The caller ID showed “Rheumo Doc” and I hesitated a few seconds, wondering what they could be calling about…I answered and the nurse informed me that some of my labs needed to be redone, that my liver panel was off and my potassium was ridiculously off, so much so that they were pretty sure the lab had made a mistake. They had already faxed in orders, so first thing the next morning, I was getting another blood draw. My next rheumo doc appointment was a week away. I know what it means to have wonky liver panels and high potassium levels, well, I mean, I know what it means at a very high, very layman’s term level ;-) It would mean that my liver and kidneys are having issues. When lupus organ-interaction begins, the kidneys and liver are usually the first ones to start having issues.
I went into work, thoughts and “what-ifs” started to percolate in my mind.
What if my kidneys are failing? What if my liver is failing? What if both are? Would I have to get a transplant? Would I even be high on the list having SLE? What would be my MELD score? Holy moly, should I still get a dog? Is this why my back has been hurting more during this flare? And on and on.
There’s a verse that has been so important to me over the past few years: take captive every thought.
"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" - 2Cor 10:5
I have an overactive imagination, so this verse is a challenge for me. A dear friend of mine once told me (and I quote it ALL the time to myself now): “there’s no grace for our imaginations.”
Grace: grace is when something is given when it is not deserved. For me, an example of God’s grace in my life is how he sustains me through all these health trials, that even though I doubt and stumble and have to think and pray things through so much, I really enjoy my life and am so very blessed, and He allows me to see that. God gives me grace for the events, trials, decisions, etc that He has planned for me. Not for the ones that I decide to make up and think they might be part of my future. I think it’s okay to think about the results of a decision, the different paths that decision could take you on, but not to dwell on it, not to let your emotions get all out of wack because of a situation that you are literally imagining up.
Waiting to get the updated lab results was an exercise in saying no to my imagination, taking captive thoughts, and remembering that His grace sustains me, daily leaving the lab results and whatever could come from them in the Lord’s hands. Trusting Him to provide me with whatever strength, courage, and wisdom I need to tackle whatever the next hurdle could be, health or otherwise.
At my rheumo appointment, my doc and I looked at the results. Thankfully, the potassium levels were just fine, it had definitely been a lab mix up. Wahoo! I’ve got two good functioning kidneys :insert fist pump with happy dance:. My liver, however, was definitely getting wonky. The good (um, outstanding really) news here is that it’s not lupus-related, but actually related to one of the meds I am on. It’s a chemotherapy med and long-term, low-dose use of it can result in liver damage (hence why I get liver panels drawn every 3 months) – I’ve been on this med for 8 years.
Over the past 5 weeks, I've done a rapid tapering of the med. When my doc first told me I had to come off of it, I was nervous because I had been flaring almost steadily since January and going off a med that is probably helping me not have a crazy bad flare was scary to me. We talked other med options if I started having problems, but secretly, I was hoping that I could go off of this and have no effects and be down a med and down an immunosuppressive med to boot.
And praise the Lord, the tapering has gone fine! In fact, I keep forgetting that I am tapering. Not only has the Lord allowed my body to accept the tapering, I am feeling better (my doc thought there was a good chance the liver issues were what was causing the prolonged crummy season), and I have had complete peace - no imagination, no what-ifs. Truly. That's grace folks.
It'll take several months for the med to be completely out of my system and I will continue to just take one day at a time and to remember that His grace is sufficient for me, it's sufficient for me to handle the next flare without this med, and it's sufficient for me to continue to trust Him daily.
"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Cor 12:9-10