At age 19, I was obviously the youngest person in the rheumatologist’s or arthritis/autoimmune doctor’s waiting area, which was evidence of the untimeliness of the disease’s attack on my body. As I scanned the room, I saw many people upon whom the disease had taken a terrible toll. One woman in particular caught my eye. Id’ head her say she had “rheumatoid.” Despite severe crippling, she hummed a joyful song.
I took another look. What I saw took my breath away and filled my eyes with tears. Her hands were deformed and drawn up, yet she held her knitting needle tightly and hummed “Amazing Grace” in a manner that everyone knew she believed its message. I lowered my head as tears streamed down my face. “Rheumatoid.” That’s the kind of arthritis I had.
God, please no, I prayed. I can’t do this. My hands, God please don’t let this disease do that to my hands! What about my wedding day? I want my hands to be pretty when my husband slips on my wedding ring. I was attending college for an “MRS” degree, and marriage was on the forefront of my mind.
With a tear-stained face, I asked my doctor if the crippling effects also would attack my hands. (It had already attacked my feet and knees.) He told me rheumatoid arthritis almost always started in the knees and hands, and since I’d already had one knee surgery, the likelihood of my hands being affected was almost definite. I left his office still in tears, praying, God, please protect my hands. I can handle this disease anywhere, but not in my hands.
Years later, Mike and I met. We knew God meant us to be together and set a date for the wedding. I continued to worry how the arthritis might flare and inflame and contort my fingers.
Shortly before my wedding day, my arthritic pain began to subside. On April 22, 1989, I walked down the aisle into the arms of Mike, my knight in shining armor (actually in a black tuxedo). He slipped my wedding band onto straight fingers with no arthritic damage; within two months, I was taken off all my medications. God had been faithful.
My doctor had said I needed to be off all high-risk medications for at least a year before trying to become pregnant. I didn’t give his advice much thought because I had no intention of becoming pregnant. I was simply too giddy in love to think about having babies – until the early pregnancy test turn blue. On February 12, 1991, I gave birth to Alex, our son. Two years later, I gave birth to our daughter, Ashleigh. Both babies were perfectly healthy, and my disease remained in remission throughout that time.
When Ashleigh was two, I began to feel a sharp pain in my right foot. I tried to ignore the pain, but I knew deep in my heart my arthritis was flaring, and this time it was with a vengeance. Within four weeks, Mike had to physically lift me out of bed. I started on crutches and eventually needed a wheelchair.
One Night as I was rocking Ashleigh to sleep, Mike came into the room and saw me crying. He asked what was wrong, and as I answered him my tears were spilling onto Ashleigh’s beautiful face. I was scared that this time my arthritis would cripple my hands, and my desire was no long to have pretty hands, but to be able to always hold my babies. (Our children are our babies forever!) Mike took Ashleigh and helped me into bed, and I cried myself to sleep, once again begging God to spare my hands.
Within two years, the high-risk medications began to stabilize my disease. Then one day I had a doctor’s appointment to discuss a new drug being released for rheumatoid arthritis. One of the new claims was that the medication could stop the progression of the disease. My doctor wanted me to try this drug, and he wanted to begin by taking x-rays of a place on my body not attacked by the disease in order to measure the success of the new medication. The problem was finding that place, because the disease had attacked me from eyes down to my toes. Simultaneously we said, “Hands!” My doctor wrote the order, and I took off for the x-ray department.
The next day I noticed a flash on my answering machine. It was the x-ray technician from my rheumatologist’s office. She said, “Cherie, I have some good news for you; no, some great news. The doctor just read your x-rays, and he told me to call you and tell you that there is absolutely no arthritic damage in your hands.” I immediately began to thank God for protecting my hands form this disabling disease. His grace is amazing! As for these hands of mine – they may not be the prettiest, but for me they’ll do just fine. And finally, I guess I really am the miracle!
God has brought me to this stage of life, and Jesus had carried my worries about my hands and having children. His yoke is easy and He makes our burdens light. We can trust that our God is always at work – He never sleeps nor does He slumber. (Psalm 121:4).
Are you struggling in life’s circumstances? Create a timeline of your life, and mark evidence of God’s faithfulness along the way. I think you’ll see – you too, are the miracle.
Today, what has God taught you through my miracle.