Friday, December 18, 2015

An unexpected answer to your prayers

Oh you wonderful people, you. Thank you for praying for me so diligently these last few weeks as I've finished up the school year. Your prayers have been powerful and effective. I've seen significant improvement in my symptoms since you started praying, and I have been able to remain faithful in my most pressing responsibilities. Today I wrapped up finals week, and tomorrow I'm flying to my folks house for the holidays. It all feels like a tremendous gift.

I often feel most vulnerable to Satan's attacks when I'm sickest. I'm so thankful to have a prayer team in you during these battles. On Wednesday the 2nd, after you'd been praying for a full night, the spiritual attacks subsided. I felt like Angel warriors surrounded me and created a bubble of protection from the Enemy. Since then, I've often felt peace settle into the nooks and crannies of my spirit. I've also felt new hope wiggling its little roots into my soul-soil. And surprise of surprises, the week I was most incapacitated, I found myself laughing a lot, alone, in my room, wearing my stretchy pants. (Name that movie). I know this must be because of your prayers.

These four things — joy, peace, protection from the Enemy, and enough improvement that I can remain faithful in my responsibilities — are often the fruit of your prayers. But two weeks ago there was a fifth gift that made me want to sing the Hallelujah chorus. I'm especially excited to share this fifth gift with you because I know many of you have been praying for years, waiting for something like this to happen. I do wish I could tell you in person, but this little post will have to do.

Lots of you ask me what my symptoms are, exactly. For several years I've been dealing with medical fatigue that makes me feel like I have lead in my limbs. I've also had regular low grade fevers, muscle and joint pain, migraines, vision blocks, cysts, chronic sore throats and swollen lymph nodes, increased food allergies, thick brain fog, decreased mental stamina, poor memory, and occasional muscle weakness. My team of doctors and I are pretty sure the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is the cause of all these symptoms.

But then, last December, after a season of significant healing, my body added a slew of new symptoms to the mix: constant dizziness, nausea that starts in my head (not my gut) and radiates down my body, ringing in my ears, buzzing in my head, stiff and painful neck and jaw, electric shocks bouncing all over my body, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, increased weakness and fatigue, digestive problems, heightened anxiety, a dozen more food allergies etc. My weirdest symptom makes me feel like my nerves and brain are inflamed and thousands of little bugs are chewing on them. Oddly, this sensation tends to intensify after I eat.

Since July, I've been rigorously detoxifying my body with the help of many supplements and tinctures. For years, pathogens have been dumping poison into my body, and it was essential that we begin pulling it out before doing any extreme treatment. Thankfully, the detoxification has helped, and in September I saw great improvement in my health. I function at about 30-35% of normal now when I feel well, and many of the symptoms that started last year are no longer constant. Every now and then they all flare up at once and incapacitate me, though.

It's been tricky to figure out what's causing each of these symptoms. There are just so many of them, and many of them seem unrelated. One doctor speculated it will be several years before I'm back to normal. I imagine that's in part because of how difficult it can be to pinpoint, with any sort of confidence, the causes of chronic disease like mine.

Many of you already know this next bit, but I'll summarize for those of you who don't. Doctors have discovered my immune, endocrine, digestive, and central nervous systems are not working properly. We know EBV and mykotoxins are present in my body. We suspect I deal with parasites, and we're continuing to search for other invaders like lyme. But what we don't know is what is causing which symptoms. It's possible the EBV may be causing the worst of these new symptoms, but why? What is the EBV attacking that is causing this? Is it my liver? My kidneys?

I've done loads of daydreaming while on bed rest over the years. In my favorite, recurring daydream, I'm pushing through a crowd to get to Jesus, much like the woman who bled for 12 years in Mark 5. The daydream varies from day to day. Sometimes Jesus' back is toward me; sometimes he's facing me. Sometimes I beg him to heal me; sometimes he moves to me before I can open my mouth. One thing is the same every time, though: Jesus always places his hands on the same spot on my neck when he heals me.

I've wondered why Jesus puts his hand on that spot on my neck, of all places. I don't have pain there, nor have I had any physical trauma there (that I know of, anyway). It feels like such a random spot, and yet I've always known I want Jesus to put his hand right there. When people have prayed for my health throughout the years, I've asked them to put their hand on that part of my neck. When I've felt especially ill and have had a friend next to me, I've asked her to put her hand there. And when I'm feeling especially sick but must remain be upright to teach or go to the doctor, I find myself gripping that part of my neck.

Two weeks ago I spent most of my time in bed resting and talking to God. God is often very quiet during these conversations, but this time his still, small voice pierced the silence: "Your vagus nerve is inflamed."

Here's the thing about the vagus nerve: I have no idea what it is. I've heard of it and can tell you two things about it: 1) I have one; 2) enemas stimulate it (Noooow you know! Oh, the trivia I've collected over the years. Also: sorry). So I went into research mode, turning to my good friend, Google, with my most pressing question:

"Where is the vagus nerve?"

I had a feeling I knew where the nerve was located, and you guys. I was right. The vagus nerve begins EXACTLY at that spot on my neck that Jesus always touches in my daydream.

And here's what else: because the vagus nerve runs down the torso and innervates major organs, and because of its integral role in managing inflammation, the vagus nerve can either directly or indirectly cause almost every single symptom I've been dealing with throughout this journey (that long list, you guys — how is that possible?!).  Even symptoms that seem unrelated — like dizziness and food allergies — are clearly related when I view them through the lens of the vagus nerve's role in my body.

Over the years I have had so many questions about my symptoms — about they way they relate to each other, about the way they coincide with life events, about the experiences that trigger and exacerbate them — and my research on the vagus nerve began to answer those questions in a way that made perfect sense to me.

(A disclaimer: I'm distilling loads of cutting-edge neuroscience into a few sloppy sentences here, which is a bummer, because it's all the details I uncovered that make this discovery SO STINKING AMAZING.)

The difficulty with this whole vagus nerve discovery is neuroscientists are just now gathering significant information about the vagus nerve and chronic disease. It's remained a mystery for quite some time. This means doctors are just now experimenting with treatment involving the vagus nerve for conditions like mine. So my next steps are to figure out how I can reduce the inflammation of my vagus nerve and can help it do its job. And of course, I'm still on the search to identify which pathogens — EBV, mykotoxins, or possible lyme — are inflaming the nerve so horribly. I'm not sure if it will be possible to figure this out, but in the meantime, I've discovered a handful of practical things I can do to stimulate the nerve and reduce inflammation.

And you know, just being able to name a primary cause (albeit not the ultimate cause) of my symptoms feels good. The knowledge has doused me with buckets of relief.

But do you know what's been more amazing than this vagus nerve discovery? The knowledge that all of your prayerful voices moved the Spirit of God to give me this important piece of a perplexing puzzle. He is good, and you are wonderful, and I am grateful. Thank you for praying, praying, praying for years, and months, and weeks, and hours. You guys are my tribe and I love you.

Happy Friday, Folks.

Cheering for you,


© by scj


  1. Wow! Just, WOW! How awesome that God revealed this to you! So good to finally know what is causing all the ruckus in your body. Woo-hooing for and with you! ~Sharon

    1. Sharon,

      It is truly glorious, isn't it? It feels wonderful to have uncovered a piece of the puzzle. It makes me hopeful that we'll continue to uncover pieces and will eventually discover, with certainty, the ultimate cause of all this ruckus!

      Thanks for whoo-hooing for and with me, Sharon!