It is Well with my Soul BYU Vocal Point

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Decision no one would Want to Make

On Tuesday of this week (today is Friday), I went for an appointment in NYC to a new rheumatologist (arthritic disease doctor).  Initially, I'd thought that the doctor would only be as a consult to give a second opinion about my recent tentative diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).  But the doctor was so wonderful that I'm sure I will be seeing and talking to him again.  I got his name from NY Magazine's list of top doctors in New York.  He headed the list for rheumatology...and I found out when I sat in his examining room and saw from the plaques awarded to him by that magazine, that he'd done the same for the past three consecutive years.  When I was with him for a few moments, I immediately saw why he'd received this honor.  He has to be one of the nicest individuals I've ever encountered.  He was concerned, respectful and willing to bend over backward to meet my needs.  He even assisted me in putting my socks back on following his exam of me (I am unable to do this without an assistive device.)  This expression of humility and understanding made a huge impression on me.

He did not feel that I have AS as the pattern of my spinal fusions do not follow the typical pattern for that disease.  Rather he said I have Psoriatic Spondylopathy, which is a sub-classification of a symptom of my main disease PA (Psoriatic Arthritis), in which the arthritis fuses the vertebrae together into one immovable unit.  Already in my neck I have 3 levels of fusion and am unable to turn my head very far in any direction.  There is a marked progression of damage to my spine in just the past year and this is visible on the MRI films.  For this reason and because of the severity of the disease in the remainder of my joints, the doctor felt that I really must begin to take a biologic such as Enbrel--despite the very great risk it carries to me personally because of my extremely weak immune system and propensity to develop major infections which rapidly turn into life-threatening situations.  Already I've had MRSA (2x), endocarditis (and infection of a valve in the heart), cerebral-spinal meningitis (infection of the spinal cord and brain), and multiple pneumonias.

He told me of the seriousness of the decision I have to make...and told me that if I do not decide to treat the PA with these drugs I will rather quickly have an extremely poor quality of life. I know from my reading that because of the spinal involvement this risk includes the risk of total paralysis and death.  So ultimately, I must weigh the worst of the two outcomes with each other in order to make this decision: total paralysis and much pain or death.  Which would you choose?  Sounds like a lose/lose situation to me.

Because I love the Lord Jesus and claim him as my Lord and Savior....I know that when I die I will go to be with him in his kingdom....so the risk of death does not frighten me.  Actually I look forward eagerly to that time with great anticipation...so initially my first reaction was to be willing to try the Biologic drugs...because that, and some very unpleasant side effects are "all" I am risking.  AND (not least of my considerations) the possible wonderful benefit I could gain: an improvement in my symptoms and a slowing of the disease. However, when I prayed for guidance--because ultimately, my desire is to do whatever it is God deems to be according to his desires and plan for me; not my own--he led me to two verses (which I'd not particularly noted before): Hebrews 10:35-36...which say:
So don't throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward.  For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what he has promised.

While these verses could be "stretched" to include either of the two options...the word-choice would really seem to indicate a continuation of the current condition in which I find myself: a maintaining and holding out, if you will. While I was not excited to see God evidently showing this angle of preference on his part....I must consider it to be something I must take into consideration.  In fact, his will is not something I would merely "take into consideration."  I want to flat out obey it...because I know that his way is the right way and ultimately the best, most beneficial path for me as well.  How can this be?  Here are a few options: God may decide to glorify himself by healing me in a miraculous way.  Or God may use me in a nursing home as a light bringing honor to him--And I know that in either way, God will receive honor...and I will be rewarded far above and beyond the extent of my suffering once I am at home in Heaven, and God will be present with me and strengthen me to endure--as he has been thus far.

And then my daughter, when I told her of my inclination initially to choose to take the Enbrel, expressed a very obvious hesitation and dismay at that possibility.  I then read to her the verses I just mentioned here and asked her what she thought of them...and her response was also to say that it sounds like God wants me to stay as I am: unmedicated by a biologic.  She said at the conclusion of our conversation, despite the fact that she has not considered herself to be a Christ-follower to this point: that this expression by God was something that must be taken into consideration.

And then tonight, as I was reading my Bible, a verse jumped out at me:

2 Timothy 4:5 NLT

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you.
As I read them, the decision I have to make was not even in my mind.  I wondered at why the verses seemed to have been highlighted in bright colors to me, even though they were not even underlined in my Bible...Then, after considering them for a while, I put them aside...But as my  mind later turned to my decision, suddenly I thought of them again...And whoala! There you have the application and the purpose for which God had made these words leap out at me from the page.

Am I convinced yet?
Wellllll.....honestly, it goes against every single one of my desires.  And all of my common sense.  And every bit of "advice" I've been given....but then the words of Oswald Chambers come immediately to mind:

Always measure your life solely by the standards of Jesus.  Submit yourself to His yoke, and His alone; ....
and
God allows the opinion of other saints to matter to you , and yet you become less and less certain that others really understand the step you are taking.  You have no business trying to find out where God is leading--the only thing God will explain to you is Himself.

Also my words here are NOT meant to indicate that you should do something foolish or risky...but that you must clearly understand the path that God is showing you and have confirmation through his Word and from much prayer.   And you must never confuse your desires with the "will of God."   For example, I personally hate taking medication--of any kind. And were it up to me; I would never swallow another pill again.  However this choice is NOT up to me.  It is a result of a number of illnesses I have which mandate that I take certain meds.  Illnesses such as hypothyroidism and Schizophrenia and hypertension.  Not taking these medicines would result in illness, risk, and discomfort...even worse than the discomfort of swallowing some pills every day.  For example, do you think that God would ever lead an insulin-dependent diabetic to not take his insulin?? NO, Never.The same is true for the illnesses I have ... However, in the case of my PA and the biologics: This was  a choice given to me by my doctor because it bears equal risk for either option.  And this is altogether a different topic than a person with  serious mental illness deciding on their own, to cease to take their medicine. Just as God would never lead a person to leap from a building; he would not lead you to cease to take medicines you need.

I think this post has quite been long enough; don't you??  Please pray for me as I  make my final decision known to the doctor and explain to them the reasons.  Pray that I can use these explanations as a way to give God glory...and that they will be understood.  Be blessed today.
Post a Comment