It was a chilly, overcast January day. A day that I would’ve rather stayed inside. I was working to get a sub-two half marathon, though, so I made myself pull on my leggings and a sweatshirt and head out the door. Once I got going, I forgot that it was cloudy and cold and just enjoyed the run. Vaught-Hemingway came into view, and I knew I was about halfway done. Everything was fine, and then all of I sudden, I felt what I can only describe as a “crunch” in my ankle. The sidewalk wasn’t uneven, and I didn’t come down wrong on my foot. I had no idea what happened. I just thought, “Hmm that was weird” and kept going. After feeling the same “crunch” the second my foot hit the pavement on my next run, I knew something was wrong. I went to an orthopedist, and there was a lot of “it could be this” and it “might be that,” but the conclusion was that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. Apparently, that had made my bones weaker, which caused the “crunches.” The prescription was to rest, take Vitamin D, and come back in six weeks if needed.
Six weeks later, my ankle was still “crunching” any time I did anything other than walk on it, so yeah, another doctor’s visit was needed. While I was there, I requested an MRI, but the doctor didn’t think I needed one, so I just kept resting it and taking Aleve twice a day to keep the swelling down.
Fast forward another second six weeks, and…it still hurt. This time, I saw a foot specialist. Given my history, the X-ray, and the physical exam that day, this new doctor said the problem was severe tendonitis and that I needed a cast. That same day. My mom and I were shocked. I’ll never forget the doctor’s smirk when my mom barraged him with questions after his recommendation. “So it can’t get it wet? Does it come on and off? How will she take a shower? So she can’t drive? How’s she supposed to teach?”
There just comes a point in life when you’re past the age of jumping out of trees to see if you can fly and not yet to the age where you could fall and break a hip, where getting a cast is beyond the realm of possibility. Yet, here I was. Twenty-something, healthy, six weeks away from leaving for a month-long work trip to China, and I was about to get my first cast.
The doctor left the room, I put on some very cute disposable shorts so I wouldn’t have to get cut out of my favorite pair of jeans, and within thirty minutes, the right side of my body felt about twenty pounds heavier.
I hobbled to my mom’s SUV and felt plain sick. This thing was huge and heavy and hot, and how in the world was I gonna get across campus? How would I stand at the front of the classroom? The scariest part, though, was that I was getting the cast removed the same day that I’d fly to Beijing, with only two hours to readjust to walking without it before heading to the airport.
There were many concerns, but the task at hand was to finish the semester.
I went from basically dancing around the classroom that semester, peeping over my students’ shoulders like an overbearing helicopter mom multiple times in a class period, to being bound to the front of the room, seated at my desk.
I went from being the one offering to give friends a ride to being at the mercy of my sweet neighbors to cart me to and from work.
I went from having so much energy and loving life, wanting to talk to everybody I saw, to wanting to lay around at home and be by myself.
The day finally came for me to fly to Beijing and get my cast off–you can read more about the train wreck that that was here–and my fears were confirmed: walking without the cast was incredibly difficult. There was no way I could walk through the airports, so I had to be pushed in a wheelchair through all of them. I thought it had been humbling enough to have to ask someone for help getting places around town in the weeks prior, but having to ask for help even getting to the restroom and the water fountain was a whole nother story.
I made it to all the gates on time, and surprisingly, the short flights to Chicago and 14-hour one to Beijing weren’t bad. It was so exciting to be back in China, and I couldn’t wait to explore the new school where I was staying. I accidentally ended up walking (hobbling?) ten miles the first day, whoops!
I wore tennis shoes and a brace the whole summer, took medicine as the doctor prescribed, and iced my foot as able, but it still hurt. Unfortunately, my hopes of being done with the foot saga as soon as the cast came off had not been realized. Those weeks of wearing the cast and temporarily losing my independence had seemingly been for naught.
After my month of teaching abroad, I returned to the States and to the doctor, and he was surprised to see me again. This time, he prescribed a boot and physical therapy–which was yet another humbling experience that you can read about here–to no avail. The rest of that summer, the entire fall, and into the next spring, my foot still hurt and got swollen after I did any amount of walking. It didn’t matter whether I walked across campus or hiked through the Grand Canyon in a single day (which I did)…it was gonna be swollen, no matter what, about the same amount.
Finally, in April of 2019, a year and a half after the initial injury, I demanded to have an MRI.
And would you believe that the results revealed…a torn ligament?
Instead of being shocked, I was mad. I had walked ten and fifteen miles a day around Beijing on a torn ligament. I had hiked up and down the Grand Canyon in one day on a torn ligament. I had stood for hours teaching, walked up stairs daily, and had spent so much time ICING a TORN LIGAMENT.
The doctor said the only way to fix it was with surgery. There would be eight weeks after surgery where I couldn’t put ANY weight on my foot whatsoever, and then weeks of moving to crutches, then a boot, then physical therapy again, and who knew what else.
Seriously, it was April again, and I was leaving for China the next month…again. I literally didn’t have time for surgery. Having it before leaving was absolutely out of the question, but even having it when I got back seemed risky since the semester would start before I could walk unassisted.
With nowhere else to turn, I decided that maybe I should stop going from doctor to doctor and remedy to remedy and try to ask God to fix this problem. I was desperate to avoid surgery, so I called my mentor at Be In Health (a ministry that researches the relationship between the spiritual and the physical) to explain the situation and ask her advice, and I was kind of upset by what she asked:
“Charlsie, do you believe that God wants to heal you?”
“I mean…it was my fault. I shouldn’t have been training so hard, so fast,” I answered.
“Right. But do you believe that He wants to heal you?” she pressed.
“No, I don’t,” I admitted.
“Ok, well you might want to think about that because that could be blocking your healing,” she answered.
That day, I realized that no, I didn’t trust God to heal me. I actually believed I had to “fix it” myself since I was the one who had gotten myself into this whole mess in the first place.
During the whole 18-month ordeal, I hadn’t truly asked God to work a miracle because I didn’t think I deserved one.
But then I realized…nobody actually deserves a miracle, but that doesn’t stop God from performing them. What did I have to lose by believing that even though I might’ve been at fault, He was able to fix this situation? Surely it couldn’t get any worse.
I remember texting my friend that day – the same one who helped track down The Nalgene – and saying, “Either He is and He can, or He isn’t and He can’t. I know which one I’m choosing.”
A few days later, my family celebrated my nephew’s eleventh birthday. For the first time in 18 months, I wore shoes other than tennis shoes. I played baseball in the driveway. I even ran the bases. I was able to go to China a few weeks later and was ecstatic that I didn’t have to use a wheelchair. I practically floated through the airports, even with my two backpacks. I walked all over Beijing freely. I rode the Alipay bikes without worrying if my foot would swell. I even started running again, a mile at a time.
People reading this may doubt that this story is true, and I understand, because there are still questions I can’t answer. I can’t explain why some people are healed and some aren’t (Be In Health does have some insight on possible blocks to healing that might begin to offer an explanation, though). I can’t answer how exactly something in my body was torn and now it’s not. All I really know is that God’s ways and thoughts are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9), that He is good, He is faithful, and He can lead us out of any problem (Isaiah 48:17).
I’ve run over 450 miles since being healed last April. I can drive again. I can chase my puppy around the yard and take her on long walks. I can stand up for as long as I need to. I don’t have to worry about how I’ll get through the grocery store…as long as I have my mask 😉 I’m happy to see people again, and I’m not sitting around sulking in self-pity. In short, I’ve got my life back…the full life that Jesus promises (John 10:10).
“The LORD has done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3).
Disclaimer: In no way do I discount the importance of doctors, pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, or modern medicine. God uses these people and avenues to save countless lives, my own included! These professions are 100% necessary, valued, and appreciated 🙂