The year is 1994 and it’s a hot, humid, summer day in Evans, Georgia. It is move in day! My family and I are moving to a nice new neighborhood in Columbia County. As an air force family, I was used to moving every year. Each year I would attend a different school and be forced to make new friends. I could never allow myself to get too attached to friends. At 9 years old I still didn’t have the one thing I desired most, a best friend…but that would soon change.
A few hours after moving in our new home, I stood outside in our driveway as three girls around my age stopped in front of my house on their bicycles. One of them asked “Do you want to ride bikes?” Shy, caught off guard and not knowing what to say I replied “No.”
Although I didn’t ride bikes that day, the little girl on the bike and I immediately became inseparable. Her name was Gaylyn. She was one year older than me and in one grade above, and even though we weren’t classmates we spent every moment together. We would become very close in middle school and participated in many school activities together. We were two peas in a pod. Our families grew close, and we became the best of friends.
In the 1998-1999 school year, Gaylyn began high school as I finished my last year of middle school. At different schools, it was hard for us to keep up with each other but we managed to do our best and stay in touch. I learned that during the school year, Gaylyn began to feel very ill. She began to lose a lot of weight and make frequent trips to the hospital. When I would visit her at home I noticed she began to change. She became very fragile and spent majority of her time hunched over in pain when I would visit.
As her best friend, I felt helpless. It is the worse feeling to see someone you love so much, suffer.
Gaylyn would prove to be a superwoman at a very early age. Throughout high school she was a cheerleader, dancer, Miss Evans High School and remained the most beautiful and most popular girl in school. Despite her pain, she pushed through and did her very best to cope with the pain she was experiencing. She was indeed a silent sufferer. From the outside looking in, she had it all…beauty, brains, popularity, but what most could not see was the pain hidden behind her beautiful smile.
As Crohn’s disease continued to attack her body, she began to feel defeated. I don’t know how she managed to get through the days enduring that kind of pain. Her medications often caused her to have mood swings, and I saw many different emotions come from her but I couldn’t allow myself to become defeated. Crohn’s disease not only affects the body that hosts it, but it affects the hearts of the lives of people fighting it daily for their loved ones. As much as I fought, Crohn’s disease began to defeat me. My best friend was in pain, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. So I thought…..
I prayed for Gaylyn daily, but there was one day in particular that I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was strong in my faith but I began to question it. I asked God “Why?”, “Why Gaylyn?”, “Why not me?” I began to pray to God and ask him to reveal himself to me. I asked God that night to take her disease and give it to me instead. I told God I would gladly accept the pain if it meant she could be pain free. I couldn’t watch her go through it anymore. I couldn’t walk into a hospital and see her skeletal frame look back at me. I wanted God to heal her so badly. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before, I WANTED TO SEE HER HEALED!
We both began college at different institutions but would do our best to keep in touch. Relationships, friendships, we talked about it all. It was all very difficult for Gaylyn as Crohn’s disease was a part of her life many people did not understand but she did an excellent job of educating those around her. She participated in Crohn’s camps where she served as a camp counselor and raised thousands of dollars on behalf of the Crohn’s and Colitis foundation of America. Gaylyn wore her cape daily and masked her pain by being a college cheerleader, and becoming involved in her school and community through. The years continue to go by, and 14 years later after being diagnosed the pain still remained.
Gaylyn calls me and says the words she convinced herself she would never speak. “I am going to have an ostomy.” Now living in Los Angeles, Ca, I got word of the day she would have surgery and jumped on the first flight home. I couldn’t be there for every surgery throughout the years, but this was “the big one” and the most important day in her life, I wouldn’t miss it. I could only stay for 24hrs so I headed straight to the hospital after landing. I walked into the room, a complete surprise to her and hugged my best friend. The tears began to flow as the memories of the years flashed before us. Everyone’s healing comes in different forms, and this was hers. Removing the disease from her body would be life changing for her, she hadn’t lived a day without pain in 14 years.
It was a hard year for Gaylyn recovering from her operation. She didn’t find the relief she desired and deserved. Gaylyn was still in pain and began to fall into a depression of sadness; however, she remained gracious always masking her pain with a smile. It was hard as her best friend of 18 years to continue to see her suffer. It was hard to hear her angry, confused, and exhausted from the years of pain and suffering Crohn’s disease had on her mind, body, and soul. I did my best to keep her uplifted and encouraged. I knew that God had not forgotten my prayers and believed more than ever that He would answer them.
April 2, 2014 Gaylyn celebrated 365 days of being hospital FREE! 16 years after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease my best friend finally found her happy. My best friend is healed and there isn’t a day that goes by that I do not thank God for hearing my cry. Crohn’s disease still impacts her life, as it will always be a part of her life story but her perseverance and strength to NEVER GIVE UP has inspired me and her ability to do what it took to find her purpose has truly touched my life. She describes this new beginning of her life as her season of HOPE, and taught us that it is ALL YOU NEED.