Different Walks with God
Too many recent blogs about the writers’ difficulties make my walk with God look like a walk in the park. It just wouldn’t be right not to share these with you. I am not saying that I don’t have struggles, that I don’t face challenges. But when I compare my life and my circumstances to what others are going through—wow, have I got it made!
Two questions come to mind when I think about this:
- “Would I glorify God if I were in their shoes?”
- “Will I glorify God in my shoes?”
The first story is of a young lady named Kari. I met Kari here in Pensacola, Florida, when her family moved here in 1991. We went to the same school, participated in the same youth group, were in the same grade, and had the same friends. I can still remember spending my 8th grade year plotting to break up a relationship that she had with a friend named Danny. I liked her and wanted to “ask her out.” (To this day I don’t know what that means.) Well, the plot worked, but I lost a lot of friends. Kari and I “went out” for a solid week and a half! Don’t worry: Danny and I are friends again and laugh about the whole thing now. Danny even lives down the street from me and we see each other all the time.
Kari’s life took a different course from most of her classmates. Her journey is one of pain and suffering and glorifying God through it all. A few years back, I was speaking in Dallas, Texas, and had the opportunity to visit Kari and her mom while they were there getting treatments for Kari. I told her that someday I would like to share her story. Although I haven’t had a chance to interview her on video, Kari wrote a blog for Brandilyn Collins titled “Lyme Over the Edge.” It is the story of her battle with Lyme disease and the unique ability she has to glorify God through it all. You will want to take the next 10 minutes to read this story yourself.
Beginning with my salvation, because that is the most important thing that has ever happened to me, I received Jesus Christ to be the Savior of my life on Easter Sunday night when I was 7 years old. Then when I was 11, I surrendered my life to Christ.
When I was 13, in 1991, I was bitten by a tick on a camping trip up in Minnesota, where I grew up. That was a significant moment in my life because I believe that is when I was infected with Lyme disease. Shortly after that camping trip, our family moved to Pensacola, Florida. My Dad got a job coaching wrestling at Pensacola Christian College. Six months later, in January of 1992, I became ill.
Living with Lyme Unknowingly
My first symptoms were intense fatigue and feeling like I had the flu. We thought it was mono, but the blood tests came back negative. As these symptoms continued, I also developed severe leg pain. I could no longer walk without pain. Over the next two years, I found no help or relief from the numerous doctors that I saw. They prescribed different drugs, ran tests, and administered treatments—everything from steroids to cortizone shots. I was in and out of hospitals. I only grew worse and the medical bills grew bigger.
When I was 16, I was admitted to the hospital for a week of tests. At that time I was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). We found out six years later that this was a misdiagnosis. During one of the tests that week, the doctors made a medical mistake. The test consisted of inserting a catheter into the main artery in my lower right abdomen to send dye down my leg. However, something went wrong and I stopped breathing during the test. I remember them yelling at me to breathe. Afterwards, I found that my whole lower abdomen and upper right leg were black and blue. They pulled out the catheter too quickly causing injury to the tissues and muscles. I had severe pain in that area and I limped for two months. When I got home from the hospital, I showed my bruised area to my best friend, Suzie, and she burst out crying.
The doctor who diagnosed me with RSD prescribed three options for treatment: a sympathectomy (cutting nerves in my legs so I would not feel my pain), implanting a morphine pump in my spine, or epidural nerve blocks (which carried a risk of paralysis). We praise the Lord that He intervened and influenced Mom to not to pursue those paths.
The Lord led Mom to find a naturopathic doctor. She taught us the importance of nutrition and supplements for wellness. She also used iridology and reflexology in my treatments. However, there was no major improvement in my symptoms.
I was home-schooled off and on during my junior high and high school years. My younger brother, Nathan, was very worried about me. When he was in the seventh grade, he didn’t want to leave me, so he stayed home and home-schooled with me. He was willing to give up his cross country sport, which he loved very much—a huge sacrifice for a junior high school boy! I believe the Lord blessed him for that because our school (through much persuading by Mom) allowed him to continue to participate in cross country.
My Worst Year
My junior year of high school was the worst. I was in full body pain, burning nerve pain in my legs, arms, hands and feet. And I still had the chronic fatigue and flu-like symptoms. Many nights, my family had to massage my arms and legs. My brothers would each take an arm and my parents would each take a leg, and they would massage until the pain level decreased enough so I could make it through the night.
Throughout all these years of terrible pain, confusion and fear, the Lord always directed me to verses that would sustain me. Such verses as, What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.
The Lord will strengthen [her] on [her] bed of illness. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.
In 1996, after five years of struggling with this disturbing illness, the Lord helped us find a homeopathic doctor in Colorado. The summer before my senior year, Mom and I flew out there and lived with her for five weeks. Through her help with homeopathy and spinal work, I was able to go back to school my senior year and graduate with my friends.
When I was 19, I went to Pensacola Christian College. In October of my freshman year, the pain spread to my whole spine causing increased symptoms—weakness, spine pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). The Lord led me to a homeopathic doctor to help me get through college.
Before my senior year, my friend and I went on a missions trip to Japan, helping a missionary family for one month. The missionary was Dan Gardner, a former wrestler of my Dad’s team from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota.
This was a huge miracle! In the midst of my illness, the Lord gave me the strength and endurance needed to accomplish all the mission work. Going to Japan was a wonderful experience and privilege that the Lord allowed me to have. It was my heart’s desire to be a missionary.
When I was a senior, this persistent illness affected my whole body, and again I had joint paint, neurological problems, nausea and gastrointestinal pain. It took me four and a half years, but through God’s strength, I was able to graduate from college in December 2001.
More Best and Worst Years
I knew I couldn’t work after college because I was in terrible pain, and felt very sick, but a few months after I graduated, I became bored and restless. So I got a job working in the Secretarial Department at Pensacola Christian College for the next two years. Those years were the best and worst two years of my life. I loved my work and made some very close friends. But I was so sick. I was in hospitals and on medical leave off and on. I had to take eight prescription painkillers a day, and I was still on the hunt for a doctor who could help me.
From 2001 to 2008, I had several incidents of becoming violently ill due to the toxins overloading my kidneys. I would get extreme stomach pain, break out into a full body sweat, have diarrhea, and start vomiting for hours. Also, my liver enzymes would elevate, indicating inflamed or injured liver cells. My Mom and Dad would have to take me to the Emergency Room. Each time I was given the same protocol: an IV drip for severe dehydration, IV Zophran for the nausea, and morphine or some other narcotic for the pain. Then another hospital stay.
During the very dark days of this affliction, God whispered to me, “Will you trust Me?” I would bow my head and cry, “Yes, Lord. I will trust You!”.
A Diagnosis without a Cure
When I was 25 in 2003, my doctor in Georgia suggested I get tested for Lyme disease. The tests came back positive. This was it—the turning point in my illness! Finally, after 11 years of searching, we found the answer—Lyme disease! However, as we soon discovered, no one knew how to treat chronic Lyme disease. I do believe I contracted Lyme disease from the tick bite I got when I was 13. The question we continually ask is, why couldn’t my immune system fight it? Lots of people are bitten by ticks and they don’t all get Lyme disease. My best guess is that for some questions in life, we will never know the answers. As a Christian, I am comforted knowing that the Lord knows all the answers. At the time of the tick bite, my immune system was in a weakened or stressful state. My body was going through puberty (development of the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands). I also had received a round of vaccinations, which were required before I could attend the new school in Florida. I believe my body was overwhelmed and could not handle the Lyme pathogen.
On September 11, 2003, Mom and I flew up to Pennsylvania to see my first Lyme specialist. He put me on some very strong antibiotics. This was the first instance of taking antibiotics for Lyme disease. They made me much sicker and caused increased stomach pain. Again, I was put in the hospital for a week. The gastrointestinal doctor who treated me found that the whole lining of my GI tract was inflamed. After a few months of recovery, we decided to find a different Lyme doctor closer to Pensacola. We found one in Alabama.
He ran another Lyme test on me right away, and was shocked at how high my Lyme infection numbers were. He also tried some very aggressive antibiotics, but I was in such a weakened state and my systems were not functioning properly. My parents and I began to sense his frustration and knew we could no longer continue with him. A few weeks later, in August 2004, I had to be hospitalized again. I still couldn’t eat, only a little baby food. I lost 33 pounds in three months. I realized I had to quit the job I loved very much.
Prayer and Hope
My body was broken, my spirit was wounded, and there were no answers. My dear pastor in Pensacola, Pastor Schettler, came over one day and we all got down on our knees and took it to the Lord in prayer. The Lord promised us that when we pass through the waters, He will be with us. And through the rivers, they shall not overflow us. And when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned.
A couple of months later, Mom found a naturopathic doctor in Texas. She was knowledgeable about Lyme disease and she worked with a neurologist, a brain surgeon who is also one of the top Lyme disease specialists in the country. Mom and I flew out to Texas in February,2005. We planned to just be gone 10 days; we were gone two years.
The first week in Texas, one doctor sent me to the hospital. He then sent me to a GI doctor to have my gallbladder taken out. It was diseased from the Lyme infection. I had been having gallbladder attacks for about a year. And since I was in such a weakened state, I had to be hospitalized for four days after the surgery. Then a few months later, the doctor realized I was too sick to tolerate the antibiotic program that is the protocol for Lyme disease. I couldn’t even tolerate the herbs or supplements given to me by the naturopathic doctors I saw in Texas. When I was 29, after two years in Texas, and having been treated by nine different doctors, Mom and I went home. I was still very sick, but the doctors had done what they could. The battle continued.
A Godly Example
During our stay in Texas, Dad had taken a new job as the wrestling coach at Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama. He packed up our belongings in Pensacola by himself, bought a house in Marion, then unpacked by himself. My Dad has been a tremendous father during all this, willing to pay any price to have me improve. My Mom has been my rock—my greatest doctor and advocate! It is because of them that I make it through each day. In the 19 years of watching their daughter suffer, my parents have never become bitter toward God or turned against Him.
Even my brothers, Robert and Nathan, have continued to walk with God. It has been extremely difficult on them having to watch their sister suffer. Robert calls almost every day and the first words out of his mouth are, “How’s Kari?” Nathan tells me all the time to keep fighting and not quit. They have been my most faithful prayer warriors. And now my brothers are training their children to pray for me.
In November 2006, Mom and I went home to Marion. Our first year in Marion was a nightmare. Not only did I have to be hospitalized for three days in Demopolis for becoming violently ill again, but Mom also got deathly ill. She had a life-threatening gallbladder infection that turned gangrenous; also, part of her liver turned gangrene. She had to be transported to Birmingham and given large doses of IV antibiotics, and was hospitalized for five days.
90 Doctors, But No Cure
I continued to struggle with my illness. I have estimated the number of doctors that I’ve seen these past 19 years, and it comes to around 90. The number of states we have lived in for this disease has been seven. The amount of money we have spent on this disease has been around $800,000. One of the antibiotics I had to take for babesia (a co-infection of Lyme disease) called Mepron cost $800 a bottle. I had to have three bottles. So that comes to $2,400 just for one round of medication. In Texas, I had 38 lipid IV injections, which totaled $10,000.
All these years, my Mom and I spent hours researching not only Lyme disease, but also the human body and how it functions. I discovered that enzymes are the LIFE of the body and are responsible for every chemical process that occurs, from breathing to supporting the immune system. Enzymes do the work required for all life processes. Providing the body with enzymes and the proper nutrients,give the body what it needs to heal itself under any circumstance.
So I was motivated to go to an enzyme therapist. By the Lord’s leading, we found one in Florida. In December of 2008, Mom and I flew down there for four days. The doctor realized that my nervous system had crashed from being assaulted by Lyme disease for 19 years. That is why every little thing all these years made me so violently ill. He suggested I seek help from his colleague in Tennessee, who is also an enzyme therapist as well as an acupuncturist.
On December 15, 2008, we came to her clinic. The first week of taking her enzyme formulas and getting spinal adjustments, my stomach already felt better. I was dying, and the Lord in His mercy used her to save my life.
In January 2009, Mom and I moved to Tennessee to be near her. We couldn’t afford the rent for an apartment. But the Lord took care of us in a marvelous way. A soldier in the Army, Sergeant Jamey Stephenson, had orders to go back to Iraq, so he let us live free in his house. It took about six months for the treatment specialist to stabilize me. She was then able to put me on a formula called TRMA, which has the enzyme protease in it. Protease is an enzyme that kills the Lyme pathogens as well as other pathogens in the body. It works slowly, so I am able to tolerate this Lyme medicine. In October 2010, Mom and I moved back to Marion.
Time for Healing
Over the last two years, I have seen some improvements in my health. My stomach is healing, my kidneys are functioning better, and my immune system is stronger. However, there is still much healing that needs to be done in my body:
–The Lyme bacteria in my cells, blood, and organs still need to be killed
–I still have severe leg pain and chronic fatigue
–I still can’t sleep at night
–There are still toxins, inflammation and dehydration that need to be addressed
–My common bile duct is still congested, causing pain and constipation
–I still need four prescription pain killers every day
–I am still underweight
But our biggest concern is the brain injury caused from the numerous vaccinations I received as a child, and from the Lyme infection. I have recently begun consulting with three other practitioners who are very knowledgeable on treating brain injury and repairing the blood-brain barrier. So, my fight against Lyme disease continues.
“To God Be the Glory”
This is not an easy road that I have been called to walk. This disease is frightening and painful. Many days I am flooded with despair, and many days I WANT OUT! But I am determined to trust God in this, believing that He has a purpose for this suffering and that He is NOT going to waste my pain. I will continue to embrace Him every day, and find comfort knowing that He is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE!
I want to share three treasured verses that I cling to in my suffering:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). As a child of God, I believe His Word. ALL things work together for good. And if I never know the purpose for my suffering here on earth, I will surely know it in eternity.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you plans to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). In all my years of suffering, it has been such a comfort to me knowing that the Lord has a plan and a purpose for my life. God doesn’t make mistakes! Most people can’t see any value to suffering. That’s because they don’t have eyes of faith. As a Christian, there is much value in suffering—earthly value, but most importantly, eternal value.
we also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4). This trial is helping me develop strength of character and devotion to Christ. It is helping me obtain a deep spiritual growth and love for my Savior. And, it has forced me to seek God with my whole heart! Someday, if God wills it, I will be completely well. Until then, I am going to run with perseverance the race that is set before me.
—Kari Hazewinkel, Tennessee
“Father, with happy committal I give you my life. Do with it as it pleases you, only give me great grace to do for the glory of Christ Jesus, whatever comes to me, in sickness and in health.” —Missionary Jim Elliot