originally posted at http://andimoore.theworldrace.org
This is the motto of World Race. It will happen. It is inevitable. Accept it and move on.
But malaria doesn’t always have to look like the horror stories you hear most often (as they are really the only ones worth re-telling). My case of malaria did not involve vomiting or diarrhea or high fevers. My case involved extreme exhaustion and severe unrelenting headaches, until I was diagnosed and started taking my medications, during which time I also suffered from muscle aches and joint pain, something akin to acid boiling in my body.
So really, it hasn’t been that bad! But, truly, here is the story of my affair with malaria, the most common disease in Africa:
We arrived at our ministry site in Rukungiri, Uganda on a Sunday night. Monday began my battle with intermittent headaches, the kind where you feel like you’re under a hundred feet of water pressing in on your head. The intermittency turned into constancy, and I just accepted that the change in climate and altitude was something my body wasn’t ready to handle well. Also with 6 am wake-up calls and 7 am ministry times, I figured my fatigue was normal, too. So each day I sucked it up and dragged my body out of bed in the dark to prepare for the day. As the week went on it got harder and harder to get out of bed but there’s no rest for the weary so I would continue to fight to get up. By Wednesday morning my headaches were nonstop and unrelenting. I had also had four nosebleeds by then. Again, I figured, altitude issues. I felt ashamed and guilty for being so tired and using our afternoon break to nap rather than dive into community with the three times that live in our compound. But sometimes you just need a nap, so I would swallow my guilt and rest anyway.
On Thursday my teammate (and this month’s roommate) Christine awoke from an afternoon nap with a high fever. I knew it was malaria, coming from a girl who never complains about how she feels. So Brent and I took her to one of the ninety-eight local clinics just a few minutes’ march from our house, and indeed, she had malaria. The doctors were concerned about how high her temperature was, so they decided to admit her overnight and give her an IV with fluids (turning out to be glucose, a “medicine” that had worse side effects than the malaria itself). I decided to stay with her so she wouldn’t have to stay overnight alone in what looked like a cheap, horror-movie-style motel room, with dirty concrete walls and a creepy flickering fluorescent light.
I run back home with Brent to get some overnight stuff for Christine and myself, and on the way back I decide to go ahead and get myself checked for malaria, too… just in case. It was only going to cost 2,000 shillings, a little less than one dollar, and I thought, why not? Might as well. So I dropped the bag with Christine, get a blood sample taken from my ring finger, and go back to her room to await my results.
Mine is not as bad as Christine’s, however, not manifesting itself with fevers and diarrhea, so they just give me two kinds of pills and a syrup to take for the next three days, and wish me luck.
I actually felt relieved; I was not making it up. I actually was that exhausted and achy for a reason. The biggest thing I walked away from it with, is that I shouldn’t shame or guilt myself for feeling bad or not having energy. I finally stopped telling myself to suck it up and I am now beginning the process of allowing myself time to heal. My body is fighting a disease, not just an illness, and healing- and health- take time. So if I wake up tomorrow and feel like I’ve been hit by a train, or if one of those awful headaches comes back, or if I feel too tired to move, I will allow myself to stay, to be, and to heal until I am. Today is day #2 of having this disease, and it’s okay to just stay home and rest if that is what my body decides it needs. If I wake up tomorrow and have tons of energy, then great! I can get up and go with my team wherever they go.
But the point is- and my encouragement to you is- not to feel ashamed if you’re sick.
Don’t feel guilty if you have to miss ministry for a day, or stay home on a day when your team wants to go out and do something together. We don’t live like this at home; if you’re sick, truly sick, sometimes you have to miss things and that is o.k.a.y. I frequently struggle with guilt when I have to miss a day of ministry because of illness. But I just have to get to the point where I know that I’m not going to be fired, my team isn’t going to guilt-trip me or make me feel bad (and if they do, that’s their problem to deal with), and the kingdom of heaven is not going to fall because I miss one day. That’s the beauty of this whole thing: I am not singularly responsible for the victory or defeat of Good over Evil. I get to be a part of God’s victorious plan, but I’m not the Cornerstone of it- Jesus is. And He wants me to be healthy. He has created my body to be a beautiful carrier of His Spirit, and that is how my body wants to be- healthy. I should know that God loves me enough- and I should love myself enough- to know that it is okay to take a break, breathe a bit, rest awhile, and allow my body the time and energy it needs to fight when it is seriously ill. No more guilt, no more shame. Just love and peace and health. Amen to that!
The end of the story hasn’t presented itself to us. Christine and I had a crazy couple adventures in the clinic that night and the next day, one involving being witnessed to by one of the night doctors in which he told us we weren’t saved because we pronounced His Name “Jesus” (he also told us it was the first time he had witnessed to a mzungu…white…colored person), and one adventure involving a doctor asking Christine how she was and then running to get medicine for her, then asking me how I was and telling me he hopes I get better. She wasn’t discharged until late the following evening, and we trudged home slowly, and thankfully in a taxi, where we were greeted by a Yaaaaayyy from the teams, after which we both fell instantly and mercifully asleep.
We will both heal from this sickness; malaria is nothing to be afraid of. Do take action, however, if you feel sick or unusual, because it can become something serious. You might travel to Africa and never experience a sickness and in that case Praise God! But if you do, just remember to get it treated quickly, and be kind to yourself- relax and rest and allow your body to heal. Kindness is one of the greatest gifts God gives us for each other and for ourselves. So exercise it!
and make sure to call Mom