Thursday, 16 September 2021

T To Your Health

Living with a Chronic Illness

by Guest Columnist, Alison LaFrence, MD

 


 

As a physician, I have treated many people with chronic pain. However, I never appreciated the depths of their suffering until I developed chronic migraine headaches.

 

Twenty years ago, my life was so different from what it is today. I was working full-time as a Family Physician in a small town just south of Minneapolis. I had a busy practice I greatly enjoyed. Taking care of women during their pregnancies, as well as delivering their babies, were the most rewarding parts of my job. I had married a wonderful man, a Christian physician, and we looked forward to starting a family together. We were healthy, happy, and content with our lives when the walls around us came tumbling down.

 

In August of 1995, I was diagnosed with viral encephalitis. When I recovered, three life-long thorns remained for me: a seizure disorder, mild brain injury, and disabling migraines. My medica­tions now control my seizures well and I have recovered from most, but not all, of my cognitive disabilities. Unfortunately, I continue to suffer from twice-weekly migraine headaches.

 

I remember curling up in our gray leather chair and crying for hours when I first understood the gravity of my life-changing health problems. I was taking over twenty pills a day to prevent seizures and to help control my migraines. Some of these medica­tions cause birth defects, which prevented us from having children. My “thorns” also restricted my ability to work as a Family Physi­cian. As tears filled my eyes, I began to pray, “Where can I get the strength and help to go on?”

 

Every day, I returned to that leather chair. It became a place of refuge where I could open up my heart to the Lord in prayer. In this chair, I started reading the Bible every morning. When I came upon Psalm 121, I found hope and comfort in its verses. Years ago, I had memorized this Psalm, and since then, I have used its verses to help me through the most difficult moments of my life:

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (ESV).

 

The majority of my migraines happen in the early morning hours, between one and five a.m. If I take the proper medication, most of these headaches stop by mid-morning. Three or four times a month, my migraines become much more intense. These un­remitting migraine headaches resolve only with the help of the Lord, my husband, and several medications. Once these exhausting headaches finally subside, I feel washed-out and non-functional for the remainder of the day.

 

When I first wake up with the throbbing in my head and the churning in my stomach I try to relax my body and focus my thoughts on the first few verses of Psalm 121: From where does my help come? MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD [emphasis added].

 

When the pounding pain and nausea worsen, I soon find myself on the bathroom floor, retching uncontrollably into the porcelain throne. My shak­ing hands hold up my head as tears run down my face. The thundering pain continues and it takes all my remaining strength to focus my mind on the psalmist’s words: MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD.

 

During these migraines, John, my beloved husband, stays by my side rubbing my back, giving me medication, and gently helping me back into bed. As the pain terminates and my head starts to become fogged over by sleep, I give thanks to the Lord for helping me through another difficult night.

 

For years now, Psalm 121 has given me comfort and hope when I have been in the depths of pain and despair. During our journey through life, the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth is always awake, protecting us every hour of the day and every moment of the night. The Lord is as close as our shadow and infinitely available for those who place their faith and trust in him. For suffering be­lievers, the Lord watches over our lives, from birth until death, keeping us from evil, from this time forth and forevermore.

 

It is so good to know that our tears and pain are finite in nature, as one day believers will all be called heavenward in Christ, our Savior and Lord:

 

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:16-17, ESV).

 

Until that fateful day arrives for me, I know my all-powerful, in­finite keeper is always at my right hand.

 

For I know: MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD.

 

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Our Favorite Psalms

About the Alison LaFrence, MD: 

 

ALISON LAFRENCE, MD, is a Family Physician. Since 2002, Alison and her husband, John, have been traveling every year to Cameroon where they help teach a month-long class to improve the skills of village midwives. Her BA is from Illinois State Univer­sity, her MD is from Southern Illinois University School of Medi­cine, and her Family Medicine Training took place at the University of Minnesota. Alison and John have been married since 1990. They live in Burnsville, Minnesota.

 

This article is excerpted from a chapter in the recently released book, Our Favorite Psalms (Arvada, CO: Healthy Life Press, 2016). For more information, see: www.healthylifepress.com.

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

DBiebel headshot

 

Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.


His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press (www.healthylifepress.com) to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

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        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE

 

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