Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sometimes Lent is Literal

Well, it's been a challenging winter and the Lord apparently is not finished with me yet. I took a fall last November (off a skateboard - don't ask) and ended up with a massive right rotator cuff tear. After doctor visits, an MRI, and more doctor visits I ended up with surgery at UVA on January 20th to repair the tear. Another surprise turned up during surgery. My biceps had shifted and had to be cut and reattached. After several weeks I went into PT and have been doing well at regaining my range of motion and strength. Then about a week before Ash Wednesday I started having slurred speech and ended up in the emergency room at Shenandoah Hospital with them thinking I might be having a TIA (mini stroke). So they sent me for a CAT scan - no bleeding in the brain thank God. And then off in an ambulance to Winchester where they did an MRI - no active stroke, but couldn't rule out the TIA. So home again and a search for a neurologist to find out what's going on.

The neurologist wasn't sure so she ordered some tests. This was the day before Ash Wednesday and on Friday we left for our daughter's in Zelienople, PA to see one granddaughter play Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz and enjoy a piano recital with our other four granddaughters. Over the weekend I started having blurred vision and a drooping eyelid (fortunately the day after the play). Oh joy!

So when we returned to Virginia I called the neurologist and she had me come in the same afternoon. The new symptoms gave a clearer diagnosis and a shifted direction in tests and treatment. After a neuro-muscular test with shocks and needlepricks the next morning the diagnosis was confirmed. I have an auto-immune disease called Myashenia Gravis. (What a mouthful!) It is a disease of the junction between nerves and muscles. For some reason my body is attacking the chemicals that send information to the muscles to do their thing. Antibodies gobble up the chemical causing muscle weakness which explains the drooping eyelid, the slurred speech, and the double vision. In retrospect I can identify some minor muscle weakness in my legs making it a little difficult to get up out of a chair.

In some ways it was a relief to get a diagnosis, but I can hardly call it good news to hear that you have an incurable disease, especially when the doctor told Larry it would be prudent to take a course in the Heimlich maneuver. Fortunately, while I've had some difficulty chewing, swallowing hasn't been an issue. And as the doctor said, "Don't hang up the crepe." So I'm working on being optimistic and cheerful.

I confess, though, that Stations of the Cross last evening was difficult. To be saying, "I embrace all the sufferings You have destined for me until death," takes on new meaning when one's in the midst of real sufferings rather than offering potential ones. To say, "I will not refuse the cross as Simon did: I accept and embrace it," is an easy proclamation when all your sufferings are minor, but can I do it? I want to. So I cling to the plea, "I beg You, by all You suffered in carrying Your cross, to help me carry mine with Your perfect peace and resignation." I think  I will pray that often.

I read recently that St. Jose Maria Escriva would lament on a day he had no serious suffering, "Don't you love me anymore, Lord." I know Mother Teresa told suffering souls that Jesus was kissing them. And St. Therese of Lisieux often said she preferred the vinegar of suffering to the sweetness of consolation. I hope to walk in their footsteps; I'm not there at present. But I know Jesus and His sweet Mother are walking with me on the road of trials  along with my guardian angel and patron saints. So I've decided to consider my disease, called MG for short, as "my gift from God." Please help me, Lord, to embrace it with joy and use it for your glorification, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.