I don’t post this picture to elicit sympathy. (Though I’ve never been one to run from a little self-pity.) I post it to try and tell a story. And to put in context some things I have learned over the last 2 months that I hope will be helpful. Here’s the story.
Early in August, I began to have a different kind of headache. I’ve never had a migraine headache but I told Doris (and anybody that would listen, I refer you to the paragraph above.) that I thought I was having a migraine headache. It would not go away and got progressively worse. On August 14, Doris and I had tickets to a tennis tournament in Cincinnati that I had looked forward to for a long time. We drove up on Friday and checked in to our hotel. I didn’t feel great but I was determined to enjoy the weekend. Saturday, we went to the tournament. Fun day. Gorgeous weather. But as the day went on, I got worse. By Saturday evening Doris took charge. She checked us out of the hotel, drove us all the way back to Murfreesboro, TN, and early Sunday morning marched me into the emergency department, and the journey began for real.
By this time the pain in my head was excruciating. It would come in waves that would make me audibly catch my breath. Any light was unbearable, especially in my left eye. Doctors, tests, MRI’s, and by the afternoon the diagnosis came back, of all things, shingles. Herpes zoster is the medical term and that’s even scarier. It is a reactivation of childhood chickenpox that produces a painful rash (there’s an understatement) on any part of the body. I happened to get it on the really fun part, head, face, and eye. Everyone I have talked to that has had shingles has given me these comforting words, “Oh, my goodness. I cannot imagine having it on my head and face.” I thank them kindly.
The biggest fear from the ER doctor was that it would enter my eye. It can cause nerve damage, vision loss, and even blindness. I was referred to an ophthalmologist that agreed to see me the next day. To date, the good news is that it is ON my eyeball but not in my eye. I do praise God for that.
Well, let me end this pity party by saying the last 7 weeks have been a time of such prolonged and severe suffering that I never dreamed possible. I have sat for hours, rocking back and forth, my eye itching so bad that it was maddening, my head pounding to the point that I would stay nauseous. I endured a second trip to the hospital, halfway through this ordeal because of the awful side effects of the pain medication. And yet, I would sit staring at the clock, pain meds in my hand, negotiating with myself if I could take them 15 minutes early. By the way, pain meds for shingles don’t eliminate the pain. They just bring it down to a dull roar.
As I sit, at the beginning of week nine, the rash is gone. The pain has moved from the left side of my head to the left quarter. My eye itching has gone from maddening to irritating. And I am usually able to have 3-4 productive, relatively manageable hours a day, where I am not trying to sleep the pain away or pacing the driveway waiting for my next medicines. I am so much better and claiming the full healing that is on the way. Every doctor I talked to said, “Now you know there is a good chance of postherpetic neuralgia.” Which is another term for the same pain that can last for weeks or even months after the shingles is finally gone. Thanks guys, we will let God deal with that when the time comes.
So, here are a few things I have done in the last few weeks that 2 months ago I never imagined.
- I have worn sunglasses to church AT NIGHT. And still had to come back and go to bed early to let the pain subside.
- I have sat on the front porch, in a bathrobe, and wept as my sons mowed my grass for me.
- I have listened to my grandsons playing in the family room but have been unable to get out of bed to go in and see them.
- I have had long meaningful conversations with my Nurse Practitioner daughter-in-law about my bowel movements so she could help me write my med chart.
- I have had a med chart.
- And finally, maybe the bravest thing I have done, today I sat on a chair on the deck while Doris gave me a haircut. The first time she has done that in, well, ever.
By now you should be thoroughly disgusted or feeling really sorry for me. Either will do. Listen, in the great scheme of things, there are much worse calamities. No doctor, at any time said, “You might die from this.” This is not COVID, my life has never been on the line. I also know, and love, people who have suffered excruciating pain for years, not 8 weeks. I know all of that. I am just trying to put my suffering in perspective for you so that I can share these fast four lessons I have learned.
Lesson number 1: Life is fragile. Do not take one moment for granted. 8 weeks ago, I was preparing to PLAY in the state tennis tournament. Today I can’t keep both eyes open enough to toss the tennis ball to Caleb, my youngest grandson. Each minute is precious. Stay in it. Relish it. Thank God for it. Don’t waste it.
Lesson number 2: Faith is strongly attached to feeling. Don’t let that happen. When you are hurting, or frightened, or in despair, the enemy of your soul will jump on the feeling side and do everything in his power to diminish your faith. And he will…if you let him. There were nights, lying in bed begging for sleep to take the pain away, that I would hear that voice saying, “God has deserted you. This is what hell is like and you are headed there.” It took every bit of my power to go back to what I know and not what I felt.
Lesson number 3: With lesson 2 in mind, there are weak spots in our lives that the devil will leverage in the middle of our suffering. Clear them up now. I confess, there are grudges I have held, jealousies I have harbored, fantasies I have indulged in. Every one of those came up as the accuser said, “See, this is why God isn’t answering your prayer.” One by one, in the dark, despairing nights, I would go through those, ask for forgiveness, offer forgiveness, give each one to God and beg Him to accept my repentance. Do that today before the suffering comes.
Lesson number 4: God is faithful. Count on it. I had two guys that sent me texts EVERY SINGLE MORNING at 7AM saying, “Praying for you.” I had a group of Bible study guys that would check in over and over again. The staff at Branches sent me cards and came and prayed for me. My kids called and texted and came by and took pictures and loved me. My wife, God bless her, my wife was an angel in a sweatsuit, watching over, making meals that usually went uneaten, counting out medicines, applying eye drops, and praying over me as she anointed me with oil. ALL OF THAT IS GOD’S FAITHFULNESS. Someone might say, “Where was God when you were suffering?” I would say, He was in the texts from my pastor, the pats from my grandkids, the songs on my playlist. Faithfulness doesn’t always mean the pain goes away. Faithfulness means He will be there with you.
About 3 weeks ago (I’m a slow learner) I was weeping and praying for God to take the pain away. God said. “You’re praying the wrong prayer. Pray that you would feel My presence in your pain.” I began to pray that and it changed everything. When the headache would throb or my eye would itch, I would say, “Jesus, help me to feel You here with me.” And…I would.
Look, I know this is way too long. And probably way too personal. My prayer is you never suffer pain like this. But more than that, my prayer is that the faithfulness of God would be so real, so evident, that whatever you are going through you would know that He is present with you. Thank you for being in my life.
Love you and still praying
Thank you for writing, even in your suffering. You are always so interesting!
A book may derive from this terrible suffering and help a sick and suffering world. I’m so sorry someone so undeserving as you, is going through this.
I stretch my hand towards your home and pray for you & Doris as I go by going to work each day. Wish I could do more. Thank you for sharing!
Oh Mike you get lots of sympathy from me! I am so sorry you are going through this. I can’t imagine the pain! I appreciate your learned lessons – life is so fragile and we need to make the most of and enjoy every minute. But mostly, we have to remember Jesus walks through every moment with us – good and bad and there will be bad. Continuing to pray for your healing. We love you and Doris.
Good Morning. I wish I could write as well as you do. I will attempt to put into words what I am thinking and feeling after reading your story. I have in the past few months began to question where God is in all the suffering and tremendous heartache that our world has been going through. If seems that there is always some imaginable circumstance happening these days. weather Covid killing multiple family members,buildings collapsing, gun violence, floods and fires and so much more that just makes me want to scream and weep at the top of my lungs enough!!! I have to admit that I have begun to lose my faith. When good things happen to good hearted God fearing people,. I get more discouraged. However, as I read your story,you remind me not to let the enemy steal my joy and to appreciate all God’s goodness now. You remind me to make amends now and asks for forgiveness for my sins that make me feel separated from God ,not to waste each day of health God has given us.You also remind me to trust God’s love and faithfulness for me and his children. Thank you for doing all that for me this morning. I pray that your health is restored more and more each day so you can enjoy the things you have not been able to do and that you miss. I pray that each morning the pain is less until you are pain free and thriving again with your health. I pray that God continues to walk with you and sends his children to love on you and lift your spirits. I will hold you in my heart ❤️ and ask God’s and complete restoration of your health 🙏
Shingles is a funny circumstance-not!
How it discerns where it lands on your body is very interesting. I too had shingles on my face neck scalp and probably my eyes because I was so light sensitive that I teared and had to wear sunglasses all the time. Nevertheless I stayed in denial that it was shingles because I would say to this very day on my life I never had chickenpox! But I guess that isn’t the case is it? Lol The dermatologist confirmed that it was shingles. So I got the medicine and started taking it. But in the very beginning I thought I had something like a itchy mosquito bite. And then it just exploded. I can feel your pain not to the extent of what you’ve had with your eye but it’s very very unbearable. Prayers for continued mending for you and your family and Doris.
So many of us can relate to your stories. It’s nice that you have shared this. Thank you.
Thank you for those words of wisdom. There are so many things we don’t understand and that don’t make sense. But I know, for me personally, that it’s in my lowest times that I have grown the most spiritually. God loves you and is for you, Mike, and He will be faithful to bring you through this…a stronger Christian and an even greater witness for Him. You will be covered by my prayers….and Doris, too. I know it’s not easy to see someone you love struggle in pain. God bless you and bring you complete healing! ❤️🙏🏻
Praying for you,Mike. What an awful experience this health crisis has been! Yet in it and through it, you have written some valid points for me to check through in my own life.
I remember fondly when you and Doris served here in Augusta. We were blessed by the ministry of having you both at our church. So glad to be having it again at a distance…through your words and hearing her music.
God bless you both. Know you are in my prayers.
Cheryl Mobley ( Womack)
I’ve never, ever heard anything more gut-wrenching. Thanks for sharing your very honest perspectives. Caused me to think a couple of thoughts:
1.) No wonder Job’s friends did such a wretched job trying to comfort him; there simply is nothing helpful to say when the suffering goes that deep.
2.) Interestingly, Satan has been using the same tactics for millennia; nothing new here. Just adding insult to injury with irrational accusations having no basis in the truth whatsoever. A total revelation of his hateful character.
3.) That revelation makes the contrasting beauty of your true friendships, the love of sweet family members and faithful spouse even more precious; a revelation of God’s beautiful, loving character that weeps along with you when you weep. “Oh yes, He cares; I know He cares! His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary. I know my Saviour cares.” But, I am just so sorry.
Bless your heart, Mike! It’s comforting to know, again, that God is faithful. My shingles weren’t near as bad as yours but still, I feel your pain.
I’ve been praying for you. I’ve missed your posts and I’m glad you are getting better.
I love you and your family and will continue to pray for complete healing.
Love and prayers for you . I will pray for healing .
My heart aches for you and the suffering you’ve had to endure. Your words, the lessons you’ve learned and the understanding you’ve shared are so on point for me right now.. Diagnosed with PMR in July, a disease that as a nurse I’d never heard of. I’ve had to come to grips with the fact this could be a life thing (that I strongly rebuke in Jesus name) and understanding this is a disease of chronic pain, I will take a lesson on how to pray on the days that the pain is intense. God has truly given you such a gift of teaching and sharing His heart and I thank you from the bottom of mine!
Thank you for sharing your heinous experience. I’m one of the ones who would come to your pity party – invited or not. My heart goes out to you. Can’t imagine how you’ve suffered. I’d have been asking Jesus to “take me home”. Only by Gods grace have you come this far. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned thru all of this. God bless you and I pray for continued and complete healing for you in Jesus’ name.
Thankful for your loving family too.
This is so good and I am grateful for your transparency. You are very special to us and we love you.
Dearest Mike and Doris…Many times during the day and night you are in my thoughts and prayers. I wonder how you are coping with just everything. I pray that you are finding some kind of relief and if you are able to sleep at all. I think about how I know you are longing to see the boys and spend time with them. I pray for you to have relief in knowing and feeling God’s presence. I thank him for Doris and ask him to continue to give her strength for each moment of the day. I know how there are times that you need to pray…you want to pray…yet, the anquish of the pain covers your thoughts and it is then you lean hard on knowing our Father understands the moanings and utterance of the groanings of our heart’s call for his help. I will not stop praying for each of you. I love you dearly