For those that know me well or follow me on this blog, you probably remember me proclaiming my word for the year at the beginning of 2016. “What if?” I know that’s technically 2 words, but when you hashtag it – it works. #whatif.
I’m a dreamer and a doer. I love to have my head in the clouds, but there are also times when I just put my head down and get stuff done. It’s a unique tension in my life that I’ve learned to embrace. There have been so many wonderful “What if…” moments this year that I could fill all of 2017 with blogs to inspire what if’s in your own life. However, this is NOT that kind of POST.
This post is not about all the “what ifs” that got me pumped up, it’s about the ONE “what if” that had me jacked up for almost 10 months of this year.
What if…my heart never recovers?
I almost wish I was speaking emotionally or metaphorically about lost love or dreams that were crushed because of circumstances (almost – because I do understand that this has happened for people who struggle with this question and I don’t want to minimize their experience nor would I wish that on anyone). No, I’m speaking about the very real, odd shaped, irreplaceable muscle that pumps the life-blood through our bodies. MY HEART!
Here’s the backstory.
On Feb 12th, I was admitted to the hospital after a trip to the ER where I had some trouble breathing only to be diagnosed with a viral cardiomyopathy. They actually don’t know what causes this, but a very specific virus attacks the heart and weakens it by reducing the percentage of blood it pumps for you. It’s a slow and silent disease that most don’t notice until they visit the hospital for a different symptom and it’s discovered OR you have a cardiac arrest OUT OF THIN AIR no matter your age, health, or physical fitness lifestyle! Your “normal” percentage of blood pumping is 60% (which means every time your heart pumps, 60% is blood and the rest is oxygen and other necessities). I was functioning at 5-10%.
After 10 months that started off with wearing a defibrillator life vest and being pumped full of 4 different kinds of medicine, I can say that I’ve seen progress. I quickly rose back up to 35% within 8 weeks! However, the last 7 months have only produced a 10% change (up to 45%) and it seems to have plateaued in the last 3. This should be good news, but because my heart is not back to “normal” yet, I am forced to live on a cocktail of beta blockers, ace inhibitors, and a blood pressure medicine that GREATLY reduces my energy level, mood, and physical ability.
My ONE WORD for 2014 was FOCUS and it’s where I began focusing on my health. I lost 69 pounds in 12 months and with the help of a local doctor, was able to address my metabolism as well my insulin resistance (both of which caused me not to be able to gain muscle and was a fast track to diabetes). Huge thanks got Dr. Galvin, Mike & Katie Dixon (KadiFit), Nate Olsen (HopeFit), and Diamond Dallas Page for his YRG program – and of course all of my friends, family, and church family who supported me on this journey.
So, I spent 16 months getting to know my body better and seeing AMAZING improvements in my health and life… only to spend the last 10 with a governor on my heart that has kept me from experiencing any of the growth and health I had JUST gotten a taste for.
Back to my “What if” question that I never planned on asking this year. What if my heart never recovers?
This kind of question is filled with possible negative answers. There is almost no positive way to spin the direction of this contemplation without blanket phrases like “well at least I’m not dead…” or “ it’s not that bad, who needs to go hiking anyway?” I have close friends that live with chronic pain and illness and have pondered this on their behalf before, but this year it was much harder to move from the theoretical answers to the very real prospect that I might be looking at a NEW NORMAL for my life that I would never want for anyone.
However, one of my more recent messages had to do with the topic of “unanswered prayers.” The kind of prayers that pray for healing & deliverance, but from our perspective God said “NO” or “NOT YET” or anything in between, because nothing seemed to change and maybe only got worse.
One (of the many) scriptures I referenced and has stuck with me is from 2 Corinthians 12:7-8;
2 Corinthians 12:7 Even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Paul speaks of a “thorn.” Scholars and people smarter than me have tried to figure out what it was and all of them have different ideas. Some think it was emotional or spiritual oppression. Some think it might have been mental instability or illness (like bi-polar or depression). Many believe it to be physical on account of his history of being beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and in-prisoned over his life.
Whatever it was, he seemed to have landed on an answer from God that brought him a certain amount of peace. I do appreciate that he never stopped praying and asking God to REMOVE the thorn. But the answer didn’t seem to change – I assume based on the fact that the “thorn” remained even after begging God to remove it.
So, to be honest, I’m in a very similar place as I start 2017.
I’m not sure what my ONE WORD will be, nor do I know for certain what the next year holds for me. I do know that as I look back over 2016 (even with my heart condition) God has been incredibly faithful and has done amazing things in and through me, regardless of my health. The stories of life change, through those at my church and those around the world that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of, continue to happen and God continues to use me in ways that ALWAYS surprise me.
I won’t stop asking for prayer over my heart, nor will I stop asking God to completely heal this issue and get me off these medications that govern my daily activity. I don’t think that is dishonoring to God, or at least not until I get a peace that I shouldn’t ask for that anymore.
No, I plan to press forward into a NEW YEAR of incredible WHAT IF’s and the vision God has for me and those around me. I will wake up every day and know that regardless of my seemingly chronic ailment that God’s grace is all that I need and that He always SHOWS UP and SHOWS OFF when I humbly rely on HIM to accomplish more than I could ask or imagine and not my own strength or ability to make things happen.
What if my heart never recovers?
So be it! God will continue to use me and I will continue to live my life for Him!