One weekend when I visited Melbourne, I had a headache I assumed was due to preaching four times in three days, two international trips in less than a month, and life in general. The night we returned to New Zealand was August 5. The headache still lingered and a feeling of emotional exhaustion began to creep around the corners of my mind. On Tuesday, August 6, my life turned upside down.
I got up as usual, wiping the sleep from my eyes, as I headed down the hallway. As I turned the corner, I ran into the wall. What an odd sensation. I realigned myself with the entryway and started walking again. This time, my right leg didn't seem to work properly and I found myself crumbling to a chair. Assuming my leg had gone to sleep, I tried the journey one more time. This time, I could barely make it to the study. When I got to my computer, I attempted doing a Google search on vertigo and balance. One site had the letters "MS" and I just shook my head, saying, "That's not me."
My husband and I put our fears behind us and kept going about life as usual. As the days and hours started sliding by, I couldn't help but realise my limbs and eyes were not working properly. Two trips to the doctor and simple neurological tests only seemed to prove that I was stressed and tired.
My symptoms seemed to be getting worse--my vision was blurring, my head was spinning and my general lack of balance put me into a fearful state. August 12 found me at the emergency room and I remember the doctors doing multiple tests: blood, heart and mobility. The only answer seemed to be stroke, yet the doctors were not satisfied. Late that evening, I was sent for an MRI scan. The answer came back loud and clear. A doctor came to see me in a private room. He stated simply, "You have multiple sclerosis."
The words crashed to the floor and for the first time since I had been feeling unwell, I broke. I thought I just had the flu or something that would pass. But there was no denying it with the doctor sitting across from me, saying I had a terminal illness that would only get worse. Without knowing what else to do, I thanked her for her honesty and answers.
The next few weeks were a blur of tests, doctor visits and reading any information I could find about the disease. I spent many hours on the phone sharing with family and friends what was taking place in my life and how it was impacting the way I lived, felt, thought and believed.
I was slowly learning how to lean on others for support when another wave of confusion shattered my life. I woke up on Sabbath morning nauseated and unable to move. My husband took me to the hospital, where the doctors learned that one of the lesions on my brain was directly in the middle of my cerebellum. This was causing massive nausea and my vertigo. As I was transferred to my new hospital room, I withdrew to a dark place in my mind and began to plan for the worst.
When faith is tested, the devil makes sure you question every tiny belief you have in a God who cares for you. Although I knew and felt the presence of God, I couldn't even pray. I felt like I was drowning, and the despair and anger enveloped me. My ability to talk dwindled and my mobility thundered to the floor. One of my lowest points was when the nurse said I was a "falls" risk and made the note on my chart.
Through my time in hospital, I progressed from not praying to quietly reminding God that I needed Him. There was nothing I could really say. If I asked God to heal me, I started feeling guilty for even thinking He should heal me and not the next person. Yet as I struggled with God, I found myself returning to scripture. One particular passage rang clear in my mind--the reminder of the new earth and the Home with no illness, disease, death or sin, found in 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52.
Almost six weeks after being admitted to hospital, going to rehab and making daily improvements, I headed home. During this time in hospital my mother came for five weeks and spent every day by my bedside, reading and talking just to fill the time. Friends and loved ones visited and assisted my family in so many ways. It seems the easiest way God can show His presence and care for me is through other people.
I have often asked myself how much faith I had. As my body began to fall apart and my mind let me down from time to time, I began to rely on God more and more.
These six months down the road, I am not sure if healing will happen but with each step, I find a new healing in my heart. I can walk without crutches, although my garage has a wheelchair, a walker and crutches when I need them. Each time I take a step, I know God has the rest in control.
But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52. Julene Duerksen Kapao is a mother, writer and Bible teacher at Longburn Adventist College, who lives in Palmerston North, New Zealand.