Shrinking Hemorrhoids & Growing Faith

If you read my article ‘How Hemorrhoids Made Me Healthy, Fit & Sexy’ you know how I treated my condition. Now, discover how a severe flare-up of hemorrhoids increased my faith in God. It sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Here’s what happened.

In early 2009, I was shocked to see how the recession was eating into my RRSP savings. People I knew were facing the prospect of deferred retirement because of their losses. What could I do? I had two choices: keep losing money and worry, or (deep breath) take the plunge into home ownership.

I had dreamed of owning a home for years, but life in Toronto is expensive and I didn’t think I could afford it. Despite an uncertain corporate job with an income that would barely stretch to meet my financial needs, buying my first home felt like the right thing to do. In fact, it was my ‘unnatural’ peace about taking this huge step that convinced me it was part of God’s plan for me.

I do not like to rush important decisions. I emailed a realtor friend and laid out my finances, my wish list and my will-settle-for list. I doubted he would find anything for me but I was determined not to buy more than I could afford. We sat down together in early March, just to talk. My friend brought two sample listings to show me. Two months later, one of them was my first home. I had been praying, “Lord, I don’t want to turn (big round number) and still be renting.” My closing date was 7 days before my birthday!

With $25,000 borrowed from my RRSP for the down payment and renovations, I began purging 20+ years of accumulated possessions, and shopping for flooring and a kitchen for my new condo. With the help of my realtor, family and friends, everything moved quickly but smoothly.

The next ‘miracle’ was that nearly all the renovation work was done in one month. Old floors and kitchen ripped out. New bamboo floors and a custom-designed IKEA kitchen installed. Tile was laid in the bathroom and kitchen. I even had the whole place professionally painted. It was wonderful! It was expensive. Was I getting in over my head?

Before I could worry, I had a more pressing problem. My kitchen countertops were on back order. And the plumber insisted on installing the kitchen and bathroom sinks as one job. This meant I had no water, except in the bathtub, for three weeks!

By July, I had both sinks, the renos were done and I could actually enjoy living in my new home. My south-facing unit is bright and has a lovely view of the river. Located in a park-like setting amid lawns, trees and gardens, my home occupies a peaceful corner of the city.

Summer was super busy. I was working full-time and unpacking boxes and organizing stuff at home. I was too tired to cook nutritious meals or get much exercise – though every so often, the thought would come: you should go for a walk, or, try the gym downstairs, or, eat more salad and fruit, not just chips, cookies and beer.

All the excitement and stress – buying a home, renovating, moving – plus my recent poor lifestyle choices – took their toll. In October, I had a severe flare-up of hemorrhoids (a condition I have had since my 20s). Usually, after a few days of eating lots of fiber and exercising more, the veins would shrink, the bleeding would stop and the pain would end. Only this time, nothing helped. Days turned into weeks and I was still suffering.

Finally I went to see my doctor and got prescription ointment and suppositories. I was careful with my diet and started working out and walking. After 10 days, the bleeding stopped and the pain subsided. What a relief! But within days, it started again and got worse. I used three courses of medication and the doctor said the next step was surgery. Ouch! Just the thought of it was terrifying. There had to be another way to treat this condition!

I began to pray, “Lord, have mercy on me. Help me. Heal me.” I found Bible verses about healing, wrote them out and read them daily. One favourite was in Matthew 8, verses 1 to 3, about a man with leprosy, who approached Jesus, knelt down and said, “Lord, if you want to, you can make me well again.” And Jesus touched him, said “I want to. Be healed.” And he was. Later in the same chapter, a Roman officer asked Jesus to heal his sick servant. Jesus said he’d come to the man’s house, but the Roman said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my house. Just say the word from where you are and my servant will be healed.” Jesus was amazed by the Gentile’s faith and praised him for it. He healed the servant. Other scriptures that helped me were Psalm 6, verses 2-3; Exodus 15 verse 26 and Exodus 24 verse 25. I started declaring “Thank you Lord for healing my hemorrhoids” before it happened, believing that he would.

But I didn’t just sit around waiting for it to happen. I continued with my Internet research. Instead of desperately buying an expensive ‘miracle cure’, I was determined to try everything that was reasonable and affordable. Some of the things that helped me included:

– Sitz baths – filling a large tub with very warm water, adding some Epsom salts, and literally soaking my backside for 20 minutes twice a day

– White oak bark – one website suggested steeping this mixture into the sitz bath water

– Herbal supplements – of several I tried, Butcher’s Broom was the most helpful

– Fiber – three times a day I took psyllium fiber. Inulin fiber was almost as good and much easier to take

– Diet – I changed what I ate and how I ate (see my article ‘How Hemorrhoids Made Me Healthy, Fit and Sexy’ for details)

– Exercise – I started working out 3-4 times a week in my condo gym and walking every day at lunchtime

When I went for my annual checkup in early December, I had lost 8 pounds and toned up nicely. I felt better and I looked good. Most days, I had very little pain and the bleeding had almost disappeared. I began to believe, and to declare, that I would be 100% healed by the New Year.

Looking back, I realized that the fleeting thoughts I had over the summer – that I should eat better and exercise more – were God’s way of trying to get my attention. He wasn’t being a spoil sport, he had my best interests at heart. He knew my chronic condition would flare up and he wanted to help me avoid it. But I didn’t listen. When it got to the point where I was in severe pain and ready to do whatever was necessary to stop it, God helped me to find the information I needed. And to commit to making the changes – in my diet and exercise habits – that would heal the hemorrhoids and get me fit. I learned that if I don’t respond to God’s gentle ‘nudges’, he applies increasing pressure. Tough love. I wished I had listened sooner! But, because things got as serious as they did, the changes I was forced to make turned into a permanent new lifestyle.

I have a confession to make, though. I am not perfect. Two or three times, on weekends, I overindulged (chips, ice cream, pastries, alcohol) and my hemorrhoids flared up again. Constipation caused strained bowel movements and the pain of an aching colon reminded me that this condition doesn’t disappear – it becomes dormant. Under the right conditions (eating foods that cause constipation and not exercising enough to keep the digestive system functioning) the bleeding and pain can return.

These relapses made me grateful that God did not heal my hemorrhoids outright. I believe he could have. But he knows that I can be lazy and self-indulgent; that there are times I may not be as careful as I should be. At family gatherings, where we enjoy big meals with a variety of foods, accompanied by wine or beer, followed by rich desserts and coffee. Or after work, when I’m tired and don’t feel like exercising. It’s easy to slip back into bad habits, so I am grateful for these reminders that nudged me back on track.

Now, because I learned the hard way, I am convinced of the need to eat balanced meals, with lots of fruit and vegetables, and very little dairy, meat and saturated fats. I know I have to stay active – walk every day, take the stairs, work out. Becoming stronger and healthier feels great. Staying balanced promotes physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. And that means that I can enjoy living a ‘purpose driven life’. (Note: this phrase is derived from the book “The Purpose Driven Life” written by Rick Warren.)