A Change in Plans

In sickness and in health. . . .

by Brenda Blanchard

“Right, two, three, four; left, two, three, four,” the step aerobics instructor counted. “Keep those hands moving in unison with your feet.”

The feeling of pins and needles started in my fingers, traveled to my hands, then on up to the elbows. I turned to Nelson, my fiancé, and grimaced.

I stopped exercising and shook my hands, hoping to arouse them from the sleep-like ache. I moved over to Nelson and explained my situation. In addition to planning our Valentine’s Day wedding, we had become exercise accountability partners. I had a size 5 dress I really wanted to wear on our special day, just two short weeks away.

Nelson told me to sit down until I felt better. As I sat watching the class move in unison to the instructor’s voice, my toes, feet, and calves began tingling. I felt as though an army of ants were marching on my extremities.

I tried to stand up, but the weight of my body sent a sharp pang to my feet, and I sat back down. After seeing my struggle, Nelson grabbed our things and helped me to the car.

Derailment

The next day I called the doctor’s office, as none of the areas on my body had returned to normal. The doctor sent me to a neurologist, who gave me the probable diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Within days of the initial symptoms, I experienced burning, numbness, or tingling on every part of my body from the neck down. After a MRI, it was confirmed. At the age of 36, I believed my life had derailed permanently.

I begged and questioned God. Why me? What have I done so awful to deserve this?

My equilibrium got so bad, I couldn’t walk but a few steps without falling over. I slept constantly — about fourteen to sixteen hours every day. Chronic fatigue, a condition common to about 80 percent of all persons with MS, consumed most of my energy.

Painful postponement

Nelson, friends, and family prepared meals, ran errands, prayed, encouraged, and continued loving me. But even with such a wonderful support system, self-pity set in, and I called off our wedding. I didn’t want to sentence Nelson to a life with someone who could no longer do the activities we enjoyed, like golfing and browsing through antique stores and art galleries.

Nelson, however, refused to say the wedding was cancelled and instead insisted our wedding date be temporarily postponed. He assured me his love was forever, whether I walked again or not. He encouraged me to fight back and to trust God in the life He had planned for us.

New insights

One day during my quiet time, God told me to praise Him at all times. This truth permeated my soul, and from that moment forward, I realized the power of unconditional love and the importance of worship. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, NIV).God’s example of sacrificial love gave me a model to achieve.

Instead of looking at my circumstances, Nelson too had chosen to love me as Christ did. Yes, our lives would be different than expected before my diagnosis, but our relationship could and would prosper because of the precious gift of love.

Wedding day

I used a motorized wheel chair to get around because of my lack of energy and imbalance. After six months, I progressed to a cane. Also, my chronic fatigue improved, and I slept ten to twelve hours of my days. Nelson and I celebrated by setting a new date for our nuptials.

On October 15, 1998, I walked the aisle unaided and met my groom at the altar. Tears filled our eyes. There was no fear in either of us as we said the vows “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Lessons learned

Due to steroid injections, I had gained thirty pounds, but I still wore the exact dress I had chosen in a size 10. Nelson claimed I was “a perfect ten.”

Like all couples, we have good days and better days, but we are thankful. God always has the best plan for those who love Him. What seemed to be a tragic turn of events in my health taught me a life-transforming lesson about the power of praise and of sacrificial love.