“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'” – James 4:13-15 NLT
I am a storyteller. It is at the core of who I am, a bubbling brook of words flowing over the milestones of the human experience.
Usually I tell a story from beginning to end, which implies there is an end to tell. The story I am going to tell today does not have an end, because right now, we are in the thick, ugly middle of it.
This story must be written, because I can no longer articulate it verbally. My husband has grown weary of explaining over and over again why we would cancel the trip of a lifetime that we have had planned for 7 months. And because this is a rather sad, disappointing story, I will illustrate with some Ryan Peak joy, because perhaps nothing is less depressing than a squirrel.
Let’s start with this, shall we?
Friends, that’s me. I climbed up, made all the calculations, counted the cost, and jumped for the prize. And today I find myself sprawled out on the ground, watching the world spin around me. This story begins and ends with sickness.
In late January, I came down with a cold. I tried to work through it, but after two weeks I decided to take a day off work to rest and let my body kick it for good. Because I was not capable of true nothingness, I decided to spend the day planning the dream vacation we had been discussing: a 3 week trip to the garden isle of Kauai.
I planned our vacation down to the last iota. I researched flights, booked 2 different campsites, reserved a shuttle to the trailhead and storage for our luggage during the backpacking trip, rented two houses on VRBO, scoured reviews on all the restaurants in the vicinity, chose all the excursions and documented their associated costs, and tied the bow on top with a two-night stay at the Hyatt complete with beachside massage for 2.
Of course I quickly recovered from that cold. Half a trip around the sun later, the event I affectionately refer to as The Sting transpired.
On August 31, I was beckoned outside the air conditioned office by the Sun, shining in stark contrast to the past two dreary days. So I decided to take the compost out to the bin, something I had done often for years. As I emptied the bag into the bin in the woods behind the building, I noticed a swarm of insects fly out. In true Jasminesque style, I leaned in to ascertain the species.
“Ouch!” I felt a pinch on the back of my arm, the word “bee” flashed through my mind, and I took off running, feeling two more stings on the back of my leg before reaching the safety of the door.
I calmly walked up to the front desk and told our office manager, Sue, what had happened. She fussed over me a bit, “You aren’t allergic are you?”
“Nope. It’s really no big deal.”
She helped me apply hydrogen peroxide. I made a bag of ice, and returned to my desk, alternating the ice between my arm and leg.
I wanted to rip my arm and leg off that night, they itched so badly. By the next morning both were completely swollen up and bright red, itchy, painful, and altogether unpleasant. I was sent home early from work and looked forward to a 4 day weekend to let the swelling subside.
I rested the remainder of the weekend and the swelling did go down. By Tuesday, it had dwindled to a few benign bumps. Wednesday afternoon, 7 days after The Sting, I was at work when suddenly my arm and leg started breaking out in itchy hives. I went home, took some Benadryl, and took a nap. I woke up groggy a few hours later and the hives were worse. It was unbearable. I had to do something.
I had an hour before urgent care closed, and the website said the wait was “Zero Minutes” at the Delafield clinic. By the time I got there, my limbs looked like this:
The doctor gave me a steroid shot and prescribed a heavy duty steroid cream to suppress my body’s reaction. I headed to the pharmacy 15 minutes before they closed and waited in the drive thru for 14 minutes behind an angry customer in a black SUV. I pulled up to the window and tried to hand the prescription to the flustered pharmacist.
“Sorry, we’re closed. You will have to go to the 24-hr pharmacy.”
I would like to say I tried to hold back tears, but there was no fight left in me. There I was, bawling in the Walgreens Drive-Thru. She took mercy on me and filled my prescription. I made it home and collapsed into Jimmy’s arms, a blubbering, blotchy, emotional train-wreck, unable to do anything more than lick my wounds.
I remember thinking Well, it could be worse. At least this didn’t happen right before Hawaii! And Ugh, I would take pain over itching any day!
Over the next 4 days, the hives subsided along with the itching. Still, I just felt “off,” and not myself. I attributed it to the abnormal amount of medication I had taken and tried to tough it out at work on Monday. I did survive until 4pm, but was far from productive. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t remember, and just could not form rational thoughts. Not a great combination when you think critically for a living.
That night, I decided to make an appointment with Primary Care. In addition to the brain fog, my joints were starting to feel weird (read: achy) and I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t yet know how wrong it could get.
Anyone who has ever sought a diagnosis for an inexplicable ailment knows what happens next.
Primary care. Labs. Primary care follow up. All labs are normal. Immunologist. More labs. All labs are normal again.
Except…(drum roll please)…I am severely allergic to all species of Anthophilia (bees) and Vespidae (wasps). Yellow jackets being the worst (my coworkers later identified the nest). Somehow I survived 23 years and innumerable stings without this knowledge. I was prescribed an Epi-Pen and sent on my merry way. Thanks, you superstar sleuths!
Except, wait, I’m still in severe pain and suffering from brain fog, memory loss, headaches, neck stiffness, and fatigue 4 weeks after The Sting.
At that point, I decided to pursue a more “outside-the-box” doctor. For a hefty sum, I got to tell my story and pick his brain for an hour. I would describe the session as “drinking from a firehouse with my jaw wired shut.”
Bless his heart, he wrote it all down and emailed it to me. I left his office with some natural supplements, dietary restrictions (goodbye pizza and ice cream) and doctor’s orders to stay in bed for another month to let my immune system, brain, and hormones do damage control from the nuclear bomb. He was certain I would be better in a month, but said call if nothing changes.
Alas, here is why you are reading this post: A month in bed would leave me 4 days late for our flight to Kauai.
The first week of our trip is supposed to be an 11-mile, 5 night backpacking excursion on the most difficult trail we’ve ever hiked, into Kalaulau Valley. I can barely carry laundry downstairs right now, to put this into perspective.
At this point, Jimmy and I had to have one of the most difficult conversations we have ever had. We discussed briefly, agreed to pray separately, and discussed again 3 days later. We both had received the same answer from the Lord:
“Cancel the trip. I will take care of you.”
Not just the backpacking, but all of it. The flights and the houses and the hotel and the Jeep and the excursions. Down to the last iota.
Because honestly, I just can’t.
Today marks 37 days since The Sting. Here is how my past 4 weeks have looked:
- I wake up in the morning, usually from pain. I lie restless for a few hours until I finally muster the strength to get out of bed and into the recliner.
- At some point, I will need something from downstairs. I debate back and forth if it’s worth the painful trip, and decide that I do indeed need to eat and drink water if I don’t want to end up in the hospital, so I make my way downstairs, knees, ankles, hips, and back screaming the whole way.
- When I get downstairs, I have completely forgotten why I came down there. I try to tidy up, unload the dishwasher, or wipe the counters, and my shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands join in the screeching chorus.
- I talk with family on the phone to let them know how I’m doing (same as yesterday), each word a struggle, often losing my train of thought mid-sentence.
- I spend the vast majority of my day on a heated blanket, reading my bible, journaling, reading books, and writing (but honestly mostly just watching birds, squirrels, and falling leaves).
- I leave the house as rarely as possible, because driving, human interaction, and not being in a recliner cause me great stress and pain right now. Usually it’s once per week.
- To sum it all up, I just can’t. Do anything I used to be able to do. Except write. Somehow that was spared, though it comes much more slowly. But hey, I got time.
With the exception of the squirrels, this post is pretty bleak. Yes, it really hurts to cancel our honeymoon, be unable to work for an extended period of time, and have much of what makes me, “me” stripped away. My fingers are being pried from the steering wheel of my life, one by one. My plans have crumbled, and finally I accept riding shotgun in my own life, even letting Him pick the music. God’s plan for this is incredibly painful, but immeasurably valuable.
I want you to know this is honesty and vulnerability, not pessimism. In spite of it all, I am nowhere near hopeless. To borrow some of Paul’s words, I am:
“Perplexed but not driven to despair.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8 NLT
I have been chronicling this journey as best as I can, and I will continue to do so. To all those who have prayed for me, brought me gifts, sent cards, donated a recliner, or checked in with a text message, you matter so so so much to me. I plan to follow this post up with a gratitude list to balance out the scales. Stay tuned and shine on, beloveds.
(PS, I think this should be my new sign-off!):