Eric sent me everything I needed to get lab tests done ahead of time, along with a modified elimination diet which removed everything I could be sensitive to, including gluten, dairy, citrus, vinegar, caffeine, eggs, beef, corn and soy. The modified diet was to begin a minimum of 10 days prior to my arrival at the clinic, which was a good thing since I was horrified and was not quite ready to give it all up...what was I going to eat??? After all, I am underweight, not overweight! Eric assured me that there was plenty to stave off my hunger and keep me from losing too much more weight if I followed the diet and ate lots of fruits, vegetables, and other sources of protein (like beans). So...armed with this new information, I decided that there was no time like the present to remove at least the gluten from my diet (not so sure about all the other items...maybe I would wait until the last possible moment to take away my coffee and ranch dressing!). Perhaps getting a jump on things and, at a minimum, becoming gluten free would begin the healing process and I would begin to feel better.
Meanwhile, we were still praying for provision. Gary is self-employed, so when he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. In addition, his work is seasonal...if it rains, he often gets a day at home to take care of "honey-do's". That is fine for me since I enjoy having him here, but again, it doesn't bring in the much needed funds to get by, especially since I am no longer bringing in any income. I asked him if we should say anything to anyone, and he said that our God is bigger than that. He reminded me that God knows our needs before we even speak them, and our Heavenly Father knew just what was necessary to get me to the clinic. All we had to do was pray, believing, and God would provide...without us having to borrow the money, or ask for it from family and friends. So we quietly waited. And we prepared for our trip.
A few days after the date had been set, Wesley, a long-time friend of Gary's, called him and asked him to do some work for him. He asked Gary how I was feeling and what was going on, so Gary filled him in on my condition and the hope that we were going to find answers at HealthNOW. He shared that we truly believed that this new information and the connection to the clinic in California was something that God had orchestrated, without volunteering any information about financial needs or concerns about how we were going to do this. Later that night, Wesley called Gary to tell him that he wanted to provide my plane fare to California. He had plenty of miles to provide me with a free ticket, and he wanted to give them to me. Before I knew it, I had reservations and a paid ticket on American Airlines. I will be forever grateful to Wesley for that wonderful gift and for being willing to allow God to use him in such a way. I was going alone, but I was definitely going to California!
As each day passed, we felt stronger and stronger that I should not make this trip alone because I was simply too weak. I had already experienced some really bad days that kept me in bed, unable to get up due to pain, dizziness, imbalance, extreme light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. But how could we afford the cost? Gary would lose a week's income, not to mention the cost of his plane fare and other added expenses if he were to accompany me. Again, we boldly approached the throne of our Jehovah Jireh, the God Who provides, and simply asked Him to bring us what we needed without having to go into debt. I checked on the plane fares each day, praying they would go down enough to align with our budget. Again, we waited. And we prayed.
It's funny, but I started expecting something...even if it was a small amount...to come in the mail. I couldn't wait for the mail to be dropped off each day to see if there was provision there waiting for me...something tangible...an evidence of my faith. And one day I received it. I was going through the mail and picked up a large envelope that looked like junk mail. I was just about to tear it up without opening it (as I usually do with junk mail), when I noticed the return address: Chesapeake Oil. I had forgotten all about our oil lease because it had yet to pay us anything. Could this be what I think it is? YES!!! It was a check, in an amount that covered almost the entire cost of a plane ticket for Gary. I knew without a doubt that God had us in the palm of His hand, and that HE was going to walk with us each step of the way. He was providing just what we needed as we needed it. Never early, never late, His timing is perfect. Needless to say, I reserved a place for Gary on my flights, paid for the tickets, and looked ahead to the next step of faith.
We agreed together that we would do whatever it took, even if we had to sell unnecessary material possessions, including tools that Gary had collected over the years for his work as a remodeler and pool servicer, but isn't currently using. We determined a date for our garage sale, gathered items to sell and put a free ad on Craig's List. The weather on the day of the sale was hot, but beautiful. A full hour before the sale was to open and before we could even get everything out on the driveway, there were people lined up to look at what we had. By noon, we had sold almost enough to cover the additional expenses for our trip, such as a rental car and hotel for the 5 days that we would be in California. God's provision...His mighty handiwork...in evidence. We had no need for concern. If God provides what the birds need and clothes the flowers in beauty, He surely was taking care of us and would continue to do so!
We had two weeks until our trip, so I worked on keeping my diet gluten free and getting extra rest. Ten days prior to heading out, I started the modified elimination diet. I had noticed that since I had removed gluten from my diet that I was actually having some better days and that some of the symptoms I was experiencing on a daily basis were diminishing somewhat. Once I removed all common allergens from my diet, I began to improve slightly with each day that passed.
The day finally came for us to make our way to the clinic, and we had a smooth flight in, touching down just in time for evaluations and exams with three different doctors. I gained little or no insight as to what was exactly going on during that first visit, BUT...these doctors had a plan, and lab results and direction would be coming in due time. Until then, my scheduled time at the clinic was to begin with two physical therapy sessions per day to help with some joint and ligament problems in my neck, and to teach me important muscle strengthening exercises and get me started on the right track.
Day two at the clinic brought almost more information than I could comprehend, with complicated results that I am not sure how to explain so I won't go into detail here. The most important thing for me to remember was that research has proven that there is a connection between a "leaky gut" and autoimmune diseases and that is definitely the case with me. I found that I do have a leaky gut, with chronic infection as well as chronic inflammation, pancreatic insufficiency, blood sugar imbalance and the associated problems with that, and probable adrenal exhaustion (which will be confirmed or denied with testing done this week).
Food sensitivity/cross sensitivity tests showed a definite gluten sensitivity, an allergy to Amaranth (which is usually listed on the "safe" grain lists and therefore removes one of my grain alternatives), and dairy intolerance (includes all dairy proteins, not just lactose). Finally, I have a genetic condition that prevents me from absorbing and utilizing folate and the B vitamins properly, so that condition will be addressed as well through supplementation.
No wonder I have had so many health problems for such a long time! If I had known that the probable underlying root cause to autoimmune disease could be avoided by simply removing gluten, amaranth, and dairy from my diet, I would have done this 30 years ago! For now, though, I need to play "catch-up" and get my body functioning properly by ingesting only those things that will do me no harm. This means that for the next 4 weeks, I will be on a special diet. Of course, the diet will be gluten, dairy and sugar free (which is a lifetime change); but in addition, to balance out my blood sugar, there will be 4 weeks without any of the following foods:
- fruit (with the exception of blueberries)
- starchy foods such as potatoes, rice, root vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips, etc)
- grains (with the exception of quinoa).
Well, I'm home now, and concentrating on my newest adventure...finding the things I can eat and the recipes to make yummy dishes I can enjoy. If you have a recipe that you would like to add to my small but ever growing collection, please send it to me..I'd love to hear from you!
I said this was the rest of the story...sort of. That's because this adventure is ongoing. Please walk with me as I travel on this journey. Perhaps you have an autoimmune illness like Lupus, MS or Hypothyroidism and are looking for answers. Or maybe you just found out you have Celiac Disease or are gluten sensitive. I am new to this, but I believe we can make this adventure fun if we all help one another. We can do this, if we do it together!
See you soon!