She danced. And she sang. And then she couldn’t.
Jessica was healthy. In and out of choirs and dance lessons, she developed an appreciation for the arts at an early age. Her heart was full when she knew the connection her body had to music. For the first 26 years of her life, all was well.
Ambitious and driven, Jessica poured herself into a career in banking, starting as a teller and working her way up to the position of Branch Administrator in investment banking. Working a high-stress position, including long hours and demanding clients, she was frustrated when shooting pains burst down her arms and legs. After a few weeks, the pains translated to weakness and fatigue. At home, she slept. At work, she struggled to keep up.
In the midst of her declining health, a divorce added to her emotional pain. Jessica watched her life fall apart, piece by piece, almost as if on a monitor in a distant place, and she was unable to control the outcome.
Her joints and muscles began to hurt worse as she added constant headaches to the mix. Finally, her issues became pervasive enough to force her to seek medical help.
From rheumatologists, neurologists, chiropractors, and every type of specialist in between, each doctor she visited diagnosed her condition based on their field of expertise. No one was sure of what truly caused her pain and fatigue, and no treatment made a bit of difference. For over two years, Jessica’s condition worsened until she found herself in a wheelchair. Once a dancer, she could no longer walk more than five feet without being completely out of breath. At home, she managed with a cane, but was unable to even accomplish simple daily hygiene without assistance.
It is true – that notion we so quickly forget – that you never truly understand the value of what you have until it is taken away from you. For Jessica, the loss of energy and mobility resulted in a life void of independence, dignity, or happiness.
As most would in this situation, she struggled to keep depression at bay. Every day, her illness became more of a burden on her family and a drag on her self-worth. Not only had she lost the ability to dance, her lungs couldn’t handle the amount of oxygen required to even speak, much less sing out. This woman who had been in love with worship and music and dance now found every joyful experience ripped from her fingers, replaced with agony and despair. Now living in her mother’s house in her childhood bedroom, Jessica continued visiting doctor after doctor, with an expanding medical chart that still offered no reprieve from her debilitating illness. Eventually, she was viewed as a mental patient rather than one with a true physical disorder.
The walls of melancholy squeezed in around her as one night, listening from downstairs, she distantly heard the sobbing voice of her mother, crying out to God and begging for an answer to what she had done wrong. Broken and confused, Jessica knew a turning point had to come soon or her life would soon be over.
The week after hearing her mother pray, Jessica had a spinal tap to determine if neurological issues were to blame for her symptoms. After the procedure, she could no longer lift her head on her own and began vomiting several times a day, causing severe dehydration.
Within days of the tap, during a visit to her infectious disease specialist, Jessica’s mother learned that without a diagnosis, Jessica would not live for more than a year. Unaware that they could be overheard, the doctor was frank with her mother. Fighting back tears to remain composed, Jessica watched her mother return to the room and insist they would continue to search for a diagnosis.
It was that night Jessica hit the bottom of the endless cavern she’d been descending down for years. After the endless stream of doctor visits, debt collection attempts for bills she couldn’t pay, and chronic pain and fatigue, she called upon the Lord to take her life. She was angry and confused at her endless inability to accomplish what she wanted, and life no longer held hope. Tired of watching her family’s tortured gaze upon her, she yearned for nothing but heaven.
Within a week of praying to die, the doctors finally discovered the cause of her distress: Lyme Disease.
Unrecognized by those outside of areas where Lyme Disease is commonly contracted, the sickness had existed in Jessica’s bloodstream six to seven years and had infected her nervous system. Due to the lack of woods and deer in her area of Florida, doctors had not considered it as a diagnosis, as it also mimics symptoms of many other auto-immune diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Lupis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Myasthenia gravis.
Her treatment began immediately, as her internal organs had begun to fail. A pic line was inserted directly into her heart to administer gastric infusions. It took five months for her strength to start returning, but after infusions and physical therapy for a year, she was able to walk again. Her recovery process also included being prescribed strong antibiotics for a few years, until Jessica visited a natural health doctor who assisted her in slowly getting off all medications, with the result that she was able to jog again at the beginning of 2010, three years after her correct diagnosis. In 2011, she was asked to sing backup vocals for the worship team at her church.
Her life had been returned to her, and the gratitude radiating from Jessica became visible.
After moving to Nashville in 2012, still experiencing some pain in her arms and legs and having to pace her energy levels, she became connected with a church that preached the healing power of God and encouraged people to seek total restoration in all areas of their lives – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In May of 2013, she attended a conference at her church and was shocked to hear the speaker say, in front of 500 people, “There is someone here who has Lyme Disease and God wants you to be totally healed. You‘ve gotten a lot of healing from it, but now He wants you to be totally healed. He wants you to stand up right now and you will be healed.”
Knowing he was talking about her but scared to draw attention to herself in front of a crowd, Jessica finally stood up at the insistence of the friends around her.
When she stood, heat emanated throughout her entire body and the lingering pains from years of a body being ravaged by disease were completely gone. After over a year, Jessica still has had no pain in her body as a result of the disease that now has no hold on her! And she rejoices.
Over the past several years of recovery and healing, Jessica has grown and learned so much more than she had ever expected. Able to return again to her career in banking, she watched God provide for her finances in a way that rescued her out of the mountain of medical and other financial debt under which she had found herself. After taking a leap of faith to enter ministry school and drop to part-time employment, Jessica has experienced even more freedom and joy in spreading the gospel as she has learned how to communicate her faith to others.
And a passion for seeing God heal others has been the central focus of her life since her own healing.
Believing scripture and God’s willingness and desire to do the miraculous, Jessica has seen many human bodies line up with God’s healing power. But even with the exciting nature of miracles, it is not only the end result that concerns Jessica, that girl who learned what it was like to lose the things most important to her due to illness.
Every day, she (and you, and I) passes those struggling to lead normal lives with various disabilities. While most people do not desire pity, it is also essential to Jessica that she considers the things healthy people take for granted, and does what she can to help someone else get through another day. It was not so long ago that she recalled the task of getting out of a car, walking into a banking center, and walking back to the car. Something so simple for many was an ordeal that required the use of a wheelchair and could easily take half an hour. Using a hairbrush or a hair dryer was, at one time, an undertaking Jessica could barely accomplish, if at all.
Her first admonition to you is this: never undervalue the blessing it can be to someone for you to open a door, to move a chair, or even to say a kind word. This applies to all people, but especially as it refers to those living with chronic disabilities. Don’t take your life for granted. And when you have the chance, make someone else’s day a little more bearable.
Second, her shout to the world is that Jesus heals! He desires to heal sickness and pain, and He is not limited by medical discovery or human understanding. Come to Him, and He will be all you need.
Author’s note: when Jessica and I met for her photo shoot, she brought her cane for some of the shots. When I first met her, she still struggled with some fatigue and lingering pain, and even though I never knew her at the height of her disease, I was still moved to tears to watch her dance, run, and jump with joy. As you look at the photos, don’t be afraid to dance. If you can, you should.
Photo Credit: 535 Photo
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