Is it selfish to pray for yourself when the world has real problems? Is it possible to know if a spiritual practice like prayer can be a healing force in the face of a chronic condition like psoriasis? Am I wasting my energy praying if my health doesn’t improve?
You can read more about my thoughts on these questions in the column. Here I would like to interact with a couple of question that didn’t make it into the Everyday Health blog.
How Much Prayer Is Enough?
“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” (Attributed to C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands).
On Thursday, March 18, Yolo County, CA instituted a shelter-in-place order to begin the next day until April 7th. Here’s a tweet where I marked the event.
On that same day the Governor Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order. Here is a screenshot from my phone:
Recently both the county and state extended the lockdown to May 1st, and it could be even longer. I plan to post a weekly journal updated every day or two to mark thoughts, reflections, and news related to life sheltering-at-home.
Friday, April 10, 2020
Happy Good Friday. Here’s a tweet with a link to a message I shared in 2017 at Davis Chinese Christian Church:
Dr. Francis Collins Prayers from Science and Faith in Pandemic Times
Dr. Francis Collins, the current NIH Director, gave an interview on a webcast Monday. In Science and Faith in Pandemic Times, Collins provided timely information on the coronavirus pandemic. About half way in he begins to address matters of faith.
Near the end, he shared what he is praying for. Lori and I have used his thoughts for our own prayer times, which I share here.
Healthcare providers who are putting themselves in harms way and many quarantined from their families.
Families who have lost jobs and are in severe economic distress.
Researchers working night and day to come up with a treatment and vaccine to save lives.
Church, that this would be a time where church fellowship can provide spiritual nurture.
Myself, that I would understand something about myself and learn from it. Joshua 1:9 to be strong and courageous, and not to grow weary.
How are you praying during the pandemic? Is it difficult to pray in the face of so much tragedy?
Recently, I recalled a creative exercise I did with a small group last summer. I was looking for a way to incorporate an artistic element into reading an excerpt from the Bible.
Although I’m not the best at drawing or painting, I modified the exercise for myself so that I could enjoy it and remember what part of the reading impacted me. I repeated the exercise during this pandemic—it’s the same reading from the Bible: Psalms 1. Using leftover scrapbook pages, I created the background and banner that I wanted.
In the future, I feel depicting Spring in full bloom will remind me when the coronavirus outbreak happened. I have confidence that I will look back on this unusual time in my life and remember how my faith in God sustained me like a tree planted by streams of water.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Treating My Lungs While Not Worsening My Skin (Howard)
One of my biggest concerns during the lockdown is needing to go to the medical clinic or hospital. I want to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus if at all possible. That even means having groceries from Costco delivered to our house where we disinfect before putting them away in the kitchen.
It especially means avoiding medical facilities.
Two weeks ago my breathing became quite labored. As the tree pollen counts elevated, my asthma flared. I needed the rescue inhaler two to three times a day. The steroid inhaler couldn’t control my asthma any longer. With Covid-19 attacking the lungs, I desperately wanted my breathing to improve just in case.
I then remembered asking my primary care doctor for a stronger asthma inhaler last June. Fortunately, I stored the filled prescription in my drawer for the combination steroid powder inhaler. It took about five days after starting treatment before I could breathe easily without the rescue inhaler.
In the back of my mind I wondered if the inhaler photosensitizes my skin. I still use ultraviolet light treatments at home to mainly control my atopic dermatitis. I didn’t want to create a new problem when solving another.
My skin slightly burned from the first phototherapy treatment after starting the new inhaler. I backed down the dose about a third for the next treatment. Again my skin burned. And again the next time. I concluded that the asthma medication photosensitizes my skin.
I’m taking a break from phototherapy for a few days to let my skin recover. I don’t want to stop my asthma medication since it’s working so well. I’ll try to step down my dose even more to see if I can still control the rashes on my skin on half or less of the dose I used before.
I’ve missed my dermatology check-up appointment already due to the pandemic. Good thing my doctors are quick to reply to messages. Hopefully, I can control my asthma and eczema without the need to see them in person.
Today I come to you humbled and desiring more of You. You are holy, and I am not. Your glory fills the Temple and the universe. I pray Your Kingdom come as the world, and my home, faces a global coronavirus pandemic.
I feel so small to come before You—to send up my petition for You to intercede with great mercy and healing from east to west, and north to south. As the Lord taught us to pray, may Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
I offer these words to You in Heaven as your servant on earth. My prayers for everyone and everything under the sun feel stifled by the enormity of what has come, and what yet still might. My mind wanders, I confess, to how the numbers of people infected might grow exponentially beyond comprehension. I don’t want to think about how I might be one of those numbers, dear Lord.
No, I just want more of You in this moment, trusting You for the moments that are to come. I can only handle this moment with You by my side.
I pray for my friends and family, my brothers and sisters, and all those whom Jesus came to love and save. For You loved the world so much You sent your one and only Son. I ask You to protect us and provide for our every need during this unimaginable time. I repent for taking daily bread for granted and know that if I have only a small slice it is gift from above. May manna from Heaven rain down on us as weary travelers in the desert this day.
My God, I long to be with my brothers and sisters, to share Your Word, and a simple meal of thanksgiving, but we are social distancing. I desire to be your under-shepherd amongst them. Yet, You make me lie down in this pasture and I will follow. Show me how much I can do while granting me wisdom to know my limitations.
Forgive me, my Shepherd. When all can be stripped away that which seemed to matter so much really matters not. And I too forgive those trespasses against me that felt so grievous not so long ago, but now seem so small. I drop them off at the foot of the Cross. I don’t want them anymore; thank you for taking those burdens, I don’t want to carry them another step.
Deliver me in my weakness, my Savior—You know how sometimes I fall into a deep hole of anxiety and fear. You see how I imagine not taking another breath into my lungs. I try to depend on myself, or what I think I possess, to survive. But my security is in You. My hope is in You. My needs can only be filled by You. Protect me from the lies that lead my mind to wander to dark places where I cannot see Your eternal light.
Turn my eyes away from the news that seems so bleak and hopeless. Train my eyes to see how I can be Your servant and love my neighbor, wherever they might be. Indeed, anything I might do is to Your glory and power forever and ever.
I want more of You today, Father. Less of me, and more of You. Protect us by Your loving and merciful hand; may your mercies be new tomorrow morning as they have been since the beginning of Creation.
The Lord’s Prayer
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
August 9, 2017 Huntington Beach, CA. I took this photo just before starting Tremfya in August in one of my favorite spots in the world.
I started my Tremfya (guselkumab) journey on Monday, August 21, 2017. Sixteen weeks is an important point to evaluate as clinical trials use this time to evaluate new medications. On December 11, after three injections (week 0, 4, 12), I reached that interim endpoint.
The clinical trial data shows that more than 90% of patients showed greater or equal to 75% improvement at 16 weeks. When I took that first injection, I hoped my body would assimilate Tremfya safely, while effectively shutting down the psoriasis inflammation all over my skin.
Below I evaluate my experience with Tremfya at 16 weeks. The following “verdicts” reflect a moment in time, and certainly are not final. As a disclaimer, my observations are from my personal experience only, and should not be construed as making any claims or predictions for anyone else who might try Tremfya.
How well is Tremfya working for me?
Quite well! After a roller coaster few months with tapering off of cyclosporine, atopic dermatitis (eczema) flares, and super stressful stretches of work, I’m amazed at the level of psoriasis clearance. I’m still on a small, small dose of cyclosporine, but no other biologic gave me this much skin clearance working together with even higher doses of cyclosporine.
After a roller coaster few months, I’m amazed at the level of psoriasis clearance with Tremfya.
I have yet to see my dermatologist this month (that is another story altogether trying to get an appointment with him), so I can’t say what percentage improvement I’ve experienced. But my guess is at least the 75% clearance, and probably more.
I promised photos in my last update. The following photos from July, October, and and December don’t lie.