Updated: Aug 1, 2020
The pain won’t go away, but no one believes me. For two years, this was the story of Michelle Seals’ life. She lived in excruciating pain day after day, seeking medical advice from countless physicians. Yet, the response was still the same, as each doctor told her that she was making this all up in her mind. Her cry for help was useless; until one day, everything came to a bloody head. Two years earlier, Michelle couldn’t have asked for a better life. She was working a full-time job at a school she loved and had recently saved up enough money to buy a new home and car. Although she was a single mom, her family was incredibly supportive and was always there to help Michelle raise her three children. Michelle was actively involved in her church and attributed all of her blessings to God. After surviving a very traumatic childhood, she had developed a faith in God that was seemingly unshakable. Unbeknownst to her, the days ahead would test her faith like never before. One morning, while going through her regular routine, Michelle began to feel this sharp pain in her stomach and back. Up until that point, she had never had more than a head cold in her life, so she immediately went to the doctor to find out what was wrong with her. After the doctors ran some initial test, they told her that her blood work was normal and they could not find anything wrong with her. However, Michelle knew something was not right. She continued to press the doctors for answers but to no avail. They told Michelle she was making this all up in her head, but they would send her home with some drugs to make her happy. Michelle left the doctors office with no answers, but as time progressed, the symptoms continued to get worse. One day, she got up to stretch, when the pain became so severe that it knocked her to the ground. Her two older children had already gone to school, so she laid there on the floor, crying for help as her 3-year-old son sat by her side. Michelle gathered enough strength to crawl to the telephone and dialed 911. The paramedics rushed her to the hospital and ran a series of tests. The results came back negative, and the doctors quickly dismissed Michelle again from the hospital; this time claiming that she was a hypochondriac who was only pretending to be sick so she could get more drugs. Appalled and in a state of disbelief by the accusations, Michelle left the hospital at a complete and utter loss. Michelle was unable to walk or go to work after leaving the hospital the second time, so she asked her mother if she could stay with her. The pain subsided after a week, allowing her to walk again, but quickly resurfaced preventing her from being able to go back to her job. Since the doctors refused to provide Michelle a letter confirming her symptoms, her employer started to believe she was lying about her illness. This perception eventually started to spread among her family, who slowly began to retract their support due to the rumors that were told about Michelle making this entire situation up for attention.
Weeks continued to go by without any sign of relief, and Michelle couldn’t even lift a bag of groceries or walk up the stairs without feeling as if she was going to pass out. Getting out of bed each day became a major accomplishment, and after missing so many days of work, she was left with no choice but to quit her job. She remained homebound for days, resting her body in hopes of recovery. While at home, she let her best friend borrow her car. That same week, her friend got into a major car accident that totaled the vehicle. Michelle was able to file a claim and receive a check from the insurance company. However, when she attempted to get the car fixed, she was scammed by someone pretending to have a connection with a good mechanic, and they ran off with her money. Losing her car was the least of her concerns, as she had received multiple late notices from her mortgage company after falling several months behind on her bills. She eventually lost her home and turned to her family for help. Her family took her children in, but they refused to help her because they thought she brought the situation on herself by pretending to be sick. Michelle’s best friend allowed her to move into her apartment, but two weeks later, her friend was evicted, so they both became homeless. After being homeless for over a month, her pastor found out about her living situation and allowed her to move into an apartment they owned right next to the church. After she moved in, Michelle’s pastor insisted that she do something productive with her time, so she decided to enroll in school. She managed to go to class as often as she could, and she secured a work-study job, but the pain in her stomach remained constant. One Friday evening, while she was working, she passed out. Her coworkers called 911, but when the paramedics arrived, Michelle dismissed them because she already knew the doctors would send her away as soon as she went to the hospital. The next day, Michelle began bleeding unexpectedly. Initially, she thought it was just a heavy menstrual cycle, but the bleeding continued to get worse. The next day, she went to Sunday service, and when she came home, she passed out again. Her children called 911, and she was rushed to the hospital.
The doctors ran several tests and finally discovered the source of her pain. The surgeon approached Michelle in disbelief, questioning how she was still alive. They explained to Michelle that they had found a tumor in her stomach that had grown into the size of a small baby. Over the last two years, the tumor had spread from the front of her stomach to the back of her spine. It had grown so big that it moved organs around in her body. Finally, when the tumor didn’t have enough room to grow, it burst and caused the internal bleeding. The words that came out of the doctor's mouth seemed like white noise to Michelle, as she took in the news that she almost died and they would have to rush her into emergency surgery. The doctors diagnosed her with recurrent benign lymphangioma, a disease where she struggles with the constant development of tumors. They kept her in the hospital for a month to recover from the surgery, and when she seemed stable, they released her. She was excited to return home, but within a week, the tumor filled back up with fluid, and she was rushed back to the hospital. Seeing that the tumor had swelled back up so quickly, the doctors determined they had no choice but to remove the tumor. Unfortunately, this would be a risky procedure. The tumor rested on two vital nerves, located on a main artery and her spine. They recognized that one wrong move could paralyze her, so they removed 90% of the tumor, and allowed the other 10% to remain. She woke up from the surgery feeling as if she had been hit by a mack truck. The doctors put her on several drugs to try to numb the pain, but nothing seemed to work, so they continued to increase her dosage. Michelle was finally released from the hospital several months later but wasn’t home an entire week before she started bleeding again. She went back to the hospital for another surgery, which failed and caused more bleeding.
After exploring several options, the doctors advised Michelle to have a hysterectomy to stop the bleeding. The doctors successfully completed the procedure, but the pain never went away. Michelle had severe nerve damage, which they told her she would struggle with for the rest of her life. They sent Michelle home with a bottle of opioids and wished her luck on her recovery. When Michelle got home, her first goal was to try to learn how to walk again. The recovery process was a long one, and she had to press through tremendous pain every time she took a single step. As Michelle continued to complain about the pain getting worse, the doctors continued to increase the intensity of her drugs. The higher dosage provided temporary relief, but as her body became accustomed to the increase in medication, it no longer helped. Every day seemed like an out of body experience, where she walked around her house like a zombie because she was so doped up on drugs. Michelle couldn’t sleep, she always had the jitters and had no control over what she was doing or saying. Michelle didn’t realize how severe her dependence on drugs had become until her counselor informed her that she was on the highest dosage of opioids possible, and her next step was heroin. The thought of being addicted to heroin terrified her, sending her into a state of panic. She immediately went to see her doctor and asked them if they could somehow wean her off of the drugs. They told her that they didn’t know how to wean her off, but offered her more medications for the pain. At that moment, Michelle knew she was at a significant crossroad. If she continued down this path, her addiction would completely destroy her.
She prayed to God for strength and wisdom and went home that day to look up information about a local detox center. She checked herself into the detox center, bringing nothing with her but the clothes on her back and her Bible. They offered to wean her off of the medication by giving her smaller doses of drugs, but Michelle refused, against the advice of all of the staff there. They warned her that her decision to stop using the drugs “cold turkey” could potentially kill her, but Michelle replied that God was not going to let her die and the only thing she needed was the word of God to get her through. Within hours of being there, the withdrawals from the drugs began to send her body into shock. She fell in and out of cold sweats, vomiting uncontrollably, and experiencing pain so severe that it nearly sucked the life out of her. Minutes felt like hours, making it impossible for her to eat or sleep. As she pressed through the pain, she used every ounce of strength she had to pick up her Bible and find encouragement through the scriptures. She continued to meditate on Psalm 91, repeating that scripture out loud day after day, until it took root in her soul. She remained in detox for two weeks, but when she checked herself out, the withdrawals followed her. The urges seemed like they would never go away, and her doctors continued to offer her more drugs as a temporary solution to the problem.
She refused to go back down that road and found another outpatient detox program. Initially, when Michelle started the program, she felt she“wasn’t like the other drug addicts there” and didn't belong. In her mind, the other people there had made poor choices that led to them being on drugs, and she was different. However, as time progressed, God continued to work on her heart and showed Michelle that she was no different than anyone else who was in that program and had no right to judge. Michelle remained actively involved in the detox program for a year and graduated from the program with no withdrawals or desire to ever use drugs again. By the grace of God, Michelle was free from her addiction to drugs, and there was no turning back.
This experience was by far one of the hardest things Michelle ever had to endure in her entire life, but those darkest moments taught her that God was right by her side in the midst of the fire. Through this test, the word of God went from being something she read to something she experienced. Michelle knows without a shadow of a doubt that God saved her life for a purpose that is greater than herself, and she intends to use the gift of life to help others understand and embrace the love of God. Her journey to healing is still unfolding, she has found peace knowing that God’s promise is “yes” and “amen” to those who believe.
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