Stress from Chronic Disease
I deal with a disease called Sarcoidosis that was diagnosed in 1987 after many frustrating years of trying to explain to a doctor that there was something wrong.
They don't know what causes it - it can affect any organ in the body, but it almost always attacks the lungs. In about 80% of people it will eventually go away by itself, in 20% it becomes chronic, requires treatment with things like Prednisone, Methotrexate and Cyclosporin and sometimes still doesn't burn out, and in about 5% of people it can be fatal. Right now, I'm in that 20%. My breathing is about 69% of what it should be and I've been on Prednisone for over three years. My doctor is lowering my prednisone again and when I went to see him this past Monday my breathing level had dropped again so the uncertainty of the disease adds to the stress of trying to deal with it.
There is no real cure for it but steroids are usually effective in handling it, however, the prednisone has almost as many side effects as the disease and that too is stressful and frustrating -- I don't like how I look and I don't always like how I feel (emotions sometimes go crazy, sleeping is hard - it can have very serious side effects). Doctors and tests are stressful - since the first of the year I have spent about 12 days or parts of the day in a doctor's office or having some test done and I've had two CT scans.
However, I've always believed that looking for the positive is the best way to deal with stress, so I try not to dwell on the negative but to look for the positive. I'm not always good at it. Some days it is easier than others. When I get too concerned about me, I stop to think of how God has been very good to me and I thank him for the many blessings I have and I do have many - my Christian husband, two wonderful boys, two very special daughters-in-law, four precious grandsons, my Christian friends, a job where the people I work with are very caring and concerned, my home, my country - the list goes on and on. It is hard for Ray or the boys to talk much about the fact that this doesn't go away - Mike said one time, "it is just so hard to talk about you being sick" - (I had never really thought of myself as being sick, but I have had to accept the fact that Sarcoid is a form of sickness - that I can't always do the things I want to do - I sometimes have to pace myself and do what is the most important at that time - that is hard). Even though it is hard for my family , they are my strongest support system - all of them - Ray, Mike, Zane, Laura, Maggie and even my grandchildren - Logan had me put on the prayer list in his class at church. I know they are there for me and that I am always in their prayers.
Support from friends and coworkers is another tremendous help - it isn't always easy to explain to people what is going on with my health - I don't look sick - just fat - and it is hard to explain why I can't always do some of the things that I used to do or why I stay so tired. Fatigue is another symptom of the disease. Yet so many of you are so supportive and the support and prayers mean so very much.
I sometimes remind myself to be thankful for the doctors and the tests because without them this would have never been diagnosed and things could be a lot worse and to be thankful that they have prednisone or I would be in real trouble. Last September, a lung was beginning to collapse because a bronchial tube was blocked with Sarcoid - the Prednisone has helped that - without it I'm not sure what would have happened.
Karen Duffy, a former model, actress and still a spokeswoman for Revlon and Almay has a very serious form of Sarcoid called Neurosarcoidosis - Sarcoid of the central nervous system, a rare and serious illness which left her partially paralyzed, in pain, and at times near death. She has been on very strong treatment for a long time and she is improved but her disease is still not in remission, however, her attitude about the affects of this disease is wonderful. She said that she can run from life or she can run toward live - she chooses to run toward life and enjoy every minute of every day. Her objective is to turn something negative into a positive in her life by helping others.
That is the attitude That I want to develop. After all none of us have a promise of anything beyond right now on this earth - so why waste time worrying about what the future may hold - I can worry about bridges that I may never have to cross or I can choose to just deal with where I am today. That isn't always easy to do, (or at least it isn't easy for me) but it is something to reach for and an attitude that sure helps deal with the stress.
Two scriptures that are favorites of mine are a tremendous help. I keep them on my refrigerator -
Phil 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" - that verse is a real source of strength to me.
Isaiah 40:34 - "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength - They shall mount up with wings of eagles - they shall run and not be weary - they shall walk and not faint."
Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back tot he group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about god holding us in such a hot spot then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "how do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy - when I see my image in it."
If today we are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on us and will keep watching us until He sees His image in us.
Knowing that God is on my side - no matter what the future holds helps me deal with the stress of the unknown - we all deal with the unknown whether it is from illness or whatever else life has to offer.
There is a little saying that says: "God never promised smooth sailing - but he did promise a successful landing." He promised to be there - it is up to me to believe that he meant it.
Fanny Smith - March 8, 2003
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Fanny's Presentation to Sarcoid Support Group in June 2005
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