Celebrating two years

Posted on April 24, 2013


by Clarissa

A Life-changing Diagnosis

Two years ago I sat in the waiting room of Inland Imaging. Willing my heart to beat at a slower pace, I was about to undergo my first MRIs. A bizarre onset of numbness had propelled me first to my GP, then to a kind neurologist with the bedside manner of a pediatrician. I had already done what every medical professional tells you not to do: I had googled my symptoms.  And learned enough to know that Multiple Sclerosis was likely. Especially since my vitamin D levels had come back incredibly low and this often accompanies the onset of M.S.

I am thankful that I did not have to wait long, as some people can wait years for an official diagnosis. Within a few days the MRI results confirmed my fears. Multiple lesions were detected on my spine and in my brain. The prognosis….completely unpredictable. Some people live decades with very little deterioration. Others go downhill rapidly, loosing mobility and muscle control and within a few short years are bed-ridden. I felt like my life had come to a complete standstill, but the questions raced through my mind at lightning speed. What about moving to Africa? Having kids? All the things I love to do, like backpacking, and kayaking and cooking and walking.

The days of tears and not wanting to get out of bed eventually melted away as I embraced my new reality. I had, without realizing it, been placing so much of my hope for happiness on the expectation of being healthy. And now that expectation was dashed. It has been a process to redefine happiness for me. Some days it feels like two steps forward and one step back. Yet I think I can say, with a small, yet bold voice that peace comes in knowing that I am loved. Loved by my family, by my friends. But most of all, loved persistently, irrevocably, and lavishly by a God who has not been distant in this, but incredibly near.

I’m not there yet. I mean, not in that place of complete freedom from thinking I need health to be happy. Moments come when I think that without health my life will be miserable. But there are other moments. Moments where I am reminded that hiking and cooking and even walking, are not the necessary ingredients for an abundant life, but are only gifts that point to the gift-Giver. I hold onto these moment because I am deeply aware that the time may come in which I have to give them up. But I find great joy in knowing I will never have to give up the abundant life of being a daughter of God…because he will never give me up.

There have been other changes though, probably the biggest one being dietary. I won’t go into that here because I have written about it in other posts (Becoming a Lowfat vegan) or check out the Epicurious link on home page. Suffice it to say, I have fallen in love with so many tasty things that don’t have meat or dairy, I rarely feel like I have had to give up anything. On any given week, I am making sourdough rosemary bread, Ethiopian Shiro, black bean pumpkin kale enchiladas, sushi & miso soup, sourdough sorghum cinnamon waffles, 6 minute chocolate cake, gingered beets, marinated mushrooms, curried sweet potato fries…..the list goes on. I love to eat more now than ever, and I really only miss meat or dairy when I am at a potluck or something and I’m starving and a ham and cheese sandwich happens to be right in front of me.

So here I am two years later, not having had a single relapse! I live out my days in this dusty, dirty, beautiful city of Nairobi. There is a delightful little person who I get to be mom to. And I feel great most days. I go hiking, take numerous walks around our neighborhood and am constantly plunging into new culinary adventures (this week: homemade sauerkraut).

Celebrating by Camping and Hiking in the Great Rift Valley

To celebrate two years of being relapse-free John and I were joined by some friends as we hiked Mt Longonot, a dormant volcano in the Rift Valley and camped on the shore of Lake Naivasha. It was certainly a strenuous hike, but so beautiful! Here are a few pics of the trip!

View of Mt Longonot from rim of the Great Rift Valley

View of Mt Longonot from rim of the Great Rift Valley

Valencia loves camping!

Valencia loves camping!

Camp residents (and pests). Don't leave food out!

Camp residents (and pests). Don’t leave food out!

sunset over Lake Niavasha

sunset over Lake Naivasha

The campground, fenced in and with a ditch in front of the shore to keep hippos out

The campground on the shore of Lake Naivasha, fenced in and with a ditch in front of the shore to keep hippos out



HIking Mt Longonot

Hiking Mt Longonot

Our group, tired and sweaty, but we made it!

Our group, tired and sweaty, but we made it!



View of Lake Niavasha from the top of the crater

View of Lake Naivasha from the top of the crater


Yes, I’m wearing long sleeves and a hat because being at the top of a mountain without shade at the equator means a sunburn in like 3.5 seconds


Mt Longonot is a crater. This pic gives a decent idea of what the trail at the rim is like.


Our little family


Colobus monkey hanging out in the tree above our campsite

birds...I've actually considered getting into birdwatching now that we're living in Kenya

birds…I’ve actually considered getting into birdwatching now that we’re living in Kenya.