Who Am I?  Part 25

In the last article about my life journey, I shared how I felt about becoming trained to be a Bible Translation Consultant.  (Read it here.)  By the time I had finished my training, I truly felt that I had found my real calling in life.  Everything else that had happened previously in my life all seems to make sense now.  All the education, the traveling, the mission experiences, being a deep thinker and having an analytical mind.  All of this would be useful experiences and skills to draw upon to help me be a good consultant.

And then my muscle disease hit.  And I mean this quite literally, for within days of returning from a consultant trip to Papua New Guinea, I was knocked off my feet and could barely walk across my living room floor.  When I first got back from PNG and started having aches and pains in my hips, I figured that I had just over worked myself.  It had been a hectic six weeks of work, with running through airports both going and coming, and I had been doing 12 – 14 hours of language work in the last week I was there in PNG.

But the aches and pain spread through most of my lower body, as well as weakened my arms and chest, to the point that I had to grab on to walls, chairs, ledges or anything there was to make my way slowly across the living room floor area.  Obviously all of us were very concerned and wondered what was wrong with me.  But I think the greater shock to us was just how rapidly my body deteriorated.  In just six weeks, I went from being a globe-trotter to distant countries, to being crippled up in my own home.

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Within three weeks of coming home from PNG, I was at my doctor’s office and asking him to help find out the cause of these increased aches and pains.  This led to the normal blood tests and screening for any unusual tropical disease.  But they showed nothing unusual.  And the symptoms got worse.  This led me to be seen by a rheumatologist and also my GP ordered for me to have a variety of deep x-rays and bone scans to be done.  Nothing was discovered, and my symptoms got worse.

Then I saw a neurologist.  He quickly made the assessment that I was not facing a neurological disorder, but rather a muscular disorder, and specifically a mitochondrial disease.  What’s most interesting about this doctor is that he just happened to be the same neurologist who had seen my sister 30 years prior to seeing me.  He had diagnosed my sister as having a mitochondrial myopathy back then, and now believed that the disease which had led to my sister’s death at age 32 was now manifesting itself in me.

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And it was at that moment that I first went into major denial.  I said to myself, “There’s no way I can have the same debilitating disease that my sister had!”  In fact, back in the 70’s, after having done muscle biopsies on Lorna, then my mom, and even my grandmother, they saw there was something wrong and which was getting progressively worse each generation.  But they assured us all back then that this was a female disease only.  So there was no concern or thought that I or my brothers would be affected by the disease.

Well, they know better now.  While it is still true that this mitochondrial myopathy is female linked, they now know that a mother can pass on the disease to all of her children, and her daughter will most likely pass it on to her children.  So that means that all of my mother’s sons (me and my two brothers) can receive what they found, a mutation on the DNA of our mitochondria, but we should not be able to pass it on to our sons.  I pray that is true, since Jill and I have two sons.

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So how did this all affect me and my translation ministry?  Well, to be honest, it just about devastated me emotionally.  And it pretty much put a screeching halt on many of our ministry plans.  I cancelled one trip I had planned to go on to Africa for a month to help teach nationals how to become Bible translators.  I did go ahead along with Jill in the fall of ’08 to PNG for a short 4 week trip to check some Scriptures.  We went over to PNG still under a cloud of uncertainty of what the disease was and did not get my full diagnosis until after the trip.

The more important question in this whole situation was “Where was God in all of this?”  Some people automatically thought it was terrible that I would be struck down with this in the prime of my life and what looked like the highest peak of my missionary career.  But you know, I don’t ever remember asking God the question of “Why me Lord?”  I’ve come to learn long ago that just because we are Christians does not mean we are immune to the catastrophes and the ailments that go along with being a part of this fallen world.

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Actually, I was able to see God’s hand was upon me in a positive way when I stepped back to look at things.  First, we were back in Canada when the disease struck.  It would have been terrible if it had hit me while we were in Africa the year before.  Secondly, we found out that this disease usually shows up in puberty.  So God allowed me to have 48 good years before it hit.  And finally, Calgary just happens to have one of the best geneticists in the world who diagnosed me and is trying all he can do to help me.

This is part one of my “disease story”.  Come back in two weeks to read part two and see what great things have occurred since God first allowed this disease to surface and affect me.  There is a lot of good news to come.

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