Warrior of the Week: Christina Morris

There are two ways of looking at life, either the glass is half empty, or the glass is half full. Making a decision to see situations that arise in your life with the half full perspective can sometimes be difficult…and sometimes you need to fake it until you make it. This is the lesson I have been learning for 11 years, and this is my story of how I learned it.

Eleven years ago, after being married for only a few months, my husband and I were pregnant. We did what any responsible couple would do and decided that since we were going to bring a baby into the world that we need life insurance. So we applied, the company came to our house and took blood, we filled out paperwork, the whole nine yards. A few weeks later we got a letter in the mail addressed to my husband that said all is good. We also got a letter addressed to me that said DENIED…contact your doctor immediately, with blood work results included. 

I immediately went in to see my doctor. She said that I had elevated liver enzymes, which was a normal occurrence when you are pregnant. I had a very difficult pregnancy and was on bedrest for the majority of it, In theory this sounds great. I can’t tell you how many mom friends said to me “I wish I was on bedrest!” I hated every minute of it, I couldn’t nest the way I wanted to. I wasn’t able to work and I loved my job, I couldn’t even put the nursery together or have a baby shower.  This loud voice rumbled inside me…Why God, why is this happening to me ? This wouldn’t be the last time this question would run through my head.

Our son was born 8 weeks early, he stayed in the NICU for a week, but he was our strong little miracle baby. I remember sitting on the labor delivery floor, hearing all the other healthy babies crying and feeling sorry for myself. Why couldn’t I have a healthy baby? That voice rumbled again, Why God, why is this happening to us?. Finally after four long days they let me go see my son in the NICU. I looked around and some of the other babies were so small I couldn’t even see them in the NICU beds. I realized very quickly how lucky I was! 

So life was moving along, just as planned! I applied for life insurance once again and for the second time was denied with the same letter instructing me to call my doctor immediately. Again, the doctor told me my liver enzymes were elevated, but this time I wasn’t pregnant,  and they weren’t quite sure why, or what was causing it. For the next 5-6 months, after a ton of blood work and a liver biopsy I was finally diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease. It was rare. And, it was incurable. 

I was sent to a specialist. Did I mention it was rare and incurable? Again that Rumbling came back, Why me…why was this happening?? At my first appointment with the GI doctor I was told there was medication I could take that could slow the progression of my disease and all would be well, great! The next few years were rough. On top of adjusting to new medications in my systems, I was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases, I was a new mom, I was working full-time as a preschool teacher, and my husband and I were still adjusting to the married life. I constantly felt fatigued, the weekend would come rolling around and my husband would want to have fun, go out, do something as a family. I had a hard time lifting my head off my pillow. I felt like my husband had married a lemon, I wasn’t the wife he wanted, or the wife I wanted to be. I had extreme under the skin itching (due to the over production of bile from the liver disease) It was an uncontrollable itch. I would scratch until I removed skin and I would be bleeding, and it still felt like I had ants crawling all over me. I had bouts of major confusion and memory loss. Which made it hard to teach, or to do anything really. I was on a ton of medication to combat it all, but all that medication had side effects. My weight was all over the place and I had constant stomach problems, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn…you name it. I also would lose my hair, eye brows and eyelashes in waves. I didn’t want people to know I was sick and I especially didn’t want my husband to find me unattractive, so I would buy wigs, paint on my eyebrows and glue on my lashes. Whenever someone asked me how I was, of course with a big smile on my face my answer was always, “Great!! I am doing great!”  I didn’t want anyone to worry about me or to cause stress or turmoil in anyone’s life.  Being sick took a toll on my marriage and on my self esteem. The word divorce was even thrown around a few times. Again, that rumbling would hit me, “Why God, why is this happening to me?”  

I was constantly going to doctor visits to see all the different specialists to manage all my different autoimmune diseases and I had to do bloodwork every month to keep track of wheremy disease were. I was told at some point that I fell into the category of one percent of patients that didn’t respond to the medications.  Again that question came roaring up, ”Why me?? Why is this happening? My faith in god had worn thin. I had decided then that if God wasn’t going to be there for me, I wasn’t going to be there for Him.

A few years ago the GI specialist decided to do a third liver biopsy. They started thinking maybe I had been misdiagnosed, maybe thats why I wasn’t responding to the medication. Little did we know that this third biopsy would change everything. The biopsy doctor was too rough. The needle had gone too deep. My liver had a slow bleed that didn’t heal. Throughout the day I was having severe pain I had never felt before. That evening my husband rushed me to the ER. While they were trying to figure it out I had on-going excruciating pain. I had so many tests, MRI’s, ultrasounds and scans of all types. I ended up being transported by an ambulance to USC where I had to share a room with other patients. One of the girls was younger than me and I remember thinking she must be scared! I of course, like so many times before was going to fake it until I could make it. I smiled through the whole process, through the pain, through the morphine that wasn’t working. I had a smile for everyone, every doctor, every nurse, every family member, every technician and every other patient. Again I didn’t want anyone to worry, I had practiced this skill as a child, my mom loved so big, she worried enough for the whole family, I never wanted to add to her anxiety. I feel like i mastered this skill as a mom, I never wanted my son to worry about anything. At that point knowing death was close you think that roaring question, “Why me God?” would come up, but amazingly it never did. All I could see was all the blessings I had been given, that pretend smile turned into a real smile, life seemed to prioritize itself in my head. I didn’t feel cheated, I had emotions of gratitude, and I wanted to bless the people around me. What legacy was I going to leave behind?

The doctors found the slow bleed and preformed a procedure to close it up. So two weeks later, 20 pounds lighter and one blood transfusion later I was on my way home. Luckily for me, it wasn’t my time to die, but it also wasn’t the end of my tribulation either.A few weeks after I returned home from the internal bleeding, I had to have my gallbladder removed because it was infected and full of blood clots from all the bleeding that transpired from that third liver biopsy. 

In December of 2018 I got a call from my doctor that medications have been ineffective and my liver is too far gone. There was nothing else they can do for me and they were putting me on the liver transplant list. So now I am fighting the clock trying to find a donor in the next few months before my time runs out. I have to honestly say I am no longer scared to die, what keeps me fighting so hard to be here… my family, but mostly my son!  My life doesn’t look the way I thought it would, it hasn’t played out the way I planned, yet emotionally I have never been healthier! I have had a long round about journey with God, my walk has never been stronger or richer, and that roaring voice of why me? Has never returned! I know why me, because I am blessed, that’s why! I have the opportunity to help others, to have immense empathy for people. I no longer struggle with what is important…I know what is my priority. I never think twice about telling someone how amazing they are, or how much I love them, or even just letting them know I am thinking about them and they matter. I am able to see all my blessing clearly and I see them all around me. I am not only acutely aware of my love for others, but I feel the way they love me loudly and fiercely. I see the best in others, and am inspired by their good intentions. My husband and I have never been more in love, we have never shown each other so much grace! The small stuff…why sweat it? Does it really matter? My life is a life of half full, never half empty. My hope and prayer is that anyone reading this will not have to wait until their life is ending to learn these lessons. I hope you can tuck these lessons safely away in your heart and live each day to the fullest.

If you would like to help save Christina’s life, please register on her donor list.

Recipient Name: Christina Morris

DOB: 02/09/80

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