Traveling Together On The Path of Chronic Illness by Timothy Gunnells

I thought when I was in my mid-20s dealing with a nagging back issue that I understood chronic pain and illness. The back issue corrected itself after about a year. I knew for certain that when I was diagnosed with a chronic stomach condition in my late 30s that I absolutely understood what it was like to have a chronic illness (and I did have a better grasp than when I was younger). However, when I woke up one day (now in my early 50s) and I could barely walk, and my joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles hurt from my neck down….well, that was a game changer!

It took nearly 9 months from the first appointment with my primary care doctor to try to get help with the pain and inflammation to get an appointment with a Rheumatologist. She was unsure of what I had exactly but knew it was an autoimmune disease. My primary care doctor thought it was rheumatoid arthritis, the Rheumatologist said, “No”. She threw out some different thoughts, changed up some medications, and sent me on my way for 2 more months. I was in such pain and had so much fatigue that life slowly ground to a halt. I depended on other people (especially my wife) to do many things I used to do, except for my teaching.

Finally, I got a diagnosis of Severe Psoriatic Arthritis (with additional layers of issues with my ligaments, tendons, and spine). I was ecstatic to have a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Yet, as many of you understand that was just another trail on my journey. I tried medication after medication, going through insurance approval, dealing with Pharmaceutical companies, and praying day and night for relief from my overwhelming pain, fatigue, and depression.

Part of the journey has been caregiver burnout with anxiety and depression while caring for my parents full-time in our home for about 6 years. My Mom has dementia, and my Dad has multiple physical problems. The stress of that alone contributed immensely to my initial illness and its intensification. Thankfully, my brother and sister-in-law volunteered to take over their care about a year and a half ago. Surely, I would be well now without that stress. Nope!

A wonderful friend and brother in Christ urged me to consider stem cell therapy in Mexico. I did my own research. I contacted the clinic. I flew to Arizona, and he drove me to the border and stayed with me for a week while I went through the treatment. Life improved tremendously and I can function at about 75% to 90% of what I could do before my arthritis attacked me. I do have a biologic that I take weekly that has helped a lot also, and I am very thankful.

My autoimmune disease is not in remission, but the disease activity is minimal most days. I do not expect healing before I get to heaven. I have flares, but thankfully not like before when my pain was so intense and debilitating. What health and energy I have now, by the grace of God, I want to use to glorify him by helping others who suffer too, and by sharing Jesus with those who do not know Him.

I am so thankful to have found Broken and Mended. I had known people throughout my life who dealt with chronic pain and illness, but I didn’t understand their struggles. Now, living through it myself, I get it. Broken and Mended provides me a beautiful opportunity to share my struggles with fellow sufferers, but it also allows me to help bear their burden also. It is encouraging and empowering. It gives some purpose to my own pain.

I have been so encouraged by the ministry of Broken and Mended that I decided to help by training to lead support groups myself, and joining the Board of Directors, to contribute some of my time and personal experiences to bless others.

Broken and Mended is at its heart a gathering of friends who understand chronic pain and illness. Through our own struggles, we share the burdens of others. We hope to add more in-person groups soon, and many more online groups as well. I don’t have to suffer alone and neither do you. We can encourage each other and lend our combined strength of spirit to fellow travelers who deal with chronic pain and illness.

Timothy Gunnells is on the board of directors of Broken and Mended, Incorporated. His photo and short bio can be found on our staff page.

David Heflin

David Heflin

Executive Director

David Heflin is the founder and president of Broken and Mended. He is married to Katie and has three kids. David has been a preacher for 17 years and founded Broken and Mended in 2018 after being inspired by his own battle with chronic pain to connect other hurting people to Jesus and each other. David has a B.A. in Bible from Oklahoma Christian University and a Master of Arts in Religion from Azusa Pacific University. He resides in Woodward, OK.

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