When You Become a Medical Mystery (Interview with a Giant-Killer #3)

I am rereading the Gospel of Mark as I frequently do, and have been impressed with Jesus’ show of authority over all things during His ministry on earth. Now, in these interviews with giant-killers, we are reading testimonies that He continues to exercise that authority. Interview #1 demonstrated His authority over sin. Interview #2 demonstrated His authority over violent abuse. In this week’s interview, we read of His authority over illness. Aaron Gansky is a dear friend – one of those people I instantly knew was a kindred spirit and would be my friend for life. I read his short novel, The Bargain, three years ago and I still think about at least once a month. It was that powerful. Here is Aaron’s giant story:

doctor-1149149_640Describe the giant in your life and how you overcame:

It came spinning, setting the whole world in unceasing motion. This was more than simple dizziness or vertigo. It was a nauseating momentum that put me at the center of a spinning galaxy. Here I was, shortly after our youth group meeting, and I couldn’t stand up, couldn’t even sit up without falling over. I lay down, hoping the spinning would stop, but it didn’t. It intensified.

That’s when I lost my strength. Once the spinning subsided, I couldn’t walk on my own power. I had to lean against walls, have people support me, as if I’d run three consecutive marathons. I’d never experienced a weakness, a fatigue of this sort, and I was only twenty at the time.

Doctors initially diagnosed it as a vasovagal syncope response, but the weakness persisted far too long. They tested me for MS, for Guillain-Barre, for hyperkalemia and hypokalemia, for nearly every imaginable neurological disease. I had to quit my job and drop out of college. I had weekly appointments for different tests, including spinal taps and EMC (both of which is particularly painful, by the way). They took enough blood from me over the next few months to fill a swimming pool. My phlebotomist knew me by name.

The worst part of this giant was the unknown. Each test came back negative. The best they could do was to name thedoctor-1228629_640 symptom rather than the cause. Periodic paralysis.

Months later, with no real explanation, I returned to normal health. From that point forward, I’ve had the periodic paralysis flare up now and again. It’s frustrating and embarrassing, but manageable. Rather than complaining or giving up, however, I persevered. I knew it would be a temporary condition. I made choices to change career fields so I could continue to work, even if I had another incident. The down time really helped me focus on my writing. I developed skills during those months that serve me to this day. God’s grace is sufficient for me. 

How have any of these traits mentioned in 2 Peter 1:1-10 played a role in slaying your giant – faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love:

Of the listed traits, I relied most heavily on my faith and steadfastness. I knew it was a temporary condition, though I had no reason to believe that. Medical science, at the time, believed my condition would persist, even worsen. But, as I continued to rely on God in my weakness, He made his strength known through me. My boat-691804_640faith allowed me to remain steadfast in my relationship with Him, helped me keep my eye on the prize, so to speak. I’d determined, if the condition were permanent, I would continue to serve God in any way I could. But I heard His gentle whisper, His promise that the condition was temporary. So I focused on Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” and relied on God’s grace to heal me or to sustain me.

Was there a particular Bible verse or passage that was valuable to you in slaying this giant?

I kept coming back to 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I had never been weaker, and so never experienced God’s grace to the extent I did in those months. 

How did other Christians play a role in your giant slaying?

My parents supported me throughout all my tests, my sisters and friends, too. I was surrounded by so many believers who kept me continually lifted before God in prayer. They prayed with me and for me. They helped me maintain my sense of humor and positive outlook. They kept my spirits lifted, even in my periods of doubt.

What about you, loved ones? I know I’ve experienced both periods of undiagnosed illness and all that comes with it as well as healing from the Lord. In the years when I was undiagnosed and unhealed, I relied on the Lord in ways that still serve me now. How have you endured times like this and if you’re undergoing a time like this now, how can we here at the blog pray for you?

About Aaron Gansky: In addition to being a loving father and husband, Aaron Gansky is an award-winning novelist, teacher, and podcast host. In 2009, he earned his M.F.A in Fiction at the prestigious Antioch University of Los Angeles, one of the top five low-residency writing schools in the nation. Prior to that, he attained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from California State University of San Bernardino, where he studied, in part, under Bret Anthony Johnston, now the Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University.

His first novel The Bargain (2013, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) was a finalist for the Selah Award for debut novel. Two years later, The Book of Things to Come (2015, Brimstone Fiction), the first book in his Hand of Adonai YA Fantasy series, won the Selah Award for YA Fiction. He has written two books on the craft of fiction; Firsts in Fiction: First Lines and Write to Be Heard (with Diane Sherlock). To find out more about his books, click here.

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    The Conversation

  1. Pam Halter says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with the medical community. There’s so much they don’t know, which is why I believe it’s called “practicing medicine”. But we know the ultimate Healer! And we know this life is short. Still, when things go wrong with our minds and bodies, we *want* healing – and fast! Thanks for sharing your story, Aaron!

    • Norma Gail says:

      Living with multiple undiagnosed and uncommon conditions, I can certainly identify and add my testimony to the unfailing grace and power of God, both to heal, and to give strength when healing is not forthcoming. My faith rests not in the medical profession, in fact my own profession, until interrupted by illness. My faith rests in the Great Physician who has chosen not to heal but to use me in the lives of others through writing and personal ministry. Thanks for sharing Aaron’s story, and for your consistently challenging blogs, Lori!

  2. I’m so honored to count Aaron and Lori both as friends. Your spirits are true and authentic, and Aaron’s story is always inspiring. Doctors don’t know everything, but God does. Thank you for sharing this story and demonstrating that even in the unknown, it’s okay.