Ask and it will be given . . .

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A few weeks ago, as I was praying, I stopped running down my wish list of prayers and asked God to use me to help someone else. I was tired of the same old monotonous day at work and home. I wanted to do something to make a difference in someone else’s life. I repeated the prayer as I walked through the doors of the health club that I’ve worked at for the past 13 years. As I pushed through the daily grind of emails, voicemails, and meetings, I was asked to cover an appointment for a coworker who was out sick. In walks Pamela . . .  the answer to my prayer. 

Pamela had filled out an online form for a free fitness program that our club offers a few times a year, and she was here to activate her pass. I wouldn’t have thought twice about the inquiry – except the program had already started and registration had ended weeks before. But when God has a plan, a little registration deadline isn’t going to stop Him. As I gave Pamela a tour of the club and explained the program to her, she started to share he story with me. 

Here’s a copy of a blog I wrote for the club: 

Pamela is the type of independent woman who never asks for help – Ever. So, it isn’t surprising to hear that after her hour and a half commute from work last fall, she drove herself to the ER – only to find out she had just suffered an Acute Stroke. Pam spent the next six days in the ICU while specialists ran test after test, trying to figure out what had caused her stroke. After several days of testing, Pam was diagnosed with what doctors told her was “a really sick heart.” Medically, this was defined as heart failure; her heart was only functioning/pumping at 25% (for healthy folks at her age, the heart should function/pump at 50% – 60%). Unable to release her without some sort of monitoring of her sickly heart, doctors surgically implanted a heart monitor into Pam’s chest. Results from this monitoring confirmed she also had Atrial Fibrillation (known as AF or Afib – an irregular, rapid heart rate that may cause symptoms like heart palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath). In Pam’s case, AFIB caused a blood clot to go to her brain, which in turn caused her stroke.

After a plethora of doctor visits with specialists and more follow up tests, Pam was still struggling with her recovery. She expected some difficulty in getting back to her normal routine, but she was not prepared for the extreme fatigue that slowly began to debilitate her life. At a follow-up appointment with her Cardiologist, doctors convinced Pam not to go home, but to go right to the ER. After much persuasion, Pam finally agreed to go.

As you can imagine she was a bit hesitant, considering her last trip to the ER ended in a six-day ICU visit. When she arrived at the ER, nurses took her vitals and sent her through triage. However, they had problems reporting her Blood Sugar. The number wasn’t registering on their monitor. It simply read HIGH. With an inconclusive reading, doctors decided to admit Pam, until they could get an accurate reading. She was admitted and the doctors ran more tests. When the ER doctor returned with her test results, the look on his face frightened her. Very bluntly, he said, “You should be dead right now… or minimally in a coma.” The average blood sugar for a person without diabetes can range between 70 and 100 mg/dL. Those with diabetes are closer to 200. Pam’s blood sugar was hovering 800! They started an insulin drip immediately and gave her an IV for fluids, to treat her dehydration. Pam spent five days in the hospital – four of which were, again, spent in the ICU. Pam was finally released once her blood sugar reached levels the doctors felt were comfortable to work with.

Pam knew that things had to change. She set a goal to lose 25lbs and made a commitment to start exercising regularly. She saw a FaceBook ad promoting a FREE fitness program at CHHRC and decided to check it out. Registration for this program had officially closed and the 30-day program was already underway, but luckily we were able to squeeze her in at the last minute. Pam completed her Fit-30 Assessment and was well on her way. Although, Pam did have some reservations. Her biggest fear before starting the Fit-30 was worrying about what her limitations would be. This is an ongoing battle for Pam. Every day new challenges arise. “I don’t know what I’m able to do until I try,” said Pam. “Is what I’m going to do, going to cause me to have a stroke, or cause too much pressure for my heart. I was able to realize and determine what my capabilities were and match them to how far I could go,” she said.

Her Personal Trainer, Fran reminded Pam that she was capable of doing all of the exercises – even if she had to modify them. She encouraged her by referring to these challenges as capability, not limitation. Pam enjoyed the pace and level that Fran worked with the Fit-30 group. Every participant in the group had varying fitness backgrounds and medical conditions, and Fran allowed everyone to determine individually how far to push, and to honor their own bodies. “Fran showed real concern that I was okay. When folks are kind and genuinely want to help and watch you succeed, it is humbling. Because even though the world isn’t full of these type of people – they do still exist. And when they do show up . . . I am in awe,” Pam said. The staff at CHHRC is in awe of Pam’s determination, resilience, and her positive attitude. We’re excited to share her fitness journey with you and hope that she inspires you to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself beyond what you thought were limitations. Because as Pam proves every day, we are all capable of so much more than we ever thought.

The next time you find yourself running down your prayer wish list, remember that there are more Pamela’s out there…. and God wants to use you.  Just look back through the bible and you’ll find a variety of unlikely people that God uses in a huge way:  Noah: A Drunkard; Abraham: An Old Man; Moses: A Stutterer; Rahab: A Prostitute; David: An Adulterer and Murderer; Jonah: A Man who Ran from God; Matthew: A Tax Collector and Saul: A Former Persecutor of Christians.

So, why wouldn’t he use you? He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

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Are you numb?

I’ve read over and over again how much stress can affect your daily life, your health, everything. I’m also well aware that it can cause a flare-up with my Lyme. So, I’m not sure why it surprises me when new or even old symptoms arise during a stressful time. Losing my mom is obviously a traumatic experience, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the tingling came back. But what surprised me (and to be honest scared me a bit), was  that the tingling/numbness that typically occurs only in my toes or occasionally my hands was now radiating up my entire leg. The more I researched it, the more it sounds like the numbness and weakness in my limbs is actually nerve damage.

About 10% to 15% of untreated Lyme patients will develop Lyme neuroborreliosis, a disorder of the central nervous system. It’s actually caused by a systemic infection of spirochetes of the genus BorreliaSymptoms include erythema migrans and flu-like symptom – which is exactly how my Lyme progressed. What I thought was a simple sinus infection, led to flu like symptoms, back pain that I could only compare to intense labor and extreme jaw pain (which is the symptom that ended me up up in the ER).

Three years has passed and I’m still trying to decipher the phantom symptoms that accompany this diagnosis. Was it something I ate? Is it the weather? Is it a new allergic reaction? Aside from my all natural IV treatments that I receive at Cherry Hill Hydration Center with Dr. Molly Fantasia, I’m also going to see an allergist for the first time. I’ve had allergic responses to a variety of things in the past few months . . . firewood, Christmas trees, daisies . . . the list goes on and on. So, I’m excited to get tested to see what else is on the list of things I need to stay away from. (As I type this, I’m getting a little depressed, because I feel like I’ve already had to cut so many things out of my life- whether its my diet or my surroundings). But I’m trying to focus on how well I will feel, once I start to remove the triggers from my life – and I’m hoping to maybe get some new hardwood floors out of the deal! The old dirty carpets can’t be good for my breathing!

Although it’s a bit concerning every time I stand up or cross my legs and feel the pins and needles, I have to look at the bright side and be thankful that my leg is not throbbing with pain. I try not to let my imagination run wild . . . and wonder “what if.” The bible tells us not to worry. In fact, it says in 365 times – one for every day of the year! So, I will take this in stride, just like I do the rest of this book of life that God has written out for me. It may not be the plot I would have chosen, but it’s my story and His plan for my life story is perfect. So, who am I to complain? Plus, being numb isn’t so bad. Sometimes it’s better than feeling pain, right? Isn’t that what most of us try to do anyway? Numb the pain? Whether it’s with drugs, alcohol, shopping . . .  it’s all just a distraction from what the real problem is. So, tonight my prayer for all of us is that we each get to the root of our own individual numbness, but at the same time, give thanks to our Heavenly Father, for giving us this trial, to allow us to get closer to Him. Because He is, and always will be the ultimate healer, no matter what you suffer from.

A Mother’s Hands

mom handsIt’s been exactly one month and one week since my mom (the Alzheimer’s reference to my blog title) went home to be with the Lord. It’s easy to be angry and bitter. Or hate the disease that took my sweet, caring mom away from us far too soon. But when we do that, we miss out on all of the blessings that this journey has given us. When I got married, my mom gave me a plaque that said: “A MOTHER HOLDS HER CHILDREN’S HANDS FOR AWHILE, THEY’RE HEARTS FOREVER.”

I was always a mommy’s girl. Always attached to her hip, or holding her hand. She had the best hands! Long, beautiful, strong manicured nails (or banana cure as my Dad would say). The softest, smoothest skin ever. I used to tell her that her hands reminded me of a chicken leg from KFC. She knew I meant it as a compliment.

My mom was always there to extend those beautiful hands to help me. To pull me up off the ground after I fell, to give me a gentle nudge of encouragement when I needed it or to hold me when I was scared. These past few years, I’ve been given the amazing opportunity to be there for my mom in these same ways. To hold her hand and stabilize her as she tried to walk, to give her that same little the nudge of encouragement when she needed it. And to hold her hand tightly when she was scared.

At first, it was difficult to hold her hand while she was in the ICU. Her once perfect KFC hands were now discolored, bruised and swollen. It broke my heart and the heart’s my family members to see her hands this way. But as the days passed, we continued to hold them tightly, massage them and of course paint her fingernails, her favorite shade of pink. Before we knew it, much to our surprise, the swelling had gone down, her color was returning and as I rubbed my fingers across the back of her hand, my beloved KFC skin had returned. For us, it was a miracle to be able to hold those beautiful hands in her last days –  just as they had always been.

When I met my husband, one of the first things I noticed about him was his hands. They were big, strong manly hands – you could tell they weren’t afraid of hard work. They reminded me of my dad’s hands. I knew those hands would protect me and provide for me just like my father had done my whole life.

One of my favorite bible verses is Esther Chapter 4 verse 14.

If you keep quiet at a time like this. Deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.

Esther was a beautiful young woman, handpicked by the King to be Queen. She didn’t come from money.  She wasn’t raised by royalty, in fact, she was an orphan raised by her Jewish cousin. Shortly after she became queen, she discovered that there was a plot to kill all of the Jews. Esther doesn’t sit quietly and do nothing. She stands up to the King and saves her people. She wasn’t groomed for this situation, she had no training or anything to help her prepare. But she knew that this was her time. Everything that she had ever done in her entire life was leading up to this one moment. Preparing her for a time such as this.

Just like Esther, my father was an orphan, raised by family members and his siblings. He was thrown into the real world, with obstacle after obstacle. And he always overcame. When you’re too busy being angry at God, about my Mom being taken from us so soon, you don’t see the miracle that has unfolded before our eyes. This journey has opened my eyes, and now I see that my Mom and Dad were their very own little royal family…. King and Queen of the Miller family! But more importantly,  my father (whether he knew it or not) was born for such a time as this. The way he took care of my mother, day in and day out. He walked along the side of his wife. Never giving up.

Moms have a way of stealing the spotlight and the hearts of their children. My mom was my biggest fan. Cheering the loudest, hugging the hardest, while my dad would sit back quietly and smile – then give me a lecture on the humility of a sixth-place ribbon. But throughout this journey, we’ve had the opportunity to watch my dad step into the spotlight for the first time. Watching my mother stare at him in awe and appreciate of everything that he has ever done for her. Without this journey we would have missed out on the sleep deprived nights at the hospital, playing practical jokes on each other and telling the same childhood stories over and over again… laughing until we cried…. And then crying some more.

Although it’s easy to be sad or bitter or angry at God, I choose to praise Him. Not only when I’m on the mountain tops, but when I’m in my personal valleys as well. And I hold onto to those dear sweet memories that I have. And when I close my eyes I picture her….. in her brand new, healthy, glorified body. I see her dancing before Jesus. And I have peace in my heart knowing that one day soon I will see her again…. And join in on that dance…. And once again hold those sweet hands.

So, my prayer for you today is that no matter what is going on in your life today as you read this…. whether you are mourning the loss of a loved one as I am, or you’re celebrating a milestone, that you’re able to take a step back and try to see the big picture. It’s all part of His plan. And His plan is perfect. We may not understand (or even agree) with it sometimes, but that’s okay. One day it will all make sense.

perseverance in trials

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Lyme. Autism. Alzheimer. The three conditions that affect my daily life. Each one unique in their own way. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that I found myself using similar techniques to calm my sick mother, that I used when my boys were younger. It was only a few years ago that she was asking me for the name of the neurologist that diagnosed the boys, because she feared something was wrong with her brain. She was 56 years old.

Fast forward seven years, my boys are high functioning, in mainstream classrooms, and playing little league football. My mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s confined to a wheelchair, living in a rehab center. My dad told me about a Facebook post he had seen recently. Someone asked how a merciful God would allow people to suffer from such an awful disease as Alzheimer’s. The response was, “It’s not about my mom. It’s about what I have to learn from this trial.” After he shared that with me, I went to my bible and I found this verse – which just so happened to be already underlined, with an asterisk next to it:

James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Every experience I’ve had prepares me for the next chapter in my life. Autism forced me to become an advocate for my boys; which prepared me to be an advocate for myself with Lyme. The lessons I’ve learned from each of those prepared me to accept and work through the Alzheimer’s with my mom. Early-onset familial Alzheimer disease (eFAD) is an autosomal-dominant genetic disease. This means that in each family it is caused by a mutation in a single gene, and that a single copy of the mutant gene, inherited from one parent, will cause the disease. I can’t say I’m not nervous about the future . . . but what I do know is that my book has already been written. I wouldn’t have necessarily volunteered for the Autism and Lyme chapter, I probably would have skimmed right past those chapters, but they have brought me where I am today – which is closer to the Lord than ever. And that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s with those trials that I had nowhere else to turn except to God.

With a strong, caring husband by my side and a God-fearing doctor to guide us every step of the way, I know I’m in good hands while I’m here on earth. But as the verse says, ‘that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him,” so I know that one day my Lyme-filled body will be replaced by a glorified body in heaven. So, whether you suffer from a broken heart or a clinical disease, put your trust in the Great Physician and you can’t go wrong.

PS  – Last month, my doctor invited me to join her on her radio program to share my Lyme story. Click here to listen to the recording on August 20th.

I wish I had a Life . . . (instead of Lyme)

It’s a Friday night. I just left the hair salon and instead of going out to dinner with the hubby, or hanging out with friends, showing off my new do, I’m on the couch, in the dark. The dimmed light of the laptop is the only light I can tolerate (which honestly is still too bright for me). Unless you have Lyme or some other auto-immune disease that runs a muck on your body, you don’t understand the intense pain that a simple trip to the hair salon can cause. I LOVE getting my hair done . . . the pampering, having someone else wash your hair and massage your scalp, the blowdrying . . . so relaxing (at least it used to be).  Tonight, I cringed with every foil that was gently placed and folded near my ear. The crinkling of the foil was like cymbals crashing against my head. As I type my wrists ache from the position of my hands on the keyboard. My back aches from sitting in the salon chair. I don’t write these things to complain. I write them to educate people on the on-going fight so many of us face with Lyme Disease.

I don’t look sick, do I?

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But my body is screaming right now. Everything affects my physical condition. What I eat, what I drink, how much sleep I get, how stressful my day is, if there is a change in the weather . . .  everything. But as I’m typing this, a message pops up on my phone. The subject line of the email is “The Good News is still good.”  What a timely reminder. Yes, Lyme Disease sucks . . . . but God is still good.

I had to take a break from writing tonight because the light from the laptop became too intense. So, I listened to Dr. Molly’s latest radio show. To my surprise, she mentioned my case. She talked about how Lyme Disease is a journey and a rough one at that. I have to remind myself of that. I have so many good days (which is a wonderful thing!) that sometimes these not-so-good days really knock me down, mentally and physically. But all I have to do is listen to her and remember how far I’ve come and thank God for my amazing support system, a husband who picks up my slack even when he’s down and out.

So, here’s to hoping for a date night out with the hubby after my next trip to the salon! But even if that’s not what God has planned for me, a quiet night at home snuggling on the couch doesn’t sound so bad either.

If your life isn’t turning out quite how you planned, just know that it may not be what you had in mind, but Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that it IS what God has planned . . .

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And if that plan includes any sort of health issue, and you’re in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area – you really should consider scheduling a complimentary consultation with Dr. Molly. Take a few minutes, listen to this show . . .  you might be surprised that there are Godly physicians, who actually advocate for you and help fight your condition with God’s ingredients. Check it out!

 

 

 

Who’s Your Doctor’s Doctor?

 

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I know that I’ve shopped around quite a bit to find the right doctor for me and I’m sure most of us “patients” do. But what about your doctor? Who do you think they go to when they’re sick? Do they self-medicate? Or maybe they actually reach out to someone else for advice and/or treatment.

I never realized how many doctors my doctor treated until recently. Dr. Molly was on WPG 104.1’s Health Watch recently and many doctors that come to her for their treatment called into the show to talk about their health journey at Cherry Hill Hydration Center. It was quite impressive. I knew I trusted Dr. Molly with my life and my Lyme journey, but I had no idea how many health professionals put their health in her hands as well.

Here’s a recording of the show: