Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bonjour tout le monde!

Sorry again for being so bad about updating my blog!!

So here's a very quick update and catch up!
After being diagnosed with MS by my neurologist and my general care doctor, I was referred to go to the Mayo Clinic because they have a world renowned MS Clinic there. We were told it would take around 3-6 months to get in. At this point I wasn't very surprised because things haven't been going fast anyways. BUT about a week after being referred we got a call saying that I had an appointment in 2 weeks. It was such a great blessing!!
In between being diagnosed and having my first visit at the Mayo Clinic, the doctor who I'd been in touch with from the Missionary Department called. We told him what was going on and what I had been diagnosed with. He then gave me some news that for the first time since all this has happened really made me cry.. He said that before he would even think about sending me back out on a mission he would want me to start on an effective treatment and then be stable on that for at least a year. Being told that was almost worse to me than being told I was diagnosed with MS! But, I am so grateful for the gospel and the comfort I received from knowing that Heavenly Father has a plan for me and that in the grand scheme of things this is just one little trial.
The visit at the Mayo Clinic didn't go as expected. The doctor that I have there is world renowned and has developed different types of treatment for treating MS from his own research so we knew we were in good hands. However, after reviewing my Brain MRI that I had gotten done and doing his own little examination he told us he wasn't entirely convinced that this is MS. He said the spots on my brain MRI looked like MS, but he wanted to know for sure what kind of demyelination disease this and know more about my situation before he jumped to any conclusions. So... he ordered more tests to be done. But, we did leave feeling like we are on the right track to answers!

So, I was a little hesitant about updating it because things still aren't certain and everything, but I have some good news: YESTERDAY I HAD MY LAST TEST (knock on wood) until we find out exactly what is going and getting some kind of effective treatment or medication. After 5 months of pain, 2 different countries, seeing around 9 doctors, 3 different hospitals, trying about 13 different medications/treatments, getting 4 eye exams, an EEG, a few EKG's, wearing a heart monitor for a month, 2 CAT scans, 5 MRI's, getting about 40 vials of blood drawn, a spinal tap, many priesthood blessings, and countless prayers we will finally be getting answers in 6 days.

I have learned SO many lessons, and especially patience, through this whole trial. I wouldn't have asked for this to happen, but I am truly grateful for it and for what I have learned. I am so grateful for my dear friends and family and all your prayers and support. It's been hard and still is sometimes, but you have helped me have strength and patience and peace. Every time I have been with my family and friends I feel so much comfort and gratitude. Thank you.

Here's some pictures from my vacations and fun times with my beautiful family and friends in the last few months - just for fun ;)

Duck Creek Cabin Trip
Yellowstone Trip

 Trip to Salt Lake and Provo to see my best friend/trainer from my mission and my family

Family Luau

Merci à tous pour tout ce que vous avez fait pour moi. Je suis très reconnaissent pour vous et votre amour et vos prières.
Avec beaucoup d'Amour,

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Few Weeks of Catching Up

Bonjour tout le monde!

Sorry for being so behind on posting and keeping everyone updated!

Last week the process of getting answers was finally kick started. Our insurance was able to approve the request for an MRI of my brain and on Friday morning I went in and got one. That night they called and said that out doctor wanted to meet with me on Monday to talk about the results. So, yesterday we headed down to his office. Preparing ourselves for the worst, mom and I were ready to finally hear what was going on.

My doctor read my MRI and told us a lot of fancy terms and words but ended up telling me that I have an autoimmune disease called demyelinating disease. The most common type of this disease is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and that is what he most suspects it to be.

For those who don't know what it is, like I didn't, I will try to explain it! By using pictures.... haha

This is a nerve. There are numberless nerve cells in our brain that are constantly sending and receiving signals from the other nerve cells. When the nerves send the signals it goes along the axon which is protected by the myelin sheath - so they're riding along that protein layer of protection. In MS that myelin sheath is damaged, like this:

This damaging of the nerve cells is called demyelination. When the demyelination is occurring, the responses and signals from cell to cell is slower because it is being interrupted. This is what causes the pain.

If you would like to read more, have questions, or want to go into more depth of it you can feel free to ask me... or go to this great website (maybe so you can understand it a little better than I can explain it...haha) HERE that has a lot of information and it will tell you more about the effects of MS.

Even though this isn't what anyone wants to hear, mom, my doctor, and I all recognized it as such a blessing that I have this headache and was sent home for it because the only way to start treating MS before it gets unmanageable is to find it soon and start treating the symptoms right away and because I had the MRI done, we were able to catch it in it's early stages.

Another great blessing we are able to recognize is that I already have an appointment with an MS specialist this Thursday! He's the original neurologist that I began to see when I returned home and this was just supposed to be a follow up appointment but it turns out he's one of the most highly recognized MS specialists in the valley. He's going to be able to help us know the type that I have and start getting me on some treatment to help the pain and to slow the progression.

Even though this wasn't (isn't) something that I necessarily wanted to hear, I am so grateful that we were able to figure out what was wrong. This whole journey has been one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, trial I have ever had to go through. There's been a lot of frustration, tears, disappointment, and pain. But more so than those things I have seen and felt so much love, prayers and faith. I have been able to see so many blessings and feel the gift of service in my life more than ever before. It has been hard but I can never complain for what I am going through because the blessings way overpower the hardships.

Through these many weeks of struggling, I have always found my greatest source of comfort in the gospel and in the words of the prophets - both ancient and modern. I was listening to the talk Like a Broken Vessel by apostle Jeffery R. Holland and found so much comfort in this quotation:

"In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive."

Finding faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice for us and then being able to fully appreciate that sacrifice is what Elder Holland says will help us over these obstacle and not only that, but he will help us make them for our own good, making us stronger in working to become more like the Father and his son Jesus Christ.

I love this gospel and I love the truth that come from it. It has been such a spiritual rock to me and I know that throughout my life it will continue to be so.

Thank you everyone for you love and support and prayers these past months. I can not tell you how much strength I have drawn from knowing I have so many people around me who care for me and love me. I love you all and am grateful for the blessing that you are to my life.

Avec amour,


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 16 & 23, 2014

Sorry about not getting a post out last week and for being late this week!!

Well, there's not a lot of medical news or updates. Last week I had an EEG where thy hooked up about 28 different wires to my head and they monitored my brain activity while doing some different tests on me like making me hyperventilate and flashing strobe lights in my eyes and stuff like that. We haven't gotten results back yet, so we don't know how it went. I also went to a cardiologist too. My doctors think that maybe this could all be caused by me not getting enough blood to my brain because of the fainting, low blood pressure, and light headedness. So, yesterday I went back to the cardiologist and they hooked me up to a heart event monitor that I will have to wear for the next month. Hopefully we'll get some answers soon!

This last week I had the amazing opportunity to go to our stake's Girl's Camp and talk to the girls about missionary work and about how sharing your testimony can help strengthen it. That was SUCH a great experience. I was SO excited to be able to teach again and to have the opportunity to share my own testimony! It wasn't easy - as I was walking up to the stage to teach I didn't know if I would have enough strength to be able to stand up there for a half an hour to teach, but the whole time I was up there I felt so strong and I know it was because of the spirit and because that was what I was supposed to be doing at that time.

I'm so grateful that my "grandma Johnson" growing up got to come and support me!!

There's been a lot of times where I have wondered why I am home - a LOT of times - but as soon as I started preparing for that talk I knew that for some reason that's what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to be able to be home to be there to share my testimony with the girls and talk about missionary work. It really helped me feel like I had purpose again and that was one of the hardest things for me when I came home - feeling like I didn't have much purpose.

While preparing for the lesson I gave I learned SO much. A quote from Thomas S. Monson that I used that I really love is "You know the truth LIVE IT. You possess a testimony, SHARE IT. Never underestimate the far reaching influence of your testimony.” We all have testimonies - even if it is as simple as "I know God lives" we should NEVER hesitate to share because we never know how it can help others.

I gave the girls three challenges to try and help them share their testimonies in their everyday lives and I would encourage you all to try and do them too! As a yearly challenge - share your testimony in church (fast Sunday sacrament meeting!) once every year. Something to help remember that is to do it in the month that you have your birthday. For a monthly challenge - try and share your testimony some way through social media. We're all on some kind of social media at least once everyday. This could be sharing an article or church Facebook page or just posting your simple testimony on Facebook :). And for a daily challenge - put on your pone calendar, alarm, or even a sticky note on your door a reminder that says "Did I give someone the chance to feel the light of my testimony today?". I KNOW that when we share our testimonies it not only helps strengthen others but it helps us to build our testimony and our faith.

I am SO grateful for the gospel in my life and I know that without it I wouldn't be able to get through this really difficult time. There are times that I feel really discouraged or down but anytime that I turn to my scriptures or General Conference talks or prayer I always feel better. I know this church is true and I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are always there for us and will help us through anything - through difficult medical situations or even just inviting our neighbor to church.

Thank you all for your love and support and endless prayers and thoughts. I love you all!!

Avec amour,


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 9, 2014

Bonjour tout le monde!

So, this week has been yet another week of waiting for answers. BUT we are getting somewhere, so that's good. Before I could get an MRI on my brain I was told I needed to meet with a neurologist. So, I was very fortunate and was able to meet with one last Friday. He was very thorough in asking questions, it took about 45 minutes, and doing little tests that he could perform in his office. After entering the data in a computer system and leaving the room for a little bit he came back and said that I need to get an MRI on my brain, an MRA (which is a test that shows all the blood vessels and arteries), an EEG which shows electrical activity in your brain that could show if you have seizures and stuff like that (he wants me to get that because I've been fainting) and then to go to a cardiologist (he thinks it might be something with my heart) and get 11 different blood tests done and have him do some tests like a turn table test where they strap me to a table and flip me all around while I’m hooked to all these machines and see how that affects my brain and heart activity. The first thing that came to my mind was that is SO many tests and I felt like Frankenstein being strapped to table or Pinocchio (the doctor looked like a Greek Geppetto) becoming a real boy or something... But I am so grateful to be able to finally start to get some answers! So for right now, I'm just continuing to take all the medication I've been given (it's like 11 pills a day now) and wait for the offices to call me and tell me when I can come in for the tests.

Throughout this week I have been thinking a lot about burdens and how they can affect us in our lives. Right now, this is a big burden for me and sometimes I really feel the weight of it and if I'm not careful I let it drag me down a bit with questions of why this is happening to me or not having hope that things will get better. I was reading Elder David A. Bednar's conference talk from this past April (you can read it here) yesterday and I found SO much strength and comfort. In it he talked about the people of Alma being persecuted by Amulon in The Book of Mormon in Mosiah chapter 24. Amulon places heavy burdens on the people of Alma but never once do they complain to their Lord. Instead they TURN to God during their afflictions and pour out their hearts to him. Then, my favorite part of this story, the Lord doesn't take away their burdens or lift them off their backs, he STRENGTHENS his people so that they can bear them. Sometimes amidst our trials or hard times we ask the Lord to take away the pain or take away the hard things that we're going through - or at least I know that I do. But as I read this and really thought about it, I began to realize how much more we can grow and how the Lord can allow us to grow when we let him strengthen us through our trials instead of just asking him to take it away from us. I know that the only way we can be strengthened through the Lord is through the wonderful gift of his infinite Atonement and the enabling power of it. Although this trial is hard, and I know that we are ALL going through our own hard trials, but I know that our Savior Jesus Christ understands what we're going through perfectly and through him and his Atonement, we can be strengthened so that we can bear them.

I just wanted to share a brief testimony of the Book of Mormon! I LOVE the Book of Mormon SO much and it has helped me so much through this and so many other difficult times in my life. I know that the spiritual power and strength you can find through reading the Book of Mormon and gaining a testimony of it, can be found no where else. I know that it truly is the word of God, brought forth for OUR time and day through Joseph Smith the Prophet. I challenge each of you to read it every day - even if it's just a verse a day! I know it will help you, and I know that your testimony will grow so that you can also help others.

Thank you so much for everyone's love and support and all the little visits and messages I have received!! I am so blessed and everything that has been done and every prayer that's been said in my behalf is so helpful and has brought so much comfort and peace. I hope you all have a great week!! Je vous aime!!
Avec amour,


Monday, June 2, 2014

June 2, 2014

If I could describe how I have felt these past 7 weeks with this trial in one word, it would be BLESSED. I truly have been SO blessed with the people around me - my great ward and district and companion in France, my doctor who really cares about me here and wants to help me get back to the mission field stat, and my wonderful family and friends here who show endless love and support for me. Every kind word or prayer in my behalf has strengthened me so much and I am extremely grateful for every single one of you who has gone out of your way to help me - even in just the smallest ways. Every time I hear of someone who has been praying for me or even just when someone tells me that they hope I get better soon I am overcome with gratitude. I feel the love of the Savior through every kind deed and encouraging word. This hasn't been easy, and it still isn't, but I just want to thank you all. There's no way I could lose patience or my faith because of how much my testimony has grown thanks to your great examples and love.

So for a little medical update - this last week I had been continuing the treatment my doctor prescribed - taking a muscle relaxant, an anti-inflammatory, and getting a good massage and resting a lot. On Thursday I got an MRI on my neck to see if that would give us some answers. It came back clear with no sign of answers for this problem. The next day I just felt my health declining - I had the shakes and ended up fainting in our kitchen while I was preparing myself some lunch. Luckily I had a doctor's appointment later that day so we told him what had happened and how the treatment we had been doing (in thinking it was Occipital Neuralgia) wasn't being effective. So we are basically back at square one. He said the next step is to go get an MRI on my head and then follow up with an appointment with a neurologist. I am really hoping that we'll finally have our answer after that this week!

While feeling a little down yesterday about not even being able to sit through 3 hours of church I decided to watch some Mormon Messages and I came across this one by Elder Russell M. Nelson:

While I was watching it I felt overcome with the spirit of comfort. I loved when he said "If you've got faith, you can handle difficulties knowing that, with an eternal perspective, all will be well". I stopped and just thought about that for a minute. There's a lot of reasons that this situation has brought me fear. Sometimes I have just been overcome with fear and feelings of abandonment because I thought I was doing everything that I needed to be doing! As soon as I start to feel those things, I pray. With as much faith as I can muster I ask Heavenly Father for comfort. My pain is obviously still here, but every day I feel my faith and testimony growing. I know that I'm being watched over by the Lord - I feel it so strong everyday and especially when those around me are such a blessing to me. I know that fear is the opposite of faith and that we have no reason to fear for anything. I don't have to be afraid or worried about what is happening (or not happening when I want it to) because I have a firm testimony of this gospel. The Lord is there for ALL of us, every single one of us, through every single trial that we go through - big or small. And I have a testimony that He really does make all the difference. I know that even while this is hard, the Lord has a plan for me and while I can't always see what that consists of, I do have the blessing of the gospel and I am able to have an eternal perspective because of it. I am so grateful for the gospel in my life. I KNOW that the Lord is always there for us, sometimes it just takes a simple prayer and patience in ourselves to allow him to truly help us. I truly am so blessed to have this knowledge of the gospel and the peace and knowledge that comes with it.
I hope you all have a great week!! Thank you for all of your love and prayers and support. I feel so blessed everyday.
Avec amour,
Courtney Ridd 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 26th, 2014

Well these couple of weeks have probably been the most crazy weeks of my mission. That's for sure... So I guess I'll start with the fun stuff from the week before!
Since we had Soeur Tane's car from her previous ville, we got to go out further in our area and visit some families in our ward. It really is just SO beautiful out in the countryside!!

And they had some pretty cool signs with my nickname on it - Frenchified ;)

Along with visiting the members, came eating with the members. This delicious plate was served first. I was in love!!

They were so good, I stuffed myself thinking that was the meal. WRONG. As soon we finish the lady in our ward happily says "I'm so glad you loved that! Now we'll have the salad and bread!". In my head I'm thinking "oh shoot. I'm so full already... I'll just eat a little bit". Little did I know that she would be serving us. So I ate the salad and bread. By this point all I can think about is how i'm not going to be hungry until at LEAST lunch tomorrow. Then she says "I'll go get the chicken wings and pasta!". I looked at Soeur Denning with the most terrified look on my face and she just starts laughing. After being served a couple chicken legs and a heaping pile of pasta I began just mindlessly try and eat this food so I wouldn't upset this kind lady in our ward. By my last bite I felt like I was going to throw up right then. I was PRAYING there would be no more. She cleared our plates and then announces she made cake with homemade cream. I don't know how, but I managed to finish this delicious cake still sitting up. I don't think I've ever been so full in my life. I could barely move! I learned a valuable lesson though - whenever you eat at a member's house don't eat anything the day before and make sure you mentally prepare yourself to be force fed at LEAST 4 courses. Haha it was a great experience :)
One day last week we had a meeting with our Ward Mission Leader at the church. When we were walking out of the building we heard little meowing coming from a bush and so we go and check it out and find these adorable kittens!! We were in LOVE. Sadly, we weren't allowed to keep them...

Well by the end of that week my pain was only getting worse. I knew that something needed to be done because it was inhibiting me from being able to do normal missionary work and that is the whole reason I was out there - to DO missionary work. So I talked to my mission president and Dr. Wing a lot on the phone trying to come up with a solution. We decided to try and do what we could to make it so that I could stay in France. So, I called the American Hospital in Paris to try and get an appointment with a neurologist who would be able to tell me the next step I would need to take. I called and the next available appointment wasn't until July 15th. After I called President and Dr. Wing and let them know, we decided the best thing for me to do would be to go home to the United States and get it taken care of there.
That was the hardest thing I've had to do on my mission. The very last thing I wanted to do was go home! I came out because I wanted to serve the Lord for 18 short months. But, I realized after talking it through with them and later with mom, that the state I was in wasn't allowing me to be the missionary that I wanted to be and what the Lord needed me to be. So, in the end I felt peaceful and calm about my decision.
After I told my district, we were all very sad. My district has been so amazing to me through this whole thing and have been my family away from home! One of our Elders decided that we should all wear black for my last Sunday in France "to mourn" as he said. So, just to be funny we decided to do it! haha

Saying goodbye to all the members in my ward in Angers was soooo hard!! I love them all so much and they all have touched my life so greatly. They all showed so much love and support from day 1 and especially since this whole thing has happened.
One lady in our ward who was a ward missionary just loved us! She was so upset that I was leaving. She is the lady who we would teach English to and came to visit me while I was in the hospital. Her name is Nathalie!

On Monday I got a call from President saying I needed to be packed and ready in 3 hours at the train station to go into Paris for my flight the next morning. So I very speedily packed and spent my last little bit of time with my great companions. While we were waiting for the Elders to pick us up in the car to go to the train station, Soeur Tane did a beautiful farewell Tahitian dance and gave me a shell necklace.

Saying goodbye to my dear friends was so hard!! They have done so much for me and have just been amazing friends and examples of selfless missionaries to me.

Saying goodbye to Soeur Denning was probably the hardest. She became my best friend and sister! She has really blessed my life and helped me so much these past 2 transfers as my trainer. She really is such a great example to me and she taught me how to be a great missionary. I'm going to miss her SO much!!

The next morning (Tuesday) I began my trip home. The total travel time consisted of a 2 hour train ride to Paris, a 45 minute metro ride to Versailles,

a 20 minute drive to Prince's apartment where I stayed the night, a 40 minute drive the next morning to the airport, a 1 hour wait after going through security and everything at the airport, a 9 hour and 45 minute flight to Atlanta, a 2 and a half hour layover there, and then a 4 hour flight home. By the end of I was completely exhausted but SO grateful to see my beautiful family waiting there for me.

Even though this has been (still is) a very difficult trial for me, I know that it's all in the Lord's hands. I know that for some reason this is supposed to happen. It may be for a bunch of different reasons that this had to happen when it did that I don't know, but I do know that Heavenly Father sees the bigger picture and that this is all part of His plan for me. Even though it is hard, I know that all I can do is be faithful and optimistic and everything will work out exactly how it's supposed to.

Just a quick medical update from what we know so far - So on Thursday I went to a spine specialist and she said that my neck was too straight and my vertebras were to far spread out and so something was pulling them and causing stress in my neck. She said to come back in 8 weeks and we would do a follow up after some physical therapy and pain treatments. EIGHT WEEKS. I was trying really hard to not freak out because all I want to do is get back to France! So then on Friday we went to my family doctor (who is actually the doctor for the missionaries in our area so he understands my time frame!) and he diagnosed it as occipital neuralgia. Then he gave me two very painful injections in the back of my head to try and calm the nerves and then prescribed me some anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer and I have a follow up with him later this week (THAT is the kind of time frame I like to hear). He said that the pain relief should have almost been instant but I still feel some pain. So, right now it's just a matter of being patient and letting the medicine work to see if that will be the cure.
Thanks you SO MUCH for everyone who has gone out of their way to help and for all your prayers and love. I can't tell you how much it means to me and how much strength it has given me. I love you all SO much and I hope that you have a great week.

Avec amour,

Courtney Ridd

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May 19th, 2014

Courtney is coming home tomorrow. The Church's doctor over the missions in Europe feels like surgery is probably the next step in her recovery. The treatment she was receiving in France are just not working. I am glad to get her home and in my arms where we can take care of her and help her get better. If you have called or texted and I haven't answered I am sorry. I deal with change very poorly and I tend to close off and cut off communication. I am hoping that no one gets offended. I am so grateful to all of you for the love and support and help you have offered. I promise that if we need anything or if Courtney needs anything we will be in contact. I hope that when she feels up to it that she will continue blogging here about her recovery and her experiences with all of this. Her number one goal is to get better and get back to France.