Suffering: I don’t hear sincerity in your voice, Pia. I know you haven’t been happy since I came into your life.
Pia: I must admit that’s true. You made such a sudden appearance in my life with pain out of nowhere.
Suffering: True, and that was just the beginning of your health troubles.Pia: Yes, other than all my 100 health issues, (really, 100) the worst being Fibromyalgia syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I’ve seen 7 specialists (gynecologist, cardiologist, neurologist, rheumatologist and gastroenterologist, general internal medicine, ENT, pain doctor), 6 other health care providers (family doctor, naturopath, dentist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, and massage therapist), I’ve had 3 visits to ER, numerous blood tests, 3 MRIs, 2 CT scans, abdominal ultrasound, 3 x-rays, bone density tests, nerve conduction tests, EMG, gastroscopy and colonoscopy, urgent angiogram, 2 ECGs, sleep studies and other tests. A few other stressful incidents were the death of our dog and leaving our church after 28 years!
Suffering: When you put it that way, it does sound rather overwhelming.Pia: Try living it.
Suffering: Well, I was your constant companion throughout these few years. And you do know who sent me, don’t you?Pia: I do know. In all that’s happened to me, I’ve never been tempted to ask, “Why me?” As a nurse, I’m a realist, and as a Christian I believe that even this has come from the hand of a loving God.
Suffering: That’s very mature of you, Pia. Most people rail against God when I come around.Pia: He’s blessed me with 49 great years before these two years of suffering. Even if I have to live with this the rest of my life, how can I really complain?
Suffering: I must have caught you on a good day. There are some days when you seem more depressed.Pia: I’m not depressed; just discouraged. If I was depressed I wouldn’t feel any joy in life. But I do. So much so that on good days, or “less bad days” as I like to call them, I overdo it. But then it causes a crash and I’m useless for a few days.
Suffering: So isn’t that a silver lining, then? Resting and daydreaming with your feet up, doing your favourite things like reading or writing?Pia: If only that were the case! When I have a Fibro flare I’m in pain, worse than my usual daily pain. Nothing relieves it. And the exhaustion from the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is overwhelming. I always say that’s too tame a name for how it feels. I have to rest for half an hour just from climbing the stairs or taking a shower. And both of my illnesses cause cognitive impairment so I have trouble retaining what I’m reading. My writing is only possible in short bursts. Even my kindle audio, which I used to set to read to me, bothers me because I’ve also developed electromagnetic hypersensitivity. That also limits my time on the computer. So those things I loved, which made me who I am, are limited.
Suffering: You’ve had many losses, haven’t you?Pia: Yes; my health, my career, my income, my hobbies among others.
Suffering: What about your spiritual life? How’s your faith holding up?Pia: Although it’s been my worst two years, physically, they’ve been my best spiritually. I really feel God’s presence daily. I’ve been praying more, and reading my Bible daily. And I’ve been attending our Women’s Bible studies. We went through the book of John and we’ll do Genesis in the fall.
Suffering: Did you know that your eyes lit up when you shared that?Pia: I believe it. At the end of our study on the book of John I presented a 20 page summary of our study. I prepared it slowly over the months of our study. Whenever I teach the Bible I feel like my old self. I can’t teach on the fly anymore, because I can’t recall words or ideas like I used to, but if I can prepare in advance, I feel like I have something to share, and I feel useful.
Suffering: So are you finding some joy in the midst of your suffering?Pia: Yes, definitely. And my husband is so supportive. He always asks if I’m resting, and never complains about our messy house. He jokes that we’ve tested all our wedding vows; richer, poorer, sickness, health, better or worse, a few times over.
Suffering: What else have you done to learn how to cope?Pia: That’s the thing. This learning to live with a chronic illness is a new normal. It took a while to accept that it wasn’t going away. I did fight against it at first. But I couldn’t wish it a way. Like diabetes, once you get it, you can’t un-get it. Once I got to that point, I researched my illnesses and found facebook groups to learn more. Then I started my own support group/blog/facebook group called Cope with Hope; for people with Chronic Illnesses and Invisible Disabilities who still believe in the goodness of God.
Suffering: Like you?Pia: Yes, like me. I did it as much for myself as for others. Although some of my latent leadership skills are coming out (only in small groups), the nine people who’ve come out say they’ve been blessed.
Suffering: What’s next for you?Pia: Probably more of the same, except I need to scale back on my commitments. I forget sometimes that I’m not my old self, and I get overwhelmed easily, and don’t handle stress well anymore. I used to be a high functioning multitasker. Now I can only manage one or two tasks per day. There’s no cure for any of my illnesses, so I’ll just try to manage them, and spend my time going from appointment to appointment. I’ll probably never be able to nurse again, and that makes me sad, because I loved my job as an Oncology Nurse. I’m just waiting on God to show me what I can do in this season of my life. And I want to learn whatever He wants to teach me.
Suffering: How’s your book coming along? Any chance that could be the direction that God is sending you?Pia: Possibly. It’s with an editor now, which is good, given my cognitive issues. I hope it will one day be out there. Benaiah’s story needs to be told.
Suffering: So I’m not all bad?Pia: No, I know God sent you into my life for my good and His glory, and He can make something beautiful emerge from even this. Don’t get me wrong, I hate my illnesses, but I think of the character, Much-Afraid in Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places, which I read when I was a teen. Her travelling companions were Sorrow and Suffering. At the end of the journey all three of them received new names. I hope that would happen with me. I don’t want to become bitter. God’s been so good to me. I just noticed, for an interviewer, I've done most of the talking.
Suffering: That's how I like it. I want the people who have become acquainted with me to gain insight into the positive side of me.
Pia: Thank you for visiting today, Suffering.
Suffering: Oh, didn’t you know? I moved into your guest room. I’m here to stay.