Thursday, June 23, 2011

'A Great Witness' by My Husband the Guest Blogger

Today Mike and I experienced something powerful.  Something that left us feeling so comfortably peaceful, happy, and full of gratitude despite the overall news we received.  It seems so strange to try to explain.  After discussing with Mike what had transpired and feeling the energy within our conversation, I asked him if he would write about it.   I have repeatedly felt heart ache regarding Mike's deletion of his blog which documented all of his beginning thoughts and experiences with Multiple Sclerosis.  I have been encouraging him to write, especially lately, and he consented today as a result of our experience.   May I introduce, my very first guest blogger on Sweet Dreams are Made of These, my incredible, incredibly amazing that is... husband, Michael.  In his own words:

One of the many difficult challenges of living with MS is trying to decide which, if any, treatment path to follow.  MS is a mystery. There is no cure.  No one knows the cause.  Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone seems to hold the answer.   
In 2009, I began treatment with a drug called Rebif with horrific results.  The side effects were not worth it, at best, and terrifying, at worst.  I stopped treatment after a particularly nasty episode.  After speaking to my neurologist and listening to his suggestions about other treatment options, I decided to take my questions to the One who does know the cause!  Through prayer and study, I felt that none of the medications were right for me at that time.  
The words of Doctrine & Covenants 84:88 were especially poignant at that time, and I have carried them in my heart throughout this journey, “for I will go before your face.  I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”  I have come to know personally that this is NOT mere hyperbole!  
2 years later, I am at this same crossroads.  My wife and many others concerned for my well being persuaded me to once again seek a doctors’ advice and help once again.  I felt it was time.  After a referral from my good bishop, I met with a leading neurologist at USC.  She listened to my concerns regarding my previous difficulty with MS and strongly recommended a different drug based on my ’09 MRI results and ordered new pictures of my brain and cervical and thoracic spine.  I asked for 30 days to decide whether or not I wanted to start treatment.  She told me that she believed she would never see me again!
Over the course of the last 30 days, I have been earnestly seeking the Lord’s divine direction.  One of my personal favorite sermons on this topic was given by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at October 2009 General Conference titled, “To Acquire Spiritual Guidance”.  He gives priceless instruction and guidance.  In his talk, he quotes President John Taylor thusly, “Joseph Smith, upwards of forty years ago, said to me: ‘Brother Taylor, you have received the Holy Ghost.  Now follow the influence of that Spirit, and it will lead you into all truth, until by and by, it will become in you a principle of revelation.’”  
I have much to learn about this process.  I felt as though everybody was telling me that I should be on some treatment.  I wanted to be on treatment.  It seemed like the smart thing to do.  Except, that is not what I felt.  I continued to seek an answer, or maybe more correctly, the answer I thought was wise.  Then, as I was praying on one occasion, my mind was drawn sharply and clearly to this passage of the Doctrine and Covenants, “cast your mind upon the night that you cried into me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.  Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (6:22-23)  I’d had my answer, probably for days, maybe for weeks.  The answer was still that this medication was not right for me at this time.  I knew it, I just had yet to recognize and accept it.
Today, Briana and I traveled to USC (144 miles round trip!) to hear the results of my MRI’s and deliver our ‘bad’ news about not taking her suggested medication.  The doctor first reviewed the scans of my brain.  (The radiologist’s report on my brain scan states that I have “innumerable” scars on my brain and then after innumerable writes in parenthesis “too many to count”.  As if a well educated doctor wouldn’t know what innumerable means!  That has to be in the top ten of most devastating parenthetical statements!  When I read the report, I thought, “Wow, he’s really driving the nail home here...that seemed excessive and uncalled for.”)  
Anyway, have I mentioned how often I get tangential?  The doctor is going through my brain scans and sort of exclaiming each time she sees a ‘huge scar’.  We get through the brain and move on to the cervical spine.  It goes from bad to worse.  My spinal column looks like its hosting a standing room only party for lesions.  When she finishes, she turns to me and says something like, “This is remarkable.  You are vulnerable to progression of symptoms” (Another digression: My doctor is Russian and has a great Russian accent.  I’ll let you do your best with her comments...think Rocky IV and Ivan Drago, “I must break you”)

She tells me that if she looked at my scans without knowing me she would think that I had serious functionality and mobility issues.  She told me that I was remarkable and my body had an incredible ability to adjust to adversity and heal itself.  
At this moment, I realized just how much the Lord had blessed me in this situation.  I have been blessed with miracles and had not understood the scope.  Almost immediately, I recalled a quick, yet powerful, lesson my father-in-law had taught me on Father’s Day.  He is battling cancer.  He said he had been pondering the word suffereth and its dual meaning as used by the Lord.  He taught me that he now had a better understanding that when the Lord suffereth difficulty (cancer, ms, etc.) to come upon us, we can understand that that suffering must apply to him as well, for “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4).  In that divine crucible we reverently refer to as The Atonement, the Lord suffered, not only for our sins and transgressions, but also our sicknesses, heartache, and travails.  Thus, any suffering I have passed through, He suffereth it also.  To feel His companionship and grace ever more powerfully is a miracle indeed!
The doctor asked about my decision regarding the medication.  I informed her that I felt that it was not right at this time to take.  She seemed confused by my explanation, therefore, I spoke to her of my faith and prayers, of my belief in God and His ability to direct His children.  After some conversation, she said that after seeing the scans of my brain and spine, the drug she had recommended was not right for me.  I knew before I saw the scans from divine guidance!  She then discussed other treatment options more suitable (and more aggressive) for my current conditions.  After lengthy discussion regarding these treatments and innumerable (too many to count) questions from my lovely wife, the doctor then wrapped up by saying something like, “I know you will need time to study your decision.  When would you like to come back and let me know?”  She already knew that, once again, I would need to consult with the One Who Knows!
May I end this note by saying the I know that God lives!  He loves us!  Our Savior, Jesus the Christ knows us, loves us, and is always waiting to encircle us about in the arms of his love (D&C 6:20)!  I love the words of a favorite hymn,
“Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed, For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand (special meaning to me!)
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand....
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
- How Firm a Foundation, Hymn 85

{If you are interested in reading more about 'Mike' and 'Our Journey with MS', click on the respective labels located in the right hand column.}


  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. It strengthens my testimony to hear yours (both you and Briana) and I admire very much your reliance on the Lord to make good choices. Your example and courage are an incredible illustration of the Savior's love for all His children. Keep up the good fight.

  2. oh Brianna, how I had been missing your blog lately but I have.... this whole page I have never seen.. but to sit and read Mikes words.

    Praying for him for wisdom in these next 30 days, that the Lord would guide him to make the right choice for his body... that he would cover him in inumberable (well you know) peace, and I will just praise him in knowing what he has pulled him through already.

    So thankful for dr.s who are understanding....

    after art camp Im totally coming here to pour over what you've been up to.....

  3. Wonderfully written!Mike and Brianna you continue to amaze and inspire me! How I love the scriptures you referenced and have been strengthend by there words many times. I am confident the Lord will continue to "give thee aid" and Brianna will continue to ask innumerable questions for that is how we get answers :)
    Our prayers continually reach upwards on your behalf!!!

  4. You can see from the power of your words, Mike, how strong of a person you truly are and how much you are needed on this earth. Thanks for being faithful and enduring these challenges. Because when I hear about your struggles and battles you are fighting, it helps strengthen my faith. How remarkable it is to know we don't have to go through these challenges in life alone. There is power in asking questions; especially when you're asking the One who knows how to heal and strengthen us. I know you'll receive guidance as you continue to seek it. I pray for your family and love you all so much.

  5. Thanks Mike, and thanks Brianna for encouraging him to write. Your words have touched our hearts and strenghtened our faith. Thanks for your great examples. There is such power in feeling a confirmation that what is logical and seems like such an easy choice is not always the right choice. And when you get that kind of confirmation it gives you strength to always turn to Him for guidance. We continue to pray for you guys and miss you! We loved looking at your blog tonight!
    Aaron and Katie

  6. Hello Brianna & Mike,
    I was up early this morning...praying to the Lord to help me find some comfort. I lost my dear father 15 days ago to complications of chemo for his cancer that he was diagnosed with in Jan. Your faith and strength remind me so much of him that I was instantly uplifted. His funeral was not about the praises of a wonderful man, which he was, but a tribute to our Lord and Savior and His Plan. It was amazing how the hardest funeral I have ever had to go to was also the most comforting. The veil was so very thin and I felt such soothing peace. The trial now is moving forward without his immediate presence, when the veil seems to have thickened over the past days. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your family will remain in my prayers.
    Warm Regards, Cory

  7. Thank you for your faith, Mike, and your ever-present optimism. It is an inspiration and I needed it at this time. You remind me of President Hinckley. I always thought of him as MY prophet and I loved the way his eyes would twinkle and in the face of hardship he would say, "It will be alright." Simple words, but poignant. My sweet, sweet friends. You are in my prayers and I love your guts. Thank you for being a light in a dark place. Briana, I know how it feels to hand over a precious loved one to the skilled hands of a doctor with desperation in my heart and have to choke down the words, "Help me! I will do anything to make her better! Take from me what you need! Take MY kidneys! What am I going to do with them anyway without her?!" I LOVE you! Hurrah for Israel!



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