Half a Life

Lindsay LewchukAnnouncements 13 Comments

Today is a rather dark anniversary for me, but being the realistic optimist I am, I decided the best way to make it a positive anniversary is to share my story with a few special people – you.

I’m 32 years old and 16 years ago today I suffered a biological overload from an allergic reaction to embalming fluid during the mandatory fetal pig dissection in 9th grade science class. In one day, I went from having a typical high school athletic existence, including daily soccer practice to not being able to walk or even dress without assistance.

Long story short, because who likes to dwell on darkness, the illnesses kicked off by this episode left me without the physical resources to do many things. The doctors told my parents to prepare for a lifetime of demise, inability, and incapacity. However, this was a diagnosis I refused to accept! The keystone to the plan was avoidance in order to give my body a chance to heal. As a teenager and young adult, this was difficult as I did not fully realize the consequence each exposure would lead to. From necessity I removed myself from society in an effort to allow for a quality of life away from the compounds that set my immune system off into a destructive impact. It was then that the Lord blessed me with a wonderful distraction and I threw my attention into my education. Concurrently to working on finishing high school and college from home, I went through years upon years medical experimentation without them yielding the hoped for improvements. Untamed destructive internal forces lead to more and more diseases. While I appreciated the doctors who gave it their best efforts, the straw that made me give up on western medicine and its entire prowess was what I called a “starvation diet.” I had become so reactive; I couldn’t eat without causing massive damage. The doctors concluded the only alternative was a strict food rotation diet where my diet was restricted to one food (like strawberries or cucumbers or carrots, etc) for one 2 hour period a day (same time everyday) and then not consume any food again for 24 hours and not that particular food again for 40 days. This coincided with my final year in college, a 7 year trek to a Valedictorian graduation from North Carolina State University with a BA in Philosophy and Minor in Business Management. Over spring break, I had had enough with tests and trial and error experimentation. I found an alternative treatment that put a stop to the downward spiral: Traditional Chinese Medicine. In one summer of treatment I grew 2 inches and put on 30 lbs (my body had ceased to develop since my accident and I was now 26 years old). Feeling stronger, the TCM doctor said the goal was to achieve “homeostasis” in my body. What an excruciatingly painful, but wonderful experience it was, a treatment that actually lead to improvement rather than just trial and maybe. Bonus, while undergoing daily treatment, I actually was able to interact with society, albeit on a limited basis. The incitents would still turn my immune system on, but I now had a treatment that would turn it off!

During these 16 years, the Lord has blessed me over and over again. After years of testing a myriad of product, my parents built a home for us out of materials I was non-reactive to. He blessed me with Cheeky, my first Great Dane, who taught herself how to be a service dog for me and inspired me to write for children. Cheeky availed me to the blessings of the great outdoors; being confident she’d alert me to anything that would cause a problem. She also was a great blessing to my psychological well being as I had something to love and care for. She got my mind off of myself, in a way only caring for a dependent could. In the early years of my illness, during a particularly intensive testing period, I sat for days on end, being shot every 10 minutes with different allergens in the hopes of finding a dose I wasn’t allergic to. The constant reactions these shots provoked were draining and discouraging. However, the Lord blessed me by the doctor consenting to me having a ball of organic cotton and two knitting needles in the isolated testing box. In fact, they encouraged me to knit as it targeted one of the areas of brain damage. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of one of God’s best blessings, a career and even more than just a career, a career I love! A few years after Cheeky passed away, God blessed me once again with her cousin, Puddles. Like Cheeky, he is learning to be a service animal for me, alerting me moments before an episode and blocking me from going where there are incitents.

Cheeky, my first Great Dane
Puddles, Cheeky's cousin and my 2nd Great Dane
Puddles, Cheeky’s cousin and my 2nd Great Dane

Making the gains of strength and homeostasis over the few years of TCM treatments enabled me to improve my at home quality of life immensely.   Unfortunately the treatments have become financially unattainable, and I did backslide when I tried to maintain the new social life it had once availed. But I learned quickly and returned to my isolated life, stronger and more content. I have a daily quality of life and deeper serenity than I could have ever hoped for. Best of all, the Lord enabled me to conquer the dismal outlook of the doctors original prognosis. I am well able to care for myself (and Puddles too) as long as I remain in my healthy home environment. I have even been blessed with an occupation that both helps with the brain damage and enables me to be a contributing member of society rather than a drain. Thank you all for your support of my patterns, custom hand knits, and stories! Each time you purchase one of my products, you prove it isn’t how much you are in the world that matters; it is how much you contribute to the world.

CS Lewis, one of my two favorite philosophers wrote in, The Joyful Christian “Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

In honor of this anniversary, I’m offering a special of 50% off all patterns this week only on Ravelry (ends May 18, 2014 midnight EST). Please use coupon code: blessingsnotcurses when checking out.

And thank you all for contributing to the quality of my life!

Comments 13

  1. Wow. What an inspiration you are. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea an allergic reaction could take away someone’s freedom like that.

    1. Oh yes, it is very serious – my neighbor’s dryer sheets have essentially prohibited me from easily taking out the trash and recycles let alone just sitting outside enjoying the weather. I need to go out with a mask, just in case. And fragrance at work and in public? A real issue. These kinds of things are very limiting and deny access to many things.

  2. Thanks for Sharing. Nice to hear that you are able to cope day to day. That Puddles looks like a real snuggle bug!

  3. May God continue to bless you abundantly. You have a beautiful outlook on life despite so many obstacles. Thank you for sharing your story and being an inspiration!

  4. From one NC State grad to another congrats on finding joy in the process and for your persistence in finding wellness. God Bless you as you continue to seek health!

  5. Great post! I too have chemical sensitivities – never thought about a service dog… Hmmm….. My biggest battle now is housing and I may have to build – I’m working on a “work at home plan” – wherever that home is. Meetings have begun – I have let myself get way too exposed. I have a great doctor and we’re building up my system but I too realize I have to get away from the constant exposures.

  6. Lindsay,
    I am so impressed with your optimistic perseverance. You are such a gifted person. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You are a gift to all who know you. I pray God’s blessings on you.
    Love, JuJu

  7. What an awful (and strange!) thing to have happen, I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through all that! I am mildly chemically sensitive myself but not nearly to that degree (I do have a family member who is similarly severely sensitive though- sometime I would actually love to hear about what Chinese medicine you’ve found useful and what building materials you’ve had success with- I know she’s tried a lot of both but you never know!)

    1. (On another note, I find it super messed up that we think nothing of casually exposing kids to chemicals like that. Ugh. I am very sensitive to bleach after having overexposed myself at a cleaning job, and when I realize how many places are basically drenched in the stuff at all times, I wonder how I made it to adulthood without keeling over.)

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