"Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?"
(My Lupus Journey)©
There was a Walt Disney cartoon (boy, I’m telling my age!) named “The Three Little Pigs”. Most of us know the story of the three little pigs and the wolf who wanted nothing more than to have himself a yummy pork roast! We also know that he almost succeeded twice but was ultimately defeated on his third try with bricks and fire. However, in this particular version, there was a song that said, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf, the Big Bad Wolf”. This song laughed in the face of this dangerous animal who was determined to fill his belly. The wolf destroyed the first 2 pig’s homes and sent them running to the home of the third pig. However, at the third home, he was met with an obstacle that wouldn’t fall so easily. As a matter of fact, The third one sent Him running. Now you may think, “What does this story have to do with Lupus?”,
I will tell you…
SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) or Lupus (Wolf) as it’s more commonly known, is a chronic disease that currently has no cure and can be devastatingly debilitating. In essence, your immune system, which is supposed to protect you, becomes confused, and everything that it's made to protect, it tries to destroy: Heart, lungs, kidneys, hair, skin, etc. Many times before the diagnosis is made, the person has already suffered from the effects of Lupus, and the effects are great. Besides the obvious physical toll that this disease takes, there are other victims of this disease, a social life, income, relationships, goals, etc. Every area in your life is affected. When a person has to face the reality of beginning a “new” life, the task can be daunting at best, and crippling at it's worst.
I had a certain picture in my mind, of how my life would look. After graduating high school, I would go to college, have a great job, get married, have children, and take care of my parents when the time came. However, after my second year of college, those plans drastically changed, starting with my mother. She had breast cancer that was extremely aggressive, and I decided to take off a little time from college to help her. My proposed semester off turned into over a year because she never got better until she passed away on her birthday in 1993. Then a little over a year later, my father passed away, which left us having to raise my nephew (who had special needs). My picture changed drastically but I imagined a new one.
I decided to go to Cosmetology school, which would allow me the flexibility, to go to court for my nephew, take him to be tested and cared for and placed in programs made to help him have a good life. Once I received my cosmetology license, I found a job and became a successful stylist. That was great until 2000. I started noticing that my hands, my shoulders, and legs, were stiff every morning. I would wake up and could hardly move and when I got home from work, I couldn’t get out the car for at least twenty minutes. In spite of the pain, I would get up every day and go to work and at the same time, I had started the process of becoming a licensed Evangelist Missionary, so I had no intention of letting the pain hinder me. I remember on the day of my test, I was stuck in the bathroom of the church not able to get off the toilet and praying for the strength to stand up and finish the oral part of my exam. I did finish and the pain subsided for 6 months.
That was until January of 2001. I caught a cold and after three weeks, I realized that I wasn’t getting any better but worse. I could barely breathe, I couldn’t lay flat in my bed, and my pains came back in full force to the point of not having enough strength to close my flat iron fully. I pressed on like normal until the assistant manager at the shop kicked me out the shop after seeing me struggle with a client and forced me to go to the hospital. When I was examined by the ER doctor, they sent me in for a CT Scan. I was in so much pain when I laid down on the table that the nurses literally had to sedate me. The doctor told me that I had Pleurisy (inflammation of the lining of the lungs), and admitted me. I was in and out of the hospital for months until I was finally diagnosed with Lupus in July of 2001. By that time, I was barely walking, couldn’t go to the bathroom on my own, my sister had to dress me and I had to listen to the doctors tell me that they didn’t know what they were going to do because my heart, lungs, and kidneys were shutting down all at the same time.
My life was turned upside down. I wanted to be a good steward over my finances so even before this began, I invested some money and it was supposed to be around $10,000 by the time I got sick. When I realized that I was really getting sick, I told my sister to go pull the money out because I didn't think that I would be able to work for a while. You have probably guessed that the money was gone. So I ended up losing everything, even my home. While all this turmoil raged in my life, I still trusted and believed that God would bring me out. One day I had a conversation with one person who came to visit me and she asked, “how are you dealing with all this? I would probably have killed myself”. I told her that first, I wasn’t going to die from this and second if I didn’t trust God, what else was I going to do. There is nothing more real than Him and His promises”.
That was 2001.
Once again I perservered. Although I couldn’t be in the shop full time, I still wanted to be in the Cosmetology industry. It started with a phone call from a cosmetology school. They asked if I still wanted to teach. The amazing thing was that I didn’t even apply for the job, so I knew it was God opening that door. I started instructing and found out that I had a natural gift for it. I loved my job, I loved my co-workers and students and my life began to look more like my original picture. Even with the ups and downs of the job, even when my boss lied and tried to make me quit at every chance, I pressed on and outlasted her and the lie! Everything that was owed to me, God quickly gave it to me and showed me that He was still in control.
However, like the wolf in the “Three Little Pigs” (sheesh, she’s finally back to the point), the Lupus came back with a vengeance. I was back on my walker, in the hospital literally every other month until my boss kindly allowed me to leave without fear of losing my status and pay and he told me that all I had to do was call him and I could come right back. I didn’t get the chance because I was always in the hospital.
The next part is hard for me to tell because it’s embarrassing at my age. I ran out of money and had to choose either to eat or have a place to live. I didn’t have anywhere to go but my car, so I chose to pay rent and keep my car because I drove myself to the hospital. I didn’t have electricity sometimes, and it got to the point where I had to stand in food lines just to eat. To add insult to injury, I was actually given food that was spoiled, burnt and inedible. I finally got to the place where I had to look for shelter. I called a really good friend of mine and asked to stay in her transitional housing program. She said NO, but only because she wouldn’t allow me to go there when she had room in her own home.
She and her husband allowed me to stay there with no time limit and rarely asked for anything. I took a job from a friend and told them that I would pay rent, but I was never paid, they still didn’t kick me out because of me not keeping my word. They prayed for me and still had my back as I was in and out of the hospital with surgeries, blood transfusions, sepsis, and almost dying. But the toll of no respite had manifested in my soul. I was so depressed that I stopped asking God for anything. For months I contemplated suicide all day long because that was the only way I saw out of this pain. I had to start life over so many times that I started to believe that God was never going to bring me out. I scared my own self because I couldn’t shake it off. Everything I tried failed, and when I tried making them right, I failed again.
But a funny thing happened. One night I walked into a furniture mover and tore a huge hole in my leg deep enough that my hand went inside of it. If that wasn’t bad enough, the ER doctor left a piece of metal in my leg after stitching it up and the wound died. I could barely walk for almost a year and after 4 hospital visits, I was finally sent to a wound clinic and it closed. However, it was the pain of this wound that finally brought me out of my depression.
One day it hit me and I began to laugh and thought, “only you would have all these things happen to you and still be here!”. The devil has tried to take my life on so many occasions, starting in college when I was used as a human shield in a gunfight (seriously, the man put me in front of him and I saw the fire from the gun coming towards me). The cars around me were shot up and I walked away without even a scratch. Then when I had organ failure, and the doctor sat next to me at USC County Hospital saying that they didn’t know what to do, when I had Sepsis (107 degrees temperature) and God told me to put scriptures around my bed for my healing, and finally when I was in ICU and woke to the nurse telling me that I wasn’t breathing.
Every time Satan tried to take me out, he failed. So I am no longer afraid of the Big Bad Wolf. He can huff and puff all he wants; I will keep going because I’m stronger than he is. I serve a God who is greater than Satan and my God has given me everything I need to win this fight. Yes, I had to rebuild, but every time I did, I became stronger & wiser. The storms came and knocked me down but never took me out. I know that my trials are for a great purpose, even if it is only to encourage one person to not give up and allow their circumstances to take them out.
We are reluctant (especially Christians) to talk about our failures because it seems to spit in the face of what we believe and proclaim. A Christian contemplating suicide, they must not Love God. They aren’t healed, then they don’t trust God. Calamity after calamity, then they must have done something wrong. That’s not necessarily the case. The scripture that has ministered to me all these years I Corinthians 10:13 … He will not suffer you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that ye may able to bear it. I choose to apply it to my life. The temptation is to give up, run away, turn away from God, but I now and forever choose God and I cast everything on Him.
I’m still here and I have a purpose, and again, I'm not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: He’s shown his worst and lost!
Why would I be?