I had some very exciting news last month which I am late sharing. Last month I had graduated from the ECP (extra corporeal photopheresis) treatments which I have been doing! Because of the bone marrow transplant I had, I have had some complications with my body adapting to the new marrow and the new immune system. The ECP was a treatment done to the blood to help balance the good blood cells in me, and decrease the ones which have been attacking me. When I first came into the MTC my breathing was about 37-39% of what is normal. The number of attacking cells having greatly decreased it. This is not to mention the other difficulties I have had with my joints and other things. Because of the treatments my breathing has increased back up to the 70’s =D, although, I am still waiting for my hair to come back. I do think most of us would choose being able to breathe over having hair. The graduation was a tender mercy from the Lord and a blessing which I was not expecting. I am very excited to be moving on and progressing, but it is this next month actually which is the real test of how I have done.
I was receiving the treatments on a monthly basis, and this next Monday I will have my next appointment with the doctor. This visit, unlike the others, I will only be seeing the doctor, and I will not be having the ECP treatments. The test is to see if my body will still continue to improve, or we are hoping at least still stay function the same in regards to my body systems. This next month I will not have the extra support which can be given from the ECP treatments and my body will be expected to reach a new height of independence. While it is exciting to move forward, moving too quickly can overload my body, and put me back to where I was, or below that. The danger with taking a step back is how difficult it is to regain the ground I have already climbed. The body becomes more stubborn the second time. I do however, have faith, and I am confident in moving forward. I trust the Lord will give me the support I need to continue to bring me closer to Him and to continue to give me guidance. Not only does He guide me in making choices with my health, but this shows us a pattern of progression in our lives.
This healing physically, especially in regards to immune suppression is remarkably similar to our growth spiritually. My understanding of the Graft vs. Host disease (GvHd) is that as the blood begins to attack an area of the body it can often call other blood cells to the same area, thus increasing the attack on the area. Immune suppression is used, and in my case the ECP, to help bring balance. The immune suppression controls the number of white blood cells my body makes, meaning that less are made which attack my body. And the ECP comes to play almost teaching my blood which cells to continue making, the friendly ones, and discourages the making of the harmful cells. As there appears to be balance, the immune suppression is lifted gradually to see if the balance stays. This continues as a slow process of baby steps to help ensure the body is ready for every step. The danger in moving backwards is that an area attacked multiple times can become more popular for the attacking cells. Removing the ECP is such a large step as it is trusting that the body has learned what it needs, and the test is now to see if the body can perform.
So, how is this like spiritual growth? Our growth spiritually is something which is not done all at once either, but it is something which requires baby steps. God does not reveal everything to us at one time, but it is precept by precept and line upon line (2 Nephi 28: 30), similar to my recovery from the GvHd, it is something which was brought about with baby steps. This pattern of moving forward is the ideal and the perfect situation. But we sadly are not all perfect. Many times we make mistakes and we end up taking steps backward. Just as it is the medicine and other supplements I have which keep me moving forward; it is the atonement of Jesus Christ, who is the master healer in all things spiritual and physical which gives us the power to move forward spiritually. As we read in the scriptures “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5: 17). As we repent, I do know that it is through the atonement we can move forward. We can become completely new and regain all of the ground we may have lost. I know it has been something which has helped me in both things physical and spiritual. I have experienced the redeeming power which has brought me forgiveness for my sins, and I have experienced the enabling power which has given me the strength to move forward despite the other challenges I have had. I know this gospel can bring us all peace and understanding regardless of our situations or trials. I feel I am ever growing in gratitude for this blessing and this opportunity I have to share this message with others. I love missionary work!