How Are You Doing? | An Update
I hope you're all doing well in the midst of the chaos, pain, confusion, anger, and dangers that have been running high these past couple of weeks. It's honestly a lot to process, and it takes time to understand, learn and rethink sometimes. There's nothing wrong with needing more time.
As I talked about in my previous #blacklivesmatter post, there's just so many complicated thoughts and feelings and reactions I have as someone who lived a relatively sheltered life in regards to the struggles of other racial minorities within America. In fact, my family has had a history of being, for lack of better wording, stubbornly prejudice against Black Americans.
Growing up with the internet and technology to communicate with people with differing viewpoints and backgrounds from me has honestly broadened my perspective on the narrative of minorities, outside of my own Asian American bubble. However, I'm still learning so much more, and my heart is breaking for the injustices that have happened, and still is happening. And I think an important point to address is that we should recognize that while other nations may not struggle with the same race structure, there are still minority groups that have been systematically placed in positions of disadvantage - could be religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, etc. Even in the United States, there are more ways in which prejudice prevails over the justice system, and many more fights for fairness to be fought. The #blacklivesmatter movement has gone viral globally in response to the incident resulting in the murder of George Floyd, but I encourage my international readers to also look to your own communities: who are the disadvantaged? Reach out and share your love and support, because even if they didn't suffer at the knee of a police officer, there may be other ways that they're praying for understanding and help.
Some of you may have met my one of my closest friends, Ngozi, who was my college apartment-mate. She grew up in Hollywood, and moved to Nigeria to be with family shortly after graduating. In discussing with her, an ex-PoliSci major who is of dark skin is such a refreshing and new perspective. She has been removed from America for a while, but she had said she noticed so much change for the better during her visit earlier this year. She reflected a lot on the importance of having a Black President (Obama) set precedence for the nation to see that Black people are not what the stereotypes insinuate. And not only that, but that Obama is not an exception, and that Black people cannot be identified solely on the stereotypes of gangsters, murderers, thieves, hoodlums, etc. There is so much background and history as to why these stereotypes have been attributed to the Black community. For example, the idea of slavery can only come about with the belief that Africans are less than Whites in terms of humanity, This is a huge factor in the poor treatment of Black Americans. Even when they were freed from slavery, it was an uphill battle for voting rights, property, jobs, etc. Segregation built a structure of where Black and White communities should be, and this separation is still very prominent in a lot of areas of the United States. This allows for community targeting, and police tend to be much more active in areas where more minority groups are present, thus having more people within the Black community being convicted or caught for crimes that are happening, possibly even at a more alarming rate, in White communities. One such example: drugs. Do you not think it is much more likely that someone within a richer, White neighborhood would be able to come across an opportunity to buy mass amounts of drugs and sell it? Lower class Black individuals can be used to carry out errands for these druglords, but they're also much more likely to be pinned as the perpetrator, which then begins a bias against the Black community. Due to these biases, sometimes police plant evidence, and give false testimony in order to prove their suspicions. It's not fair, and it's such a complex matter how systematically racism has trickled down from the very beginning. Unfortunately, the protests and riots can work against the eradicating of these stereotypes. However, history has also taught us that a lot of times, Black Americans require violent protests to get their voice across. #blacklivesmatter, and we need to let this fact be heard.
These are things I am still trying to grasp and learn more about and dig deeper to fully understand. As an Asian American who is seen as the "model minority", my struggles are so different and I am so disconnected from the lives of the Black community. Let's learn together and help uplift the voices of our Black brothers and sisters. God hears their angry cries and grief; let's pray for them and support their fight for justice and equality. Let's also lift up a prayer for the safety of everyone, and discernment and wisdom in how these protests are progressing, and for the police who may be caught in the receiving end of angry, desperate people whose anger has been doubly pent up from being stuck at home in quarantine. That their hearts will be protected and softened for the cause, and that they too, will desire justice and love.
I know that my struggles are nothing compared to those who are suffering from COVID-19, working the front lines to keep people healthy, or protesting despite the risk of contracting COVID-19 or dying by police brutality. But I did want to update you all on my current state, and just how God is encouraging me and teaching me these days.
I know my last update was just very sad, and to be honest, my heart is still so heavy with frustration, physical pain, weariness, and complaints. I've been crying out to God about why I just can't seem to get better - that I want to be able to do His work, but my body is continually collapsing from being beaten by illness. It just feels that every time I think I'm getting better, a new medication or food causes an allergic reaction, and I'm back to square one. Or that while I'm in the "resting period" of waiting for the cough to fizzle out, it would come back with a vengeance. My body is tired of medication... I'm tired.
On Wednesday, I had an appointment with a pulmonary (lung) specialist. I was so hopeful that finally... perhaps someone would be able to tell me what exactly is wrong. That if I have COPD as one of the urgent care physicians predicted, at the very least I would receive instruction on how to take care of myself. But all hopes were dashed when the specialist didn't even care enough to take note of what medications I had taken over the past five months, what I was allergic to, or any of the details that I provided to her in tears. She prescribed me an inhaler with 60 doses, asking me to inhale once in the morning, and once at night, and advised that I return to her in 8 weeks. I had to remind her that 60 doses would only last me approximately 4 weeks before she retrieved another boxed inhaler for me. I was livid, because I realized I was being brushed off, and that my copay had gone to waste... after already having spent over a thousand dollars in medical bills since the beginning of April. I bit my tongue as she told me to head out and pay my bills, and told her that I have been working from home since April due to my cough, and my boss would just like updates on my situation. Rather than writing any update, the doctor gave me a note that reads: "Please excuse Sharon Cheung on June 3rd, 2020 for a doctor's visit with us." To add injury to insult, while I was driving home, she called me and asked me to go to the urgent care clinic I had taken X-rays at to bring her a copy. I was already crying in the car, a couple hundred dollars out, knowing that specialist didn't even care to do any extra check ups on me, a patient who has been coughing for the past five months and ruined her body with round after round of antibiotics and steroids to try and fix the problem. Hearing her say that she didn't even take the time to look at the X-rays that were already sent to her from the urgent care broke me. How can someone in the health care profession be so unprofessional and so uncaring of the well being of a patient?
Thankfully, I was able to switch my PCP over to my childhood doctor - a doctor that was my dad's close friend. I still don't know to this day how they managed to become friends, since their paths were going in wildly different directions. But I called him, crying and unsure of what was wrong with me, and just so angry and frustrated at the attitude of the lung specialist. He took me in to check on me right away, giving me a free X-ray to check what was wrong, and carefully documented everything I said about the medications I took, what I reacted to, and how I've been feeling. Eventually, he came up with a (hopefully) solution, and hooked me up to an IV and a breathing treatment. He decided that since my body wasn't handling anything very well, he would basically simultaneously nuke my body with steroids and antibiotics, by putting in the steroids, he hoped to mitigate all or any allergic reactions.
The IV fed two types of steroids into me, and one antibiotic, whereas the breathing treatment was spiked with another steroid as well (I won't include a picture of that, because it just looked really weird). He told me to return for 5 days for treatment, and sent me home with four more oral steroids, a strong allergy medication, and a strong antibiotic to take in conjunction to the inhaler that the lung specialist prescribed me. My body was shaking and numb from all the steroids, and my chest hurt so badly from the breathing treatment. Driving home was probably not the safest thing I could do, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, right?
I collapsed at home, thankful for having a doctor finally take me seriously and be so proactive in figuring out a different to help me. I was so drained, physically and emotionally, but God is good, and continues to restore my faith in His people. However, I was also overwhelmed with loneliness - I wanted to feel cared for physically, especially after the trauma my body had, and was still, going through. The pins and needles that overtook my arms and legs were actually quite scary, and had kept me up the entirety of the night. I wished that there was someone who could give me a hug (my love language is touch, haha), or at least pour me a cup of water to take my medicine.
At least my cat was curious as to what kept me away from snuggling with them all day :) But honestly, I hadn't felt so alone in a long time. I couldn't call my mother - she doesn't handle things like these very well, especially after my dad. My sister has to tend to her own family, and I didn't want to burden Jason with things that he cannot help with. It's just been a really rough time, with the riots, curfews, and the pandemic still affecting our ability to see each other and encourage each other.
I was left to grapple with and wrestle with God - knowing fully well that He always provides for me what I need, despite what my human side would desire. It's somewhat very flattering that God knows I can pull through of this alone, that I do not need anyone physically there to care for me. It's also comforting to know that He knows I can pull through this by having faith in Him alone. But still, my heart felt torn into pieces - it could have also just been the mood swings kicking in as a side effect of the steroids, but who knows? I just cried for most of the night, unable to fall asleep despite feeling extremely drowsy from some of the medication.
Now with a few days to meditate on this new journey in my health, I've been falling into a bit of fear - that while this treatment seems to be working for now, so did every other (non-allergy inducing) medication I received. And then it would just get worse again, and I'd be back to coughing regularly. Yesterday marked day 3 of my treatment, and I have 2 more rounds to go - will I really be okay after all these 5 rounds? The mood swings have not gotten too much better, and honestly the loneliness has only gotten worse with each passing day. On Thursday, we had young adult ministry (online), and I struggled so hard in trying to not be a Debby-downer, because it should be a joyful time - we should be rejoicing that despite the distance we have this time to spend together in fellowship and accountability. I shared about my struggles, but even then, I found myself trying to downplay everything so as to not aggravate others. It's already such a trying time in reflection of world events. Who am I to add to that?
And as Father's Day is dawning on us, my heart is heavy that I would miss another holiday with my dad. I want so badly to be able to visit him, but I'm also very aware that in my situation, I shouldn't be going out other than for medical visits, unless I am at the very least fully well. And not just that, but how can I go see my dad with tubes hanging out of my hand?
As I'm processing through these personal issues and feelings, alongside the crazy medicine-induced mood swings, God has been reminding me: what if I am not healed? And what if I can't visit my dad for my birthday, or his birthday, or even the rest of this year? Am I satisfied in Christ, in the blessings He is providing in lieu of my mental turmoil, and knowing that God is my heavenly Father? Or is my faith in medicine and doctors and circumstances and people? As I'm slowly praying through these things, I'm trying very hard to maintain an optimistic perspective - a perspective that is turned towards the goodness of God, rather than the fears and lies that sin and death are whispering into my ear in the form of illness and doubt.