God's Brave Women - Anessa's Story
“We don’t know why she is not in a coma right now,” the ER Doctor told my mother. “What do you mean? She was coherent enough to give me directions to this hospital,” was my mom’s reply about me. Bravery is found even at moments you least expect, especially when facing a critical health crisis.
This was January of 2013. After years of being sick with random symptoms, my body had finally had enough and started to go into “crisis”, also known as shutting down. I was 35 years old at the time, married with two young children and facing a reality I had never encountered before.
After my second child was born in 2008, I did not bounce back as quickly as I did from the first. Everyone said it was because I had two children to care for, so of course it took a while. I knew differently, however, as the Holy Spirit often times presents Himself as that little voice in the back of my head. As I went through those years of rearing little ones, I was continually catching every germ that the kids would bring home from preschool. While they would get over their illness quickly, I would be trudging along for weeks with the same persistent cough or sinus infection. One awful winter, both children had the flu that, of course, was shared with me. I would resolve to get better, only to relapse a few weeks later. This was an awful pattern that persisted for months. In the summer of 2012, it went from bad to worse with a case of pneumonia that took over 3 months to overcome.
Now, we enter the stage of random symptoms. During this time, I was also dealing with major stomach issues. My stomach would just hurt regardless of what I ate or drank. An endoscopy and colonoscopy found nothing significant. Next up, a panic attack in the grocery store that had me thinking it was a heart attack (that was not a fun afternoon in the doctor’s office!). Dark spots were discovered on my gums in my mouth. I was told it was from “aggressive flossing” (*insert eye roll*). My skin was also starting to have darker pigmentation. I’ve always tanned very easily, but this was late autumn and I had not been on a beach vacation. Finally, I had a chronic sinus infection that would just not heal despite multiple rounds of steroids.
"As it turns out, this was the best decision I’ve ever made because I finally discovered what was wrong. It was another directional guide from Him."
December 26th, 2012, I had sinus surgery to finally clear up that pesky infection. As it turns out, this was the best decision I’ve ever made because I finally discovered what was wrong. It was another directional guide from Him. Ten days after surgery, I began to have the worst back pain of my life. Out of nowhere, this new debilitating pain left me struggling to sleep, walk or move. After a few days, the back pain slowly started to subside, but a fever began with flu-like symptoms. I felt myself declining very quickly. All I wanted to do was sleep. My children were seven and four at the time, so resting wasn’t an option. My husband had just started a new position with his company that occupied many hours each day.
In desperation, I called my Mom to come help. As soon as I saw her at the airport, I handed her the keys because I was in so much pain. It was nearly impossible to keep my eyes open, much less take care of children. For the next few days I laid in bed in and out of consciousness. My husband and mom decided that it was imperative that I go the doctor. They felt this was not presenting as the normal flu. The doctor looked at me and said, “She’s probably just dehydrated. After a bag of fluid, she’ll be so much better.” Two bags of fluid later, still no improvement. Off to the ER we went. After running many tests, one showed that my sodium level was at 106! Normal is about 135. Anything under 120 is unhealthy, but a 106 is coma level which is why the doctor was shocked that I was still somewhat coherent. I was immediately admitted to the hospital.
Countless tests and many days later, I was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, also known as Adrenal Insufficiency. It is a rare disease where your adrenal glands no longer function. So rare in fact, only 1 in 100,000 people are diagnosed with it. I was told that I must take medicine to live for the rest of my life. It was then that I decided to seek strength from God. While I had asked God for help all along, I knew I was not truly relying on His help to find the strength to deal with this drastic change in my life. I was determined to be brave and follow HIS direction.
"While I had asked God for help all along, I knew I was not truly relying on His help to find the strength to deal with this drastic change in my life. I was determined to be brave and follow HIS direction."
Now, it is six years after my diagnosis. My life was forever changed when the doctor said, “We finally know what is going on with you.” I have since defined a new bravery that I never knew existed. I first had to grieve my old life. I had to say goodbye to the person that could have the energy to handle whatever life presented. I had to grieve the healthy life I once knew and lean on my Lord for the strength my body could not provide. I learned to embrace my new normal that included, among many things: taking medicine four times a day, learning to understand my body, resting when it is absolutely necessary and completely changing my diet (Carbs = not my friend --- This is a tough one here folks. Good-bye pizza!).
Bravery also means being strong for my family in new ways. I am a person who lives with a chronic disease, but I am a wife and mom that must take care of myself to be the person my family needs. Through it all, I have found a new calling, a new strength through my faith. I am passionate about raising awareness of Addison’s Disease and being a voice for the millions of people who live with a chronic illness. So often people fight invisible illnesses, facing no cure and few treatments available. They must put on a brave face for the public, but are privately fighting a hard battle, often without a strong faith to support them. My faith in God is so much stronger, and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, we are not alone. I know that our God hears us, cares for us, and wants us to lean on Him when we are in pain or struggling. Now, the good days outnumber the bad, and the bad days are less debilitating. I know what to expect when a sudden emergency comes along, and I know how to better manage the impact of it. I can be brave. All who suffer in the quiet can be brave, as we are in this together with God's grace.
"I can be brave. All who suffer in the quiet can be brave, as we are in this together with God's grace."
Anessa is CEO of the Powell household and lives in Charlotte, NC, with her husband of 15 years, a 13-year-old daughter, (Your prayers are welcome!) and a 10-year-old son. She is a southern girl, avid Auburn fan, and wishes daily she was at the beach. Since being diagnosed in 2013 with Addison’s Disease, a rare auto-immune condition, she has been dedicated to raising awareness. Coupled with her passion for the Lord, Anessa began sharing her experiences in 2016 and launched her social media outreach through Addison’s Disease with God’s Grace. Anessa is called to speak to all who may be suffering on a daily basis, even the caretakers. Through sharing her personal story, she reaffirms that we are not alone in our daily battle. To connect with Anessa and find out more about her speaking engagements, please visit her website @www.addisonsdiseasewithgodsgrace.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook @Addison’s Disease with God’s Grace and on Instagram @addisonsdisease_with_godsgrace.