Jon Long is the Marketing Manager at Catch The Fire. He loves, loves, loves, media and technology. One of his...
From Alex L., USA
Some of my earliest memories include screaming in my mother’s ear while she held me close and gently and tenderly rocked me in her rocking chair, patiently attempting to soothe me to sleep. Sleep was my only escape from the excruciating pain of a rare disease commonly known as Familial Mediterranean Fever (FMF).
Familial Mediterranean Fever (also known as Recurrent Hereditary Polyserositis, or RHP) is a medically incurable, genetically transmitted disease. It is a disease that inflames the membranes of the abdomen, lungs and joints. The degree of inflammation, the severity of the pain, and the pattern of recurrence vary from victim to victim. In my case attacks typically recurred every month or so, centering most severely in my abdomen. In my lungs I suffered stabbing pain akin to pleurisy, and in my shoulders and ankles aching akin to arthritis.
"The pain was so sharp and intense I could barely leave my bed."
I lived life never knowing when the next attack would occur or how long it would last. Many attacks lasted about a week, but sometimes an attack would begin before the previous attack had ended. I almost failed to graduate from college because of a six-week bout of FMF, and would have failed had it not been for help from my wonderful Donnajean, a college friend who several years later became my wife.
The first three days of an attack were usually the worst. The pain was so sharp and intense I could barely leave my bed. My abdomen was highly sensitive to jerking or jostling, actions which triggered heightened razor-sharp pain. So I avoided movement as much as possible. If I had to leave my bed, I would slowly and carefully struggle to my feet, and then, with equal care and caution, shuffle slowly, bowed over, my arms clutching the comforting pillow I always kept cushioned against my abdomen throughout every attack.
Car rides and toilet visits were painful. So was eating, because peristalsis (the muscular contractions that move food along the digestive tract) would virtually stop. At such times, hunger alone drove me to eat. Agony accompanied each spoonful of soup that trickled down my throat toward my sucked-in abdomen. Five minutes might pass between spoonfuls while I waited for the painful movement of the soup to subside.
Although individuals of any race or ethnic group can be stricken with FMF, the disease mostly afflicts peoples of Mediterranean ancestry, including Jews, Arabs, Turks, and Armenians. I am Armenian, born in California. My parents, traumatized survivors of the Armenian Genocide, emigrated from Armenia in the early 20th Century.
In the United States, few doctors knew of FMF in the 1950s and 1960s, and I count it a miracle just to know its name. In 1968, I was 18 when God graced me with a central California doctor who correctly diagnosed the rare and baffling affliction. I felt tremendous relief to learn that what was wrong with me was not psychosomatic, as some had thought, but that I had a real disease with a real name.
I am also thankful to have never developed amyloidosis, a complication of FMF that can lead to kidney failure and death. Few untreated victims of amyloidosis live past age 40.
Also, by God’s grace, I retained all of my abdominal organs, unlike many other unfortunate FMF victims who had various healthy organs needlessly removed by well-meaning surgeons who lacked knowledge of FMF.
But my greatest blessing connected with FMF occurred on June 30, 1999, when my exceedingly gracious and loving heavenly Father supernaturally and sovereignly healed me of the disease! It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
"But now, God was going to show me even more of His amazing love for me"
It happened on an ordinary Wednesday morning. Donnajean and I were on our second visit to Catch the Fire Toronto (formerly Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship Church) in Toronto, Canada. On the mezzanine level in Upper Room Number 3, Pastor Steve Long was conducting a teaching on “Healing from Generational Curses.”
Not wanting to miss out on anything God is doing in this current move of the Holy Spirit, Donnajean and I joined the audience, listening eagerly to the teaching. I was feeling well that day, either because I was between attacks or because my prescription drug was suppressing the symptoms enough to prevent me from feeling an attack.
Colchicine, a drug traditionally used in the treatment of gout, was found in 1974 to reduce the severity and frequency of FMF attacks, and also aid in preventing the development of the dreaded amyloidosis complication. At age 26, I began taking colchicine, thankful to be among the blessed 75 percent of FMF victims that the drug is able to help. The 17,000 pills I had eaten over a 23-year period enabled me to live a reasonably normal life for 23 years. (Thank you, Lord!) But now, God was going to show me even more of His amazing love for me. My need for colchicine was about to end.
On the morning of my healing, I had taken colchicine and was feeling symptom-free as I sat taking notes from Steve’s teaching.
Suddenly, in the midst of the teaching, my body began to shake. I thought to myself: What’s going on? I’m not feeling cold and I’m not feeling nervous. I’m just sitting here, listening…so why am I shaking?
"I knew in my heart that God was doing an extraordinary thing"
When the teaching ended a few minutes later, Steve invited people forward for prayer.
By then I was convinced that God was doing something to me and in me, and so I instantly rose from my chair to respond to Steve’s invitation to receive prayer. As I stood up and began to walk, the shaking intensified beyond any degree I had ever before experienced either by the Spirit or in the natural. By the time I reached the prayer line, I was shaking very conspicuously. I watched as a visiting Vineyard Church pastor from the audience voluntarily and graciously left his seat and came forward to pray for me. When he laid his hands on me and prayed, I went down in the Spirit.
When Steve eventually reached me in the line, I was still on the floor and still shaking. I told him about FMF. As he prayed for me for healing from the disease, I continued to shake vigorously.
I knew in my heart that God was doing an extraordinary thing in my life that day. He was healing me of a generational curse —an inherited disease that had plagued me all my life.
What was the exact moment of the healing? I don’t know, since I did not experience the sudden, dramatic lifting of an attack. While I was shaking on the floor, however, I did briefly sense some mild, fleeting impressions of FMF symptoms rising up in my abdomen and then exiting from me. That experience, along with the unprecedented shaking of my body (including the involuntary twitching of my backside muscles) convinced me that at some point during my lengthy, palpable encounter with the Holy Spirit, God had healed me of FMF.
Along with the shaking, I experienced a spectrum of emotions. I cried tears of joy and gratitude, feeling privileged to partake in a profound experience—supernatural healing from an inherited disease medically classified as “incurable.” I wept while thinking of all the years of suffering now suddenly coming to an end forever through the power of the living God. And I wept at the joyful thought of sharing the exciting news with members of my family who had suffered with me in their hearts for so many years.
At one point I began to laugh. Focused on Jesus, I laughed with delight, pondering His power, grace, and the unsought healing from FMF that He so mercifully and lovingly was now giving me. It was overwhelming to consider that all I’d ever known was life with FMF, and now I would begin living a new life without FMF.
The shaking, the laughing, and the crying are regarded as typical responses to the Holy Spirit, even for a reserved introvert like me. But then I surrendered even more of my public dignity as I suddenly found myself roaring like a ferocious lion while lying on my back. With my head cocked to one side and my lungs filled with air, I roared while slowly turning my head to the opposite side. I repeated this action over and over and over, roaring at the top of my lungs. Later, pondering this amazing manifestation of God’s presence, I came to realize that Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5), was roaring through me. He was roaring in strength against the demons of hell that had stolen countless days from me over the course of nearly half a century. From the rage in His roar I sensed Jesus saying: “Back off, Satan! No longer can you claim Alex. No longer can you afflict him with FMF. I have healed him and set him free.”
When I opened my eyes two hours later, Upper Room Number 3 was empty. Donnajean and a friend had been the last to leave. They had moved outside the room to chat; they had to move, because my roaring was so loud they couldn’t carry on a conversation. I rose from the floor and joined them, my throat raspy and raw, my heart brimming with joy and wonder.
"Living life without FMF is a dream come true."
Although I had accepted many years before that I would need to take colchicine at least three times a day for the rest of my life, I resolved to end my dependence on that drug because now I was healed of FMF. When we returned home from Toronto, I discarded all colchicine, along with my prescription refill. I cut all ties to colchicine, except one. I kept an old empty bottle as a witness. I show people the bottle, remove the lid, hold the bottle upside down, and then shake it, saying: “This is empty because the tomb of Jesus is empty.”
Living life without FMF is a dream come true. Now I function normally in daily life without the crutch of colchicine. I hold a steady job and I experience life without fear of interference from sudden, disabling attacks. God has lifted the curse of this horrific disease. I can never be sufficiently grateful to Him, not only because He healed me, but also because He did so without my asking for healing. I had attended Steve’s teaching that morning with no expectations other than to learn what God has to say about healing from generational curses. For me personally the teaching included a dramatic demonstration of the unconditional love of my heavenly Father, a breakthrough experience for a wounded soul steeped in performance-based love.
In 2001, about 22 months after God healed me, I made an appointment to visit my FMF specialists. I told the team I had been prayed over in the name of Jesus Christ, and as a result had been healed of FMF. I stated that my attacks had stopped and I was no longer taking colchicine. The doctors were stunned.
“I don’t know what to say,” remarked the chief FMF specialist, who had been my FMF doctor for many years and who had been seeing other FMF patients as far back as the 1950s. After collecting his thoughts, he countered with “You have gone into remission.”
“How many patients have gone into remission?” I asked.
He thought of one or two.
I replied: “What is the probability that the event of the prayer and the event of going into remission would precisely coincide?”
“Zero” was the instant response of a second specialist seated in the meeting room. “You’re unique.” Still, she practically begged me to refill my colchicine prescription out of fear of my lack of protection from life-threatening amyloidosis.
The chief specialist echoed her warning. “You need to have colchicine readily available to you because your kidneys could stop functioning if you don’t.”
But I refused, maintaining that I was totally healed of the disease.
I continue to return occasionally to UCLA to testify that—by the grace of God—I am free of attacks. If I still had the disease, I would be experiencing excruciating, life-altering attacks on a regular basis. But I live symptom-free, even without colchicine.
That should be proof enough of my healing, but God has provided more. Familial Mediterranean Fever can deposit protein in the urine. If protein is found, there is cause for concern because protein in the urine is a red flag for the potentially fatal condition of amyloidosis.
Studies indicate that amyloidosis may be prevented through colchicine. About two years prior to my healing, the chief FMF specialist found a mere trace of protein in my urine. Although the amount was small, he was so alarmed he immediately increased my minimum daily dosage of colchicine from two pills a day to three. The result? Three a day kept the protein away.
After I became colchicine-free, I scheduled three different urine tests at three different times by three different doctors, including my FMF chief specialist. The findings were consistent—absolutely no protein found in my urine. Praise God!
Whenever I return to UCLA to witness to the FMF specialists, they are always keenly interested to know whether I have had any attacks and whether I have protein in my urine. I joyfully report that I have no symptoms of FMF. At each visit they take a urine test, and the result is always the same: no protein. All 12 urine tests I have had since God healed me show a total absence of protein.
A few years ago, the FMF specialist who had conceded the absolute improbability of my going into remission the same day I received prayer from Steve has since become the new chief specialist, following the death of the original chief specialist, to whom I will always be grateful for his pioneering work on the disease. The new chief specialist has come to believe that I have been healed of FMF.