Personal Update from Sarah

*Disclaimer: Very long post. If you don’t have time to read it, please skip to the last 3 paragraphs!*

To be quite frank, sitting down and summarizing the hell we’ve been walking through these last 5 months is not an appealing task, in any sense. However, the more time we spend in this season of joy and love and thankfulness, I can’t stop thinking about how important each and every one of our supporters are to us. I haven’t been able to spend the time or energy connecting with them the way I would’ve liked to this year. Therefore, I am willing myself to sit up and type an update, with the energy that I have mustered today, in hopes that it might convey to each of you how important you are to me, even though my communication these past months has been lacking.

The last week of July, I wound up in the emergency room in Medford, Oregon, unable to keep even water down. Most of us have experienced it once or twice—food poisoning.

The next few days I seemed to have recovered, and my concern turned to the chronic, constant headaches that were plaguing me. After prayer and tears, we decided it would be best for me to head to my parents’ house, and start diagnostics to find the cause of my headaches, while Ryan remained in Southern Oregon to continue fundraising.

The next week, I began seeing doctors in my parent’s area—Tri-cities, Washington. One of the medications I was given, put me in the emergency room with a dystonic reaction. The first step in many that would eventually lead to extreme anxiety.

The following weeks, still struggling with headaches, my stomach began to act up again. I was waking up with intense nausea, and painful bloating. After more visits to the doctor, we began diagnostics on my GI tract.

Finally, the bloating got so bad, I would up in the ER again, where I proceeded to have very frightening reactions to more medications. I was admitted to the hospital, in hopes that they would find out what was going on with my body.

After 2 days, I was diagnosed with an infection, and began anti-biotics. I began to feel a bit better, and was discharged after a week.

The night I got home, the bloating got so bad, I thought I was going to rupture an organ. Somehow we got through the night, and the next day we went to the GI doctor. He quite confidently told me that the hospital was wrong, and had misdiagnosed me. He gave me medicine to help with the bloat, and scheduled me for an endoscopy the next day.

I got home, took the medicine, and within two hours, we were on our way to the ER again—with another frightening reaction to medicine. I was treated, and went home about midnight.

The next day I had an endoscopy, which showed nothing. So I was scheduled for an colonoscopy. If you know the prep that entails, you will know what the night beforehand was like. Needless to say, we were not getting much sleep.

Again, the colonoscopy showed nothing. At this point, the GI doctor put me on antibiotics, just in case. After 10 days on those, I seemed to have improved a bit. The doctor seemed to think I had post-infectious IBS, and put me on a special diet. Finally a diagnosis that seemed to fit, I began to feel better.

A few days later, I took a dip again. All my symptoms were back, and worse. Everything I ate seemed to make my stomach balloon. I began eating baby cereal to sustain myself. After many vials of blood, blood work showed something wrong with my liver. At this point, my GI doctor decided to refer me to a liver specialist in Seattle.

We drove up to Seattle, I was admitted to the ER of the hospital the liver specialist worked at, to find out that she was out of town. We returned to Tri-cities, only to drive back up 3 days later. Once there, the liver doctor ordered multiple diagnostic tests and scans, which didn’t show anything helpful. She told me to start eating normal food. I did, and began to feel better.

We returned home, with the “diagnosis” that my intestines simply needed to relearn how to function. About a week after that, I went to a naturopath, for an appointment we had set up months beforehand, to talk about my headaches. She listened to me for about ten minutes, and immediately sent for a test to diagnose SIBO. While waiting for results, I began a very strict diet, which seemed to help my bloat and pain.

Two weeks later, I began treatment for Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. I have now been on treatment for almost 7 weeks, with at least 4 more weeks to go. I have developed great anxiety about my health, and am struggling to recover from the strain and stress that my body endured throughout this whole ordeal. I am still unable to do most things for myself, as any exertion takes a great deal of my strength and energy.

I write this story fact by fact, and without much emotion, but the reality is, I have truly been traumatized throughout this experience. I went months without knowing what was wrong with me, and there were times when I literally believed I was dying. I am still trying to process much of it, and to say “I’m better now” nearly feels like a lie.

Very slowly, my body is healing. But my heart and my soul still have lightyears to go in recovery. I am still struggling with headaches, and my liver is still recovering. I worry everyday that there is something else undiagnosed that is slowly killing me, but my counselor assures me that that is probably just anxiety.

I have questioned, doubted, and pleaded with God, but I continue to choose to trust in his plan. I do not pretend to understand what he’s doing, but I have to believe it is ultimately for my good. I hold onto the calling he continues to confirm, even in the face of these hardships. Our call to England. We hope and pray to arrive there next summer. And the only reason that is a possibility, is because of you–our supporters. Without you, and without God, my dream would have been lost in the hopelessness of my illness. But knowing that we have people like each of you, supporting and agreeing with our call, I have clung to God’s promises like a lifeline. And it has gotten me through.

So although I have been (and likely will be for a few more months) unable to touch base with you regularly, each of your families is in my thoughts and prayers. Constantly. Thank you, for your confidence in God’s call on our lives.


Sarah Bentley