So here’s to a beginning. I have been wanting to write for a while but haven’t been able to pull together the words as to all that I have been feeling and learning. It has been on my heart to share some of my experiences that have truly shaped me to be the person I am. It has pressed on me to share about some of my darkest times and how I was carried through. This blog is dedicated to the Lord, the very one who carries my world.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


The next morning I woke up to one eye being swollen shut. “That was weird. Did I poke myself in the night? I hadn’t been outside in months, so it couldn’t be poison ivy.”
I dreaded going to bed at night. Not for fear of the night but for fear of the morning. Mornings were when I would wake back up. Mornings were when I would feel everything all over again. Mornings were when I would notice new and unwelcome symptoms. I hated mornings.
Pain surged through me, so much so that my walking ability had changed. I didn’t notice it at first. But I was hunched over while walking from one room to the next. Standing up straight just took too much strength. I was short of breath walking to the bathroom. I had to heave myself up and down out of chairs. My weakness was worsening at a pace that made me uneasy.
The next morning I woke up to the familiar pain. I couldn’t spread my fingers open due to the pain. A simple tap on my knuckle would send a knife like pain through me. I tried my best to sleep without moving in the night. Any sudden movement or tap of my hand on the wall would elicit intense aching.
That morning I also woke up to the feeling of several large nodules in my neck. Later that day I noticed them in my armpits as well. I knew they had to be lymph nodes. But they were so big. I knew they worked together with the spleen, the spleen that was already so oversized. I knew I was getting worse by the day.
The tears came. And with them came a lot of questions and a lot of fear.
That night I remember sitting on the couch in the living room. My parents had gone to bed hours ago. I couldn’t sleep. So I just sat on the couch in the dark in the living room. I looked out the large glass window at the dark night sky with big tears rolling down my face and whispered “God where are you? What are you doing?”. The silence of the house mocked me. More tears came down.
The God I knew, the God I thought I knew, He wouldn’t leave me. He would let me be afraid. All I wanted to do was help. All I wanted to do was make a difference. “How could this happen to me? What was happening to me?”.
I was so tired.
A few moments later a familiar song came to mind. It was a song that we had sung during worship services at my college church in Rochester. It was the church where all of my friends attended. It was led by a South African Pastor, a man full of energy and spirit.
My shaky off pitch voice began to quietly sing, “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for loving me.”
That’s all I could say. That’s all I could muster. I knew one thing. I knew I was loved.
The rest, the rest scared me to my core.

Friday, April 29, 2016


I knew my parents were very very afraid. I could tell because they stopped by my room the moment they walked in the door. Before coats were off. Before things put away. They would each poke their heads in my room.  They always had smiles on their faces, but I could see the concern behind their eyes. I could see they were growing tired. They would never tell. They would never verbalize to me the fear they were dealing with. No, they would go on as if things were ‘all going to be okay’. We all wondered if things would ever really be okay again.
That morning my mom received a call from the secretary for the infectious disease doctor. We had an appointment. It was a month away. And so we would wait. We waited for answers. We tried not to let our thoughts get the best of us.
The next few weeks passed at a snail’s pace. The pain in my hands and elbows had now spread through my entire body. Not only did my joints literally hurt, but now my muscles had begun to ache. My thighs ached. My biceps ached. The kind of ache you might have after the workout of a lifetime. But I had barely budged in my bed.
With the pain also came fevers, which were now daily. At first they were mild, 99 degrees or so. But with time I began spiking temps of 101 and 102 degrees. These were debilitating. I could feel what little energy I had seep out of me. My mom would wipe the beads of sweat from my forehead with a cold washcloth. Nothing helped.
The tears came. And they came for a while. They came every day.
But something else came too. Flowers. Flowers began to brighten my room. Flowers of every kind and color. Flowers from friends at church. They were beautiful. Numerous bouquets filling my room. I was filled with surprise and a wave of peace, realizing how people cared.
The end of the month finally came. Both of my parents accompanied me to the infectious disease doctor. I was happy to have them there. They were the glue holding me together. I secretly told myself they would shield me from any news I didn’t want to hear.
I was placed in a sterile exam room. The fluorescent lighting was abrasive to my eyes. I could feel my heart racing. A few silent moments later two young Indian women dressed in white lab coats entered the room. I knew they were residents. Together they began to question me. They began to ask the familiar questions. I was annoyed. I had already told Dr. Thompson’s office all of this. “Don’t you people share records?”, I thought.  I was tired of people asking me questions. “When was someone going to answer my questions? What was wrong with me?”.
We talked extensively about my travels that day. A lot of lab work was ordered, and I was told to come back in a few weeks.
“A few weeks? I can’t wait that long.” This had been the most grueling month of my life.
We had no choice. We took the lab slip and our heavy hearts full of unanswered questions and went home. To wait.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


The next morning I woke up feeling worse. I half wondered if actually going to the doctor was just bad luck, since I wasn’t getting any better. I reached down and touched my abdomen. I could feel a hard mass and knew it was my spleen. A cold chill went through me, as I knew this was grossly abnormal. Concern began to set in. With it also came a heightened awareness of my body. Before this time I had been so carefree regarding my body.  I had so unappreciated my health. I hadn’t even noticed. I was rarely ill. My stomach never bothered me. I had never broken a bone, never experienced severe anxiety or depression, never dealt with severe physical pain of any kind. And the strange part was I didn’t even notice.
I could eat whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t gain a pound. My college roommates despised me for this. We would sit around and talk, eating oreos and peanut butter, and they would laugh and point out my good fortune. I met girls in college who were so careful about what they ate. I met girls who were so careful they didn’t eat. All the while, I didn’t notice that I continued in good health with a healthy metabolism.
That afternoon I did notice. I noticed the fatigue that had been running through my body for the past month and a half significantly worsen. Before this point, when others described themselves as ‘tired’ or ‘fatigued’, it almost sounded like something that could be conquered by sheer will. I would think to myself, “If that was me, I would just ‘get over it’.” I saw others who dealt with fatigue as weak and frail. Now I was faced with the bitter reality that this fatigue thing can be completely debilitating and rage through ones whole body, making even simple activities such as walking from one room to the next a daunting task.  
The next morning I rolled over in bed and was woken up to sharp pain in my elbow and both hands. I clenched my fists to see if my pain would subside with movement. It didn’t. I was alarmed that this pain had literally woken me out of my sleep.
A few days later I broke out into a fever. It was about 4 pm, and I was so miserable. Pain in my hands and elbows, tired and now feverish.  This was unlike any flu, virus or cold I had ever known. Something in me told me it was serious. Something in me knew something was very wrong.
I went back to Dr. Thompson a few weeks later. It seemed like six months since I had last seen her, although it had barely been a month. She was on vacation, so I saw another physician. He introduced himself to me, but I didn’t hear his name.  I didn’t hear much of anything he said that day. I remember my frustration looking into the balding doctor’s eyes. He mostly looked down at his clipboard and asked a lot of questions. These were the same questions Dr. Thompson had asked me a month ago. I told him my symptoms. I told him of my positive mono titer. I told him about my good health prior to this point. H e seemed interested in my travel experiences, particularly to Kenya. He seemed interested in my dealings with patients in Kenya. He didn’t say much other than he wanted me to see an ‘infectious disease doctor’. “What the heck was that? Why would I need to see one? Why did he care if I went to Kenya?”.  My mom and I were hurried out of the office and told we would get a call regarding an appointment with an infectious disease doctor.
I recalled my experiences in Kenya. I went over them in my mind. I worked with HIV/AIDs patients. Did he think I had contracted HIV? I didn’t think I had exposed myself. There were no needle punctures. There was no blood or body fluid exposures that I could recall. But I helped out in surgery. I volunteered at the HIV/AIDs OBGYN clinic. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what was happening anymore. Things seemed to have spun so far out of control. This was not part of the plan.
For the first time in my life, at 21 years of age, I began to secretly wonder if I was going to die.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


So there I was, back in my old room. Somehow it seemed smaller from what I remembered. Somehow the walls seemed to close in. This was strange as I had not grown physically any bigger. Time away had changed things. I didn’t have the peace I once knew while lying in my bed. I didn’t feel as comfortable as I once had on the couches in the living room. It was like I had been disconnected from the raggedy old raised ranch that I once so loved. The overgrown grass mixed with weeds in the yard seemed taller than I remembered, and the pink paint peeling off the walls in my room seemed more severe than I once recalled.
Nonetheless, I knew it was time for me to rest. I told myself, “I would be better in a few weeks.” After all, I had a friend who did get better after only a few weeks with the infection.  I wasn’t actually even feeling all that bad. I mean I was tired. I was achy and sore from time to time. But part of me was secretly happy for this break. Part of me was secretly thankful not to be in class. I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. But my soul was tired from all of the work. I desperately wanted time to breathe.
And with that, I began catching up on television shows. I began enjoying home cooked meals in bed. I began, to my surprise, enjoying the break from the stress and pressure of it all. I was surprised as the days passed so also did my guilt for fear of missing classes.
Cards began to flood the mail. Cards from girls who missed their friend. Cards from roommates who said ‘things just weren’t the same’. Cards from classmates filled with encouragement for good health. Even a few cards from professors wishing me well. I clung to those cards, as they contained precious words from the people that had become my life. I missed them dearly. The distance was hard. Every day that passed felt like I was growing further and further away from my friends.
As I lie in bed, I couldn’t help but notice my heart begin to ache. I had made genuine friends. For the first time in my life, I felt I had a group that I belonged to. I had friends that understood me.  My mind was filled with memories of the good times and the laughter, and at the same time, deep sadness in realizing they would all go on without me. Life always goes on.
I looked around my room and wondered, “What was there for me here? Why was I back here? What was God doing?”
Two weeks went by, and I wasn’t any better. As the days passed, I felt myself getting weaker.  
Three days later I stepped into the sterile waiting room of Dr. Thompson. She was a doctor of internal medicine. My mom and I were brought back to the exam room and told to wait. Moments later Dr. Thompson entered with a big smile. She was a heavy set woman with short brown hair and a perfectly pressed white lab coat. She began her exam on me, pressing on my abdomen. “Wow you have abs like Beyonce”, she stated. I immediately smiled and felt comfortable with her. Seconds later she noted my spleen. The spleen is not typically felt on exam due to its small size and location (hidden behind the rib cage). She noted mine had over doubled in size and was protruding through my abdominal wall, as she could easily palpate it on exam. She informed me this was an indicator of many things, one of which is severe mononucleosis. She wanted to do some lab work. She wanted me to come back.
I didn’t want to come back. I didn’t want to do lab work. I wanted to get better and get on with my life. I had plans, plans to help, plans to learn. This was messing everything up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


One day, on day like no other, I woke up feeling tired. I had just turned 21 years old.
Little did I know the significance of this day.
This day would mark the beginning of a lifetime of change for me.
I didn’t think much of it. Afterall, I had been up studying late the past three nights. There was an organic chemistry exam coming up, and Dr. Roll was not one to give an easy exam. I think my highest score on his exams up to this point was an 85 percent. And that was a score I was darn proud of!
The next day I woke up a little more tired.
“I must be getting sick,” I thought. “Great. I was so behind in my lab reports.”
I hated organic chemistry lab. I hated the checkered lab book that I always managed to fill up with plenty of white out. I hated the smell of all the chemicals. I hated trying to light those darn Bunsen burners. Okay, truthfully I don’t think I ever even lit a Bunsen burner for fear of burning my hands off in the process. You heard what happened to me during physics lab (see electrocution story above).  I always found a subtle way to ‘pass’ that on to my lab partner who never seemed to notice.
The next day I woke up still feeling tired. I went to all my classes but later on felt like I may be coming down with a fever. So I resolved myself to have come down with the flu, and I went to bed.
I woke up the next day still feeling tired. I noticed that my wrist was in a lot of pain. “That was weird. I must have slept on it funny. “
Two weeks went by, and I wasn’t any better. I was so tired, just walking from class to my dorm wore me out.
“This was getting ridiculous. I was in the best shape of my life. I had run 10 miles not 3 weeks prior! That was it.”  I marched myself to the school gym to do some laps on the track.  “After all, you can sometimes sweat out a fever, right?” At least that’s what my roommates told me.
The next morning I felt much worse. My other wrist was sore now, but I think I kept it straight all night. “Huh that’s strange.”
By this time my roommates were bringing me food from the cafeteria. This is when I realized how many people really did care for me. Girls were leaving notes on my blackboard outside my door. They were bringing me fruit and offering to make me tea. While I was a full eight hours from home and from my mom, I felt so cared for and so loved. I felt like I had 30 future ‘moms of America’ in training all taking care of me.
As much as I adored my friends, I was growing more and more concerned as to why I just wasn’t getting better. My anxiety was heightened as pressure from my classes did not lighten even a little bit. My worst fear was getting behind. This was my junior year. My last year to show medical schools that I can do this. Now was not the time to get behind.
But I had no choice. 
Frustrated, I went to the nurse’s office to request some labs be drawn to try and determine what was happening. She suggested I be checked for mononucleosis (commonly called ‘mono’).  I agreed.
The next three days were a whirlwind. I tested positive for mono. I thought this was strange, as I didn’t know one person with the infection. But apparently it was a pretty big deal. Apparently, it was contagious. And before I knew it, my parents were making the eight hour trip out to Rochester and were busily packing all of my things into the van.
I remember feeling so confused. “How could I be leaving all of my friends in the middle of the semester? How could I miss all my classes? How could I get something as dumb as mono and let it take me out? This was supposed to be the last haul for me. This was supposed to be the end of my pre-med marathon. I was supposed to be prepping for the MCAT. I was supposed to be studying. Maybe I would be better in a couple weeks and come back. Yes, I would come back.” At least that’s what I told myself.
I remember seeing my parents work so hard at packing up the van. They didn’t let me lift a finger. I was sick. I could see that they had just driven eight hours. It was written on their faces, but they never once complained. They just packed up all of my things, and I had a lot of things.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I remember looking back at my dorm building, seeing students walking from class. For them, it was a typical day. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever be back. I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever see my friends again. Something in me, without knowing the days ahead, told me it was time to say good bye.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Truth.

I have a confession to make.
The awkward girl, well that awkward girl is me.  Perhaps the awkward girl was a way for me to start my story. Perhaps it was a way for me to depersonalize the events of my life. But the truth is, my story is personal. The truth is my story is hard to tell. The truth is my story is not wrapped in a pretty pink bow so that others can read and wish they had my story. Real life and real stories are just a whole lot messier.

Friday, April 1, 2016


She worked so hard at her schooling. It didn’t come easy, the physics one, two or three, the general biology, the cell biology, the microbiology, the calculus, the chemistry, the organic chemistry. None of it came easy. All of it seemed like an uphill battle. She would stay in when her roommates would be out. She would stay up late and be up early to study. There were more than a few tearful phone calls home. It wasn’t easy. But nothing ever worth it really ever is. So she pushed. And she pushed some more.
She felt a deep calling within herself to continue. She was deeply touched by her experiences with Dr. White, a missionary surgeon in Kenya. She wanted more than the glory of being called “doctor”. She wanted more than the hundreds of thousands of dollars. She wanted to take her gifts and really help. She wanted to love the way she had seen them love her whole life. But now, it seems God had given her, not just the desire, but the opportunity. And that was something she took very seriously.

Others were dropping out of the pre-med program. It was too much. It required too much. But she had come so far. With all of her heart she told herself and her God that she would not give in. If this was for her, her God would find a way to get her into medical school. If it wasn’t for her, then she simply wouldn’t get in. But quitting to her was never an option. In fact, she noticed a fight within her that she didn’t know she had. It seemed the harder her schooling got, the more demanding, the more draining, the more overwhelming, the more she found herself wanting to dive in all the more.

Then one day everything changed.

And I do mean everything.