“I have been spitting up blood all morning, so I am going to the doctor. I’ll be in as soon as I can after that.” – a text I sent to my boss on June 16, 2014.
This morning my Timehop app reminded me that a year ago today was the first time I spit up blood in America, after doing so for ten months in Uganda. I had only been home for about a week.
This continued, sporadically, for days at a time, until January 2015. No amount of blood work, CT scans, X-rays, hospital stays, scopes and other procedures would ever let us know the cause. I guess all that matters is that it stopped. Hopefully for good.
It’s quite terrifying to wake up one morning in a third-world country and spit up blood. To thoroughly exam your mouth for a cut or bleeding gums, and find nothing. To then spit again and see straight blood. To then see a doctor who says, “Hmm. That’s strange.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, it happened again the next few mornings.
Then it stopped. Then it happened again the next month for a few days. Then it stopped. Then it happened again the next month. This went on for a year and a half. I never knew what to expect in the mornings. Would there be blood? Or would I be OK?
There’s really only one thing we can count on every morning, and that’s the mercy of the Lord. Despite what we did the day before, despite what we did the night before, He has mercy on us, and as it says in Lamentations 3:23, “His mercies are new every morning.”
Some mornings I wake up fearing that the blood will be back. And it might be someday. But that doesn’t change the fact that God is on my side and by my side. My fears are quickly erased when I remember that I’m not alone, and that His mercies are new every morning.
My mother thinks I’m crazy. She finds it absurd that I talk about my health problems on social media. Some of her friends find it odd. I think most people in my life from my generation and younger don’t think a thing about it.
I’m a writer. I write about my life. I’ve been spitting up blood for more than a year now, starting when I moved to Uganda. That’s a big part of my life, and I’m naturally going to write about it.
I write about it because I want prayer. I write about it as a witness tool- to show that although I’m spitting up blood, although we don’t have answers, I still have faith that God is in control. I also write about it because I hope that maybe someone somewhere will stumble across this post and have an answer. There are many reasons I write about it.
I love all the prayers and love people are sending me from around the globe, and I think it’s so sweet when people tell me they hope I feel better. But that’s the weird thing. Overall, I FEEL fine. There hasn’t been pain associated with the blood. That’s certainly been a blessing through all of this. While it made sense that the bleeding was associated with the half a dozen sinus infections I had during my time in Uganda, apparently they were unrelated.
But for whatever reason, I have been spitting up blood for around three to five days every month since September 2013. (With the exception of August and September 2014.)
One source of frustration throughout this whole ordeal is people who think they are smarter than doctors and tell me, “It’s probably just (insert random idea here).” I’m sorry, but if I’ve seen almost a dozen doctors over the past year and not one of them has had an answer, what makes you think you’ve got a medical degree, can diagnose me, and tell me I’m fine? And there’s a difference between telling me everything will be OK (I believe it will), and telling me that I’m worried for nothing. Not one doctor has said, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.” They have each been concerned.
It’s been especially tough to return to the US and not get answers. I expected to see a doctor, for the doctor to hear my story, and then say, “Oh, well that sounds like (insert health ailment here).” But not one single doctor has said that. Each doctor and specialist has heard I’ve been spitting up blood for more than a year and have no other symptoms, and each doctor and specialist has given me a blank look. They have no clue.
So basically, I’ve been a lab rat. They keep taking blood (what else could possibly be left to test in my blood at this point?!), I’ve had a nasal endoscopy, an upper and lower GI endoscopy, two CT scans, two chest x-rays, an esophagram barium swallow, and allergy testing, and apparently… I’m fine. At my endoscopy on Monday they removed a gastric polyp, but they don’t believe that’s the source of bleeding. I’ve been referred to a pulmonologist, who I will meet with tomorrow to schedule a bronchoscopy and possible chest MRI.
It never ends.
Or at least that’s how it feels. I know it will end eventually. I know that either we’ll reach a conclusion, or I’ll someday stop spitting up blood every month.
The bright spot to all of this is that I haven’t “felt” sick. Besides the sick feeling I get in my stomach after each procedure when they say, “We found nothing,” I feel fine. If I wake up and spit up blood, I do so, and then I get ready for work and go about my day. Even on days I spit up blood in the middle of the day, it doesn’t impact that day’s activities.
I am grateful for the loving support of family and friends as I work with doctors to find the cause and source of bleeding. I’ve never been a smoker, so to think this is in my lungs is really discerning. But, through it all, I still believe God is good. Whether it’s a parasite, some sort of disease, or simply a burst blood vessel, it does not change my faith. If anything, it makes it stronger.
“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13