It’s unseasonably warm and sunny here today, a glorious 66 degrees. I adore the hope of spring with its promise of new life to come, colors warming their way back into the landscape, balmy air to breathe and a plethora of activities beckoning me out of doors.
I’m especially grateful for this weather today as I’ve entered what I like to call the adjustment phase. A little over a week ago I finished up a three week round of antibiotics, and a few days later wrapped up my 12 day steroid burst. In theory it’s great to be off those medications. In practice, it’s rough being off those medications. For otherwise healthy people, taking antibiotics cures the infection in your body and when you complete your course, the infection is gone and normal life commences. For me, antibiotics suppress the bacteria that has taken up permanent residence in my lungs allowing me to feel much better, but the infection is never 100% eradicated. I remember a lung culture that was taken after my first round of IV antibioitcs last spring. The antibiotics did such a great job that the only thing that grew out was what the report termed a “rare” or small amount of a common bacteria called Staphylococcus (responsible for the well known Staph infection). The big guns did their job. One month later, although I wasn’t acutely ill, my lung culture showed numerous amounts of staph and psuedomonas, the other bacteria that grows up in my lungs most of the time. Because of my cystic fibrosis, the conditions in my lungs are such that bacteria thrives there and I cannot ever be completely rid of it.
I have noticed as my condition has progessed, that five days to a week after I go off antibiotics, I go into a phase of increased struggle. The bacteria in my lungs are returning to their chronic levels. My chronic cough returns, my congestion levels rise, and my chest, back, and abdominal muscles become tight and sore since they seized the opportunity to atrophy with decreased use during treatment (who can blame them!). I often have several days where I feel chilled and feverish even though my body temperature remains normal. I think my body initially puts forward a strong immune response as it readjusts to life without the drugs. It is difficult because I go from feeling better than normal while on antibiotics to feeling worse than normal within a few days as my body finds its footing. The first week following antibiotics and steroids often still includes some of the side effects of the drugs as well such as poor sleep and stomach issues. It’s hard to deal with those side effects without having the benefit of the drugs.
I always know that this adjustment phase is coming, but it is distressing every time. It is hard physically, but it is also hard emotionally. I get to enjoy an easier, more normal life while on antibiotics and steroids, and that is such a blessing. We had some really great times the last few weeks–sledding and snow play with Lucas, a family day at the zoo, some messy hikes in the woods, and an uncharacteristically clean and organized house. I had a couple of great runs on the treadmill where I felt strong and invigorated. I felt less restraint, more energy, and more freedom. It is hard to come off those highs and get reaquainted with the lows. It’s hard to trade that feeling of freedom for resistance and restriction.
Today as the sun was shining down on me, the light and warmth felt healing. It reminded me of a verse from Malachi.
But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. Malachi 4:2
The Sun of Righteousness refers to Jesus, and his wings refer to the fringe of his robe. Jewish people had fringes on their robes which identified them as belonging to God, a representation of their identity. I just read the story of the woman who had suffered for 12 years with a chronic bleeding condition who reached out to touch the fringe of Jesus’s robe and was instantly healed. She seemed to understand that because of his identity as the Son of God, He had the power to heal her, and so she touched what represented who He was. Reading stories like that makes me long for healing, and although I cannot physically touch Jesus’s robe, I often reach out to Him and ask Him to heal me.
And Jesus always answers me with a measure of healing, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. There are days I breathe easier. There are moments where I feel supernatural strength. There are times where my heart is secure and steadfast against all odds. There are moments when fears and worries flee and I am filled with peace, and times when my trust in Him and His perfect plan are renewed. I know that some day I will be healed completely. It may not be until I reach heaven, but the chains of this disease are temporary. Jesus has brought me through valleys, He has allowed me to walk on heights, He has protected and sustained me and allowed me to say, even on the darkest days, and even during this pesky adjustment phase, “it is well with my soul.”