5 Lessons I Learned from a Serious Illness

Good morning, Sisters,

Today, I’m going to get a little more vulnerable than I usually do.  This month marks the three-year anniversary of one of my life’s greatest trials.  It’s crazy for me to think that one of the most traumatic times of my life could also be one of the most grace filled.  So, while it is a hard thing to talk about, it’s also a reminder of the fact that God is so so much bigger than our trials.  And He always (always) has a plan and a purpose.

I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, a brain condition that stops unneeded fluid from exiting the brain as it should, when I was 15 months old.  I have always been so thankful for the wonderful doctors who helped me and my family during those months, even while I can’t remember any of it.

And let me tell you, they did good.  I didn’t have any problems with the condition for nearly fifteen years.  That is unheard of.

However, these years of good health eventually caught up to me three years ago.  I experienced many months of uncertainty.  During these months, I spent over 35 days in the hospital.  At one point, I had almost completely lost my vision, as well as hearing in one ear.  I was confined to my bed and basically handicapped.  Doctors had no idea what was wrong.  All this was thanks to the a-typical way that my body was responding to a common hydro complication.

After many months of illness and prayer, and a last resort surgery that wasn’t even expected to work, I began my road to recovery.  Looking back, this is the area that I see the most grace.  Despite the grim reports of countless doctors and aids before that surgery, I regained my vision and hearing almost instantly.  Within two weeks, I regained most of my strength and was able to go home with a clean bill of health.  YAY!!

And the whole time, through every up and down, the hand of God was never far off.

I have learned so much through this experience and truly feel like it has shaped me as a person.  And while it was tough, I know that it all happened for a reason and, for that, I am thankful.

Each person’s experience of healing looks different.  For some it takes years.  For some it is more of a mental or emotional struggle.  Know that I am praying for you, if you are walking through a trying time right now.  No matter what the struggle is, I pray that you will feel Christ’s abundant love always.

I learned so many lessons during those months of trial and since.  Please read the next few points with an open heart and know that these are universal truths, not solely applicable in my situation.  Again, the grace of God is truly a wonderful gift as he helps us to learn through all that we experience.


+ It taught me the value of trust in God

I have always struggled with the whole trust in God part of faith.  While I knew that God had His hand in everything, hard times like these really challenged this necessary trust.  However, weakness usually gives way to strength in the long run.  Through this experience, this trust was challenged in so many ways.  But each challenge was almost like a reminder of the fact that He was there.  No matter what, He was going to be with me.  I have noticed so many little God moments, moments where He was quietly saying, “I got you”, during my illness and even years later.

+ It taught me the power of suffering

There is beauty in suffering.  St. Gemma Galgani once said “If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.”  Suffering leads to greater love.  No other faith in the history of the world has had such a view of suffering.  Through the sufferings that we experience in this life, we can be joined with Christ and His suffering.  Sts. Therese, Teresa of Avila, Aloysius, Ignatius, and more all echoed this belief in the power of suffering.

No matter the suffering that we experience, we can offer it to Christ.  And even if you don’t do so in the moment, as I failed to do on many occasions, you can also make this recognition in hindsight.  Even the smallest sacrifices bring great joy to the heart of Christ.

+ It taught me that everything happens for a reason

Experiences like this don’t just happen.  Nothing is coincidental in a life centered on Christ.  And while society may look at periods of trial with an air of no hope, Christ uses these times to prove his love and purpose in our lives.

When I’ve thought about my experience and whether I would wish it away if I could, I honestly don’t think I would.  I have learned so much from living with this condition and know that it has greatly shaped me into the person that I am today.  I have grown to believe that we are shaped by the aspects of life that, in the moment, we wish weren’t there.  Isn’t that funny?  Jesus has a sense of humor!!

+ It taught me to be grateful for the special people in my life

Everyone who has ever been ill for an extended period or lost a loved one knows that grace has a way of coming through the woodwork.  Through my whole illness, our close friends and family rallied around us with a strength that I am still amazed by.  On a moment’s notice, we were blest with volunteer babysitters.  While I was in the hospital, people sent mass cards and again stepped up to help those who were still at home.  And let’s not forget the fact that my sweet mom spent a month on one of those hard hospital couches!!  I am so thankful for all these everyday saints!!!

+ It taught me that nothing is impossible for God

I have always had the oh-so-popular verse from Philippians ingrained in my head, “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength”.  But there is also another verse that we should all keep close.  Matthew 19:26 reads, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible”.  With God, all things are possible!!!  Can you believe that?  There were so many times during my illness when our hope was in God.  Some people would call that “last resort surgery” a gamble, but I wouldn’t.  God guided my doctors to make the right choice that day and helped it to have its full effect in the end.  If it weren’t for His watching over them and helping me to bounce back as I did, I could be living a much different life right now.  You truly can do impossible things, O God!!


Thank you so much for reading this little post!  I hope that it has touched you in some way, or given you hope.  Like I said before, know that I am praying for you.  You are not alone in your suffering!

God bless and have a beautiful day!


3 thoughts on “5 Lessons I Learned from a Serious Illness

  1. Oh my goodness, Maddy, you are truly an amazing person! I had no idea! Thank you so much for showing me not only how to trust in God, but also what happens in your heart when you do!


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