Sunday, December 9, 2012


(warning: I'm here to catch you up on almost 7 months of Tucker's Tales, so it might take you a few minutes to read, but I think you'll find it worth the read!)

Diagnosis X 2 

There's good reason for it taking so long to post another blog. The first few months after the May post, life was so wonderfully boring that I remember wondering what was interesting about our life that I could even post. Duane was still driving truck, and I was still on sabbatical from CEF, enjoying every moment. I had hoped to have one more trip with Duane before returning to work, and gradually add a responsibility here or there, trying to get back into the "groove" with the CEF ministry. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, God had some crazy adventures for us. 

It started in the middle of August, when I followed up on a recommendation from a friend to visit with her Naturopath in Bend, OR. Having watched me struggle with my health for as long as he had known me, Duane had been on my case to find a naturopath that could help me find out what healthy was like. That Monday I nervously made my way to Bend and brought all my paperwork to Dr. Michelle Jackson. Having been to a naturopath in my youth, and with Heidi's recommendation, I wasn't too worried, but I wanted to know how Dr. Jackson would handle things. As I visited with her, I was assured that if/when her ability to help me ran out, she would have no problem directing me to someone who could (you'll see in a moment why this was so personal to me). With that assurance, I began to share all the crazy symptoms I have. I shared about my fatigue, how I would "crash" frequently and stress easily, had heart and blood-pressure issues, had been tested for sleep apnia, my frequent sinus infections (2-3 times a year), weight issues, intestinal issues, PMS issues, and headaches. With such a laundry list, I figured it would take quite a few visits to even scratch the surface, so when she diagnosed me almost immediately with "Adrenal Fatigue", I thought the next visits would start to look at the issues other than fatigue. I would only realize later that Adrenal Fatigue actually is either causal or symptomatic of EVERY ONE of those symptoms I had brought to her. She told me to get the book called "Adrenal Fatigue" by Dr. James Wilson, and started me on a series of blood, urine and saliva tests meant to give her a more specific diagnosis of which supplements my body needed. With this news, I was a little overwhelmed, but relieved to have at least one symptom diagnosed definitively. I was told to eat regularly, eat healthy, and to back off on stress. Yeah, what a brilliant idea. 

That afternoon, I continued my journey around Oregon, planning to visit my Grandparents in Portland, where Grandma was in the hospital, and then spend Tuesday night with my parents in Elmira (near Eugene), then finish the trip on Wednesday with a return home. Plans are great. But they don't always match up with what God has in mind. 

We knew that something was definitely wrong for Grandma to be in the hospital. We knew she had serious intestinal issues, as it was the middle of August and she hadn't been able to eat, much less "keep down" a full meal since July 4th. She had been trying to handle things on her own for months, using all the healthy vitamins and supplements she could get her hands on, but she'd finally succumbed to meeting with a doctor. But only if it was a naturopathic doctor. Getting an appointment took another week or two, and when she made the visit to the Salem doctor, he immediately sent her with a note and an urgent demand to check in at Oregon Health Sciences University ASAP. That had been the previous Thursday, and they still didn't have a diagnosis, but they had performed procedures to open up her blocked kidney, as well as to do some of their many tests. 

By the time I got to visit Grandma in the hospital, we realized that we really WERE talking serious stuff. We were afraid to say the word cancer, but it was on everyone's mind. By that Friday, I was present when the doctors came into Grandma's very cramped room to tell the bad news. We knew it was coming, but I'll never forget the team of doctors telling Grandma that she had cancer, that it was very fast growing, that there was nothing we could have done, and that, short of a miracle, it was now a matter of weeks that she had on earth. She chose to spend those remaining weeks at home with family. 

For the next month and a half, insanity reigned. Every week or two, I was traveling to Portland or points in between to help out. After a week or so, I would return home to collapse and rest and try to recuperate, utterly exhausted from the physical and emotional drain on my system. Meanwhile I was trying to learn more about this adrenal fatigue. What a time to try to start eating healthy, eating regularly, and back off on stress! 

After nearly a two week-stint of helping out at Grandpa and Grandma's house, I returned to my parents' house on Wednesday the 26th of September, as I was scheduled to speak at the training camp for the local CEF chapter on Thursday. As I finished that last leg of the journey on the 27th, I received the dreaded call. My Grandmother was in heaven. Though I had known it was coming, was prepared mentally and emotionally, my body couldn't handle this final news. I spent that entire weekend in a sleepy mental coma, only doing what I had to do to survive, definitely not participating in the training camp. Everyone thought that I was just taking Grandma's death hard, and yes, I was grieving. But how could I explain to myself, much less family members, that after helping at Grandma's death-bed for several weeks, I couldn't even think about participating in the memorial, much less helping with preparations?

I was scheduled to go back to work for the first time after my sabbatical that next Monday, but instead drove to Portland again, where I met Duane at his truck, and attended Grandma's memorial on Tuesday. Without him being there, I know I would not have even made the trip, much less made it through the service. I actually didn't go to her graveside service the next day for that very reason. I am SO grateful Duane's boss was able to get him to the right spot at the right time (thank You, God!). 

Learning More 

In between all this craziness, I'd been learning much about this condition called Adrenal Fatigue. For a great summary, you can check out I started taking a few supplements, and as each test result came back, Dr. Jackson would add one or two more to my list. Thankfully I was able to do all pursuant appointments over the phone, saving me from the extra stress that travel causes. 

For me, I began digging into the book Dr. Jackson had recommended. I felt like someone had sat down and wrote a book all about me. I learned that Adrenal Fatigue is the result of the adrenal gland being overworked too hard, for too long, until it doesn't know which end is up, and over-produces the cortisol I need to handle stress. I also learned that stress doesn't always mean mental stress. The adrenal gland is meant to handle anything that causes fight-or-flight situations. Basically, when I went to Bible college in 2001-2002, I lived and breathed adrenaline. I was taking 18 credits, pulling honor-roll, in student leadership and choir, and working four part-time jobs at a time, and loved doing it. However, I would get to Sunday night and be exhausted and depressed facing another week of minute-to-minute adrenaline rushes of tests, projects, responsibilities, friends, and excitement. Once I "got" Adrenal Fatigue (or AF), I couldn't get rid of it without giving my body a chance to heal, which of course, I wouldn't do anyway! 

AF causes me to have a much lower tolerance for stress in the first place. People thought I was crazy when I would get stressed about a situation and say "I'm not stressed in my head, but my body won't believe me!". I really could rationally tell you that God was in control of a situation, and know and believe it whole-heartedly, not meditate on it or consciously worry. But I would be exhausted and get sick. I would get so frustrated as a staff member for the week-long (Saturday to Friday) training for teens every June. I was one of the youngest staff members for a number of years, yet the load would kill me by the middle of the week, long before the senior staff-members, and I would get sick before I ever left. I began to learn that my defense system would be weakened as a result of AF, and the mucosal linings (nasal and intestinal) were so thin that it was an open invitation to all sickness, disease, and infection. Thus, my frequent illness. Even from my Bible college year, I had been sick every holiday or vacation. 

I also found out that part of AF is being borderline hypoglycemic. I'd had blood-work done by my family practice doctor looking for stuff like that, but hadn't been diagnosed. But basically I deal with blood-sugar issues. I don't do blood tests, pricking my finger or anything, but I do have to be conscious to make sure I keep my blood sugar pretty even-keeled. 

Learning to Cope

So how do I deal with AF? Very carefully. I'm not even all the way through this amazing book on Adrenal Fatigue, but I've learned so much (and still have much to learn). 

I've learned that sleeping on a regular schedule is important. I need to be in bed by 10:30, and ideally I need to sleep until I wake up. I always functioned SO much better when I had a chance just to wake up naturally, but along with everyone else, I thought I was lazy. Come to find out, a key time for my body to get the best rest is between 7 and 9 in the morning. Who knew? 

I also need to eat frequently and on a schedule. I now have Breakfast #1 anytime before 10am. I have Breakfast #2 at 11am, and Lunch at 2pm, Dinner at 5pm, and a before-bed snack to top things off. This regular schedule is designed to give my body the chance to digest everything at a regulated pace. But in order to do this, every meal has to have at least these three basics in balanced proportions: fatty acids, starchy carbs, and protein. These each digest at a different rate, so things stay pretty even keel. However, this gets tricky to have all of these AND eat healthily. A burger from McDonalds may have all of those, but will only harm my health. 

SOOOO... Any food that will either raise or lower my blood-sugar rapidly is a no-no. Dr. Pepper and fu-fu coffee was the first to go, as no caffeine is allowed. "But", you say, "you can get DECAF fu-fu coffee, can't you?" Ah but that would be too easy. Alas, I can't have sugar either (insert gummy worms here!). I'm still a little fuzzy on the sugar substitutes that I can or can't have but at least some of them give me instant intestinal issues anyway, so I don't go exploring much. Also, white flour is a no-no, as it turns into sugar so fast. Whole grains are okay though, so I've found a few breads I can have. The natural sugar in fruit is so high, that I can only have a little bit, and that only in the afternoon or evening. Even the lactose in milk turns to sugar too fast, so I've discovered rice milk as a solid alternative when I need it. I've actually discovered some great recipes and alternatives that I can have, it just takes time and preparation. 


A week after my scheduled start-date, I started back to work on October 8. Knowing then what I was dealing with in regards to my health and the Adrenal Fatigue, the CEF committee (board) was very gracious to me. They assured me that they would continue to carry the load they had carried during the year I was gone, allowing me to fill in the gaps doing the "directorly duties". I was scheduled to work about half-time each week, all day on Monday, but Tuesday through Thursday I work in the afternoons (ie I get to sleep in!), and I have Fridays off. My duties are light, but there are plenty of them, as my To-Do list grows daily. 

Coming back to work I had decided that I wouldn't make any drastic changes for the first several months, giving everyone a chance to "ease" into our new normal. God musta laughed. I had been back for about two or three weeks when we were "evicted" from our upstairs, corner office in the IYS building. They had very graciously allowed us the space for 6 years on a temporary basis, until they needed the space for someone else. Well, now they needed the space, as they were expanding and adding another program to their organization. Before I had a chance to even stress about this though, they also offered us a different location. They had a small duplex office building that had come with another property they wanted, but they didn't have a use for it. Instead, WE could use it for the cost of utilities. Praise God!!! I won't elaborate here on the amazing blessings of this, as that could be a whole other blog entry, but suffice for now to say that God has blessed us like crazy! In my first two months back to work, there's been very little "easing" into anything, and yet God has had us ready for every step of the way. 

I have learned that Adrenal Fatigue is treatable, but it isn't easy, and it isn't fast. Basically I'm told that it'll take at least 6 months to two years to recover. I'm hoping that the year off on sabbatical will significantly reduce that time for me, but I'm willing to go the long-haul. I've already begun to discover what health looks like, and it's amazing. I've begun to have energy again. Our house is starting to be at least tidy on a regular basis, if not down-right clean. I've started to like people again (when I started my sabbatical, I REALLY didn't). And I'm not falling asleep during the day nearly as often. Symptoms are not nearly as pronounced, though I can definitely tell the difference when I forget to take supplements or get out of balance on my  eating. Really it's just been amazing to find a whole new life, one day at a time. Enjoying time with Duane when he's home, being more relaxed, learning my boundaries, and enjoying ministry again. Despite the stress of it all, God has blessed us SO much, and we're SO grateful. 

I'll close with the lyrics of a song we recently discovered that summarizes the last several months for the both of us. 

"Through"Gaither Vocal Band

When I saw what lay before me, Lord, I cried what will you do?
I thought He would just remove it. But He gently led me through
Without fire there's no refining, without pain no relief, 
Without flood there's no rescue, without testing no belief.
Through the fire, through the flood, through the water, through the blood 
Through the dry and barren places, through life's dense and maddening mazes
Through the pain and through the Glory through it all 
we'll tell the story of the God whose power and mercy 
will not fail to take us through