. I thank God the isolation I have felt keenly when I heard of others’ activities and was not included, no longer results in feelings of rejection, but an opportunity for space with Him. I continue to believe God heals, but in His time and in His way for His glory. I wait expectantly. R.A. doesn’t kill but takes your life, but I give ongoing thanks for the Lord’s enabling and strength as I turn to Him for help and encouragement.
If you would like to read my husband’s viewpoint look here